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Coyte Farm backed by officer

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 09, 2014

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A £110 MILLION retail scheme on the outskirts of St Austell, which is claimed will have an impact on trade in Bodmin and Liskeard, has been earmarked for approval by council chiefs.

Coyte Farm, which will comprise a 90-acre retail park, including Marks and Spencer, Next and Sainsbury's stores, will go before Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee on January 16.

The county authority published its recommendations to members of the committee yesterday – giving the scheme their backing, subject to a long list of conditions.

The Cornish Guardian reported last year how the scheme could take trade away from neighbouring towns, including Truro, Liskeard, Bodmin and Newquay.

In his report Cornwall Council planning officer Gavin Smith said the development will bring economic growth to St Austell and improve competition and choice in the retailing sector for local residents, which he suggests outweigh the "substantial harm" it would cause to a grade two listed church in St Mewan and the loss of trade for town centre shops.

"The application would stimulate economic growth, via a fully funded scheme with a construction value of £50m, which in turn would create employment opportunity to the benefit of the local economy," his report states.

The document states the development will harm the "vitality and viability" of St Austell but would create jobs for the town as a whole.

"It may well result with the loss of employment opportunity elsewhere by the retail component drawing trade to the detriment of existing shops but a significant net gain in employment is expected," Mr Smith said.

A retail impact assessment carried out by property consultants GVA, on behalf of the council, concluded the development would result in a 28 per cent reduction in trade for shops in the town centre.

However, Mr Smith suggests the figure would be more in line with the conclusions reached by the applicant's consultants, Barton Willmore, which concluded the figure would be in the region of 7 per cent.

"I have not attempted to identify a specific figure for trade impact, Mr Smith said.

"But when considering the assumptions underpinning the applicant's and CC [Cornwall Council] consultant's findings, the impact to the town centre is more likely to be similar with the applicant's forecast."

Coyte Farm spokesman Simon Hoare welcomed the recommendations made in the report.

He said: "This is a major step forward to have secured recommendation to approve, which we hope the strategic planning committee will agree when it meets next week.

He added: "It is great news for the local economy, for the job market and for the future of St Austell."

Mr Smith's report states Cornwall Council received 414 letters and e-mails objecting to the plans, including two petitions with a combined total of more than 3,000 signatures, compared to 855 letters and e-mails in support of the application.

St Austell trader Ally Watkins, who set up the Stop Coyte Farm campaign, said she was disappointed with the findings of the officer.

She said: "Coyte Farm is just far too big. It is all about a developer making a lot of money out of Cornwall at everybody else's expense.

"If approved it is not just St Austell that will suffer, so will all the towns within a 25-mile radius."

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