Cornish residents see red after council tells them to tone down colourful houses

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The Independent Online

A council which told homeowners to repaint their brightly coloured houses in a more sedate colour or face the threat of prison yesterday backed down and said it would review the policy.

A council which told homeowners to repaint their brightly coloured houses in a more sedate colour or face the threat of prison yesterday backed down and said it would review the policy.

The Georgian houses around Regent Square in Penzance are a brightly coloured mix of powder-blue, yellow, pink and turquoise, but Penwith council said the shades were inappropriate for the Grade II-listed buildings.

Off-white or magnolia were the only acceptable shades, it said, and issued enforcement notices ordering all the houses to be repainted. Anyone who failed to comply faced a £20,000 fine or prison.

An action group called Penzance in Colour was formed to fight for the repainted homes and established an internet site which attracted support from all over the world.

Janice Warnock, who painted her house lilac to match the wisteria that trailed up the walls, had an enforcement notice ordering her to have completed the repainting by yesterday afternoon.

But just as she was about to reluctantly start work, she was told to stop.

Earlier in the week, Ms Warnock said she had researched the colour before painting and discovered it had been used until about 1850. Keith Giddens, the district council director of planning, said he would not now be pursuing legal action for another three months.

A planning meeting is scheduled for 5 September, at which the issue will be raised, and the whole policy on the listed buildings will be reviewed. "We think it is right we should have an open, public, civilised debate about it," he said.

"We will consult with people such as English Heritage and the Georgian Group on an acceptable range of colours for people to choose from. Then we can reaffirm our current policy or make amendments to it."

He denied that the council had backed down and said it was simply a case of recognising public interest. They did not want the town to look grey, but insisted that colours should be used sympathetically, and were not in favour of "strident colours that jar".

He said the issue involved just four cases out of population of 20,000 people.

David Mynne, a member of Penzance in Colour who painted his house Wedgwood blue last summer, declined to comment yesterday, saying only that the members were to meet today to discuss the latest developments. "We now need to plan how best to continue with our campaign until a successful resolution is found," he said.

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