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Coyte Farm developers fail to win over town council

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 18, 2013

KICKER HERE:  An artist's impression of how Coyte Farm could look.

KICKER HERE: An artist's impression of how Coyte Farm could look.

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DEVELOPERS behind plans to build a £110 million retail park and Marks and Spencer store at Coyte Farm have failed to win the backing of the town council for the second time.

At a full town council meeting held on Monday, during which the developers Metric Property and Mercian Developments, reiterated promises of new jobs and top retailers coming to the town, councillors narrowly voted in favour of opposing the scheme by nine votes to eight with two abstentions.

The vote came after Together St Austell, formed by the St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District Team, presented rival plans to build a shopping centre closer to the town centre.

Frank Boulton, ward member for Bethel, told members of the council, as well as an audience of around 100 members of the public, Coyte Farm would be a "total waste of money".

He said: "Unfortunately with regard to Coyte Farm there appears to be more questions than answers and I don't think this evening the answers have been given. I am totally against Coyte Farm. I believe St Austell needs to move on."

Councillors also questioned the size of the development in relation to the town's population.

"I have been doing some research and Coyte Farm does seem exceptionally large for the town in terms of the sub population," said town councillor Nicky Oxenham, who represents Bethel.

Other concerns related to the location of the site and impact it would have on the town centre, a view echoed by several members of the public during an open session.

"It could arguably be said that Coyte Farm is close enough to harm but not close enough to help St Austell," said Poltair town councillor Brian Palmer.

"I just wonder how many [jobs] will be a net increase and how many would actually be a migration from the town centre," he added.

The decision to review the council's recommendations regarding the application, which were submitted to Cornwall Council last year, was made in light of the publication of various retail impact assessments and amendments to the original plans and proposed conditions associated with them.

The amendments made by the developers did persuade some councillors to have a change of heart including John Keast, Val Bradford and former chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Tom French.

Town councillor Mr Keast OBE, representing Mount Charles, said he had abstained from the vote last year because he could not make a decision but was now of the opinion the development would enhance the town.

"I cannot see a future for St Austell with no development at all," he said.

Referring to the plans unveiled by Together St Austell, he added: "Maybe there is a better way than what we are being presented with. I rather liked the vision of the bowl being developed and linked with the centre.

"But on the other hand that is not the one that is on offer today.

Speaking from the chair, mayor of St Austell Steve Double, spoke out in favour of supporting the plans and told the room he has no vested interest in the development.

"I believe this is a very huge decision for our town and the future of our town," he said.

"There has been a lot of comment made about my position – most of it complete rubbish.

"I have no interest in this application at all other than doing what I believe is right for St Austell and the people who have elected me."

Mr Double repeated claims made by the developers that the town currently loses £1 million a week to other towns such as Truro and Plymouth and Coyte Farm would bring shoppers back to St Austell.

"That £1 million will stay in St Austell and we want to make sure a part of that £1 million is being spent in the town centre," Mr Double said.

"We will support the traders to make sure they get the most out of this opportunity," he added.

The plans for Coyte Farm consist of a 65-acre development nestled in 98 acres of green land in St Mewan. They include a care home, Sainsbury's superstore and Marks and Spencer.

Speaking at the meeting Simon Hoare, Coyte Farm spokesman, said the development would complement traders in the town centre.

He said: "We don't want to be a rival to the town centre."

"This is a golden opportunity to bring in the likes of Mark and Spencer and other retailers to provide a real choice."

The application is due to go before Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee on January 16.

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