St Catherine's Island fort: tourism plans rejected

Plans to reopen the fort and build a bridge have divided local opinion

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A move to reopen an island's Victorian fort as a tourist attraction has been turned down by planners.

A report for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority had recommended the project at St Catherine's Island, near Tenby, should be refused.

They want to protect the tranquillity and remoteness of the area.

The island once housed a zoo but has been disused for 35 years. Those behind the project say it would be a family attraction.

Once owned by Henry VII's uncle Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, the island was sold by Tenby Corporation to the War Office in the 1860s.

The fort was completed in 1870 as part of prime minister Lord Palmerston's plans to defend the British coast from foreign attack.

It was converted into a house in Edwardian times but was used again by the military during World War II.

The Grade II-listed fort and island then became a zoo for a decade from the late 1960s but have not been used since 1979.

Project manager Peter Prosser had hoped the island would be reopened to the public and become home to a historical experience with costumed guides.

He has told BBC Wales he plans to appeal Wednesday's decision by park authority's (PCNPA) development management committee.

Plans submitted to the PCNPA included a new bridge, boat landings, a new private residence, a cliff nature walk and other facilities.

Those behind the project said it would be "full of interesting things to see and do. It will also be a venue for local events."

The gun room in the fort on St Catherine's Island The building has stood empty since 1979

However, the national park authority's report recommended refusal, listing several reasons:

  • Concerns about the impact on the surrounding area
  • The "unacceptable level of lighting"
  • A belief that a new house has not been justified as "essential"
  • Worries the proposed solar panels, roof-top shops and new house would be harmful to the "special qualities" of the national park.

Before the meeting, Harry Gardiner chairman of the Tenby Civic Society, told BBC Radio Wales they were not opposed providing some changes are made.

"These are things like not having an alcohol licence, not having a footbridge and not running until midnight," he said.

"So, if you take those things out of it then the balance of the views of members is in favour of the opening of the island."

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