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Shoppers' habits doom town centres to oblivion

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 22, 2014

By Andrew Gordon

Comments (1)

ALTHOUGH Coyte Farm has fallen at the first hurdle, it will surely get back up, run to the Government's planning inspectorate and eventually win the day.

A planning appeal will be lodged and the £110 million retail development will be built on the outskirts of St Austell.

After all, councillors went against the recommendations of their officers who had supported the retail park, a fact that will hinder Cornwall Council's argument as to why it turned down the application in the first place – by the casting vote of a Truro councillor interestingly.

The majority of people want to see Coyte Farm happen, and with it the retail giants it has promised. Presumably, people in the area have given up on St Austell's town centre as a place they enjoy shopping.

St Austell grew into Cornwall's largest town because of the clay industry, but there is little left of that. Clay was the lifeblood of St Austell and, with its decline, St Austell has declined too.

The town centre was redeveloped a few years ago to the tune of £110 million, but it has made little difference to its economic recovery, because it was botched. Traders in St Austell fear for their livelihoods after Coyte Farm is built, but the majority of shoppers are not concerned about that. They want an out-of-town retail complex where they can park for free and sample the type of stores St Austell has failed to provide.

That's what is happening to town centres everywhere. The onward march of retail parks and out-of-town supermarkets, coupled with ridiculous car parking charges and high business rates, is killing centres like St Austell.

Soon they will become the preserve of charity shops and tea rooms, only attracting people of a certain age and income.

Anyone who ventures into the centre of St Austell, even on a Saturday afternoon, will not see too many people shopping there. On Sundays, it can seem like a ghost town. Compare that with St Austell's Asda store, which is packed every day.

People aren't interested in town centres any more, be that St Austell, Bodmin or Liskeard.

If, as has been promised, large high street retailers do set up shop at Coyte Farm, all of the above- mentioned towns will feel the effect. It is only a matter of time.

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  • MarjProops  |  January 22 2014, 5:17PM

    In my view very few of the town centre retail outlets are likely to be in direct competition with anything proposed for the Coyte Farm development. There is nothing in the town centre that would suffer as a result of M&S, River Island, Next or Primark setting up outside of town. I therefore do not see why town centre retailers are so concerned about Coyte Farm as their problems are more to do with their own location. Obviously, they would have benefited if say M&S or a similar sized retailer had set up in town as it would have raised the footfall. However, the developers of White River Place missed the boat by not providing a suitably sized store or asking what it would take to get them on board. I believe the town centre will continue to decline with or without Coyte Farm. The above article sums up the situation very well: - Lack of appeal, ridiculous car parking charges and high business rates, is killing the centre of St Austell. Coyte Farm also offers a fantastic opportunity for private investment in to the area and the provision of much needed facilities and most importantly jobs. I hope the above article is correct and the developers succeeds in an appeal.

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