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Statistics show 'concerning' levels of deprivation in St Austell

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

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CALLS have been made for more investment in St Austell's health services and infrastructure after government statistics revealed "concerning" levels of social deprivation.

Figures based on the latest population census show almost 2,000 people are said to be in 'bad' or 'very bad' health, a figure that is proportionally above both the national and Cornwall average at 7.4 per cent.

A total of 72 households are classed as 'deprived' in the key areas of employment, education, health and overcrowding, 47 of which are in the Mount Charles and Gover areas.

The information, made available through the Government's Office for National Statistics (ONS), also shows a quarter of the town's population have no qualifications and more than 900 people are out of work.

Furthermore, 659 homes are overcrowded and 647 have no central heating.

Community leaders said they were not surprised by the statistics and praised the work going on in the town to help those on the breadline.

They blamed the situation on the decline of the china clay industry and bleak economic climate, and stressed the key was to create employment and training opportunities for local people, working with local schools and colleges.

Mayor Steve Double said: "I'm not surprised by these figures but they do concern me. We are the biggest single population town in Cornwall and we don't have the right level of investment in our infrastructure, like health facilities, and this is concerning.

"We need to address the reasons why people find themselves in crisis. I'm very aware there are challenges but I believe there's a potential here and we need to tap into that to make sure the town can prosper and thrive going forward."

The town's MP, Stephen Gilbert, said: "There's no doubt that poverty and the ill health and low educational attainment that comes with it have been a feature of the St Austell area since we started to see the decline of our traditional industries of farming, clay mining and fishing over recent decades."

However, he said unemployment had fallen in the past few years, and government measures such as home insulation projects and protecting spending on healthcare had helped poverty-stricken residents.

"There's no doubt that more needs to be done to turn our community around and deliver the good quality, well-paid jobs that people need," Mr Gilbert added.

Sandra Heyward, Cornwall councillor for the Gover area, said that St Austell was no worse off than any other town in Cornwall.

"It's a very large town so the figures are going to be slightly up on other towns," she said.

"There's an awful lot of positivity in the town at the moment and some strong movements to bring the town back to where people would like it to be, and to help it achieve its potential."

● The ONS statistics are based on the 2011 Census, analysed over the past three years.

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  • Polly_Gooth  |  March 14 2014, 8:49PM

    The picture is misleading since it shows a shopping street in White River Place that for one has nothing to do with the report (why does it all come down to conversations about shopping in St. Austell?) Added to which, the picture shows WRP pre- the 99pstore. So we have less shoppers since this 'misleading' image was taken but more **** to feed the 'awful' label. And when Councillor Heyward refuses to 1) acknowledge the deprivation in her own ward, Gover,and 2) to acknowledge the public support for Coyte Farm, you have to wonder what alternative universe she lives in.

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  • Mavendorf  |  March 14 2014, 3:51PM

    I moved into St Austell in 1991, and it was already very down at heel. In the intervening 20+ years that I lived there, it just got worse and worse. The town centre was demolished, then abandoned and remained a deserted building site for years, before a glorious new shopping mall filled with empty shops was built in its place. I jokingly called it 'White Elephant Place' back then, and see that, if anything, it's worse now. Here's some observations from my 20 years living there: It is a dumping ground for those that have fallen through the net: criminals, alcoholics, drug addicts, people with mental issues, the sick and the infirm. These people are dumped in the town and given no support. I could walk through Fore Street at 2.00 on a Saturday afternoon and see, perhaps, 3 people. Ditto any other time of the day or day of the week There are an abundance of pound shops and mobile phone shops (and empty shops) but none of the 'fundamental' shops you would expect to see in a town: supermarket, newsagent, off-license, etc. How mad is that?! Many are the times I have gone into town and felt an overwhelming urge to get out of there. I have felt intimidated, found the atmosphere to be oppressive and my fight or flight instinct has kicked in the moment I've stepped foot in Fore Street. To this day, if I return there to visit family or friends, I want to leave the town centre the moment I go there. I live in Wales now - and just the other day, when getting into a taxi, I mentioned that I used to live in St Austell (it cropped up in conversation) and the taxi driver laughed and went 'Poor you, coming from St Awful!' So its reputation is national! I always had - and still have -a sneaking suspicion that the town's councillors actively HATE St Austell and would rather it simply didn't exist. Hence it's steady downhill trajectory for the past 30 or so years.

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  • MarjProops  |  March 14 2014, 11:57AM

    @StAustellAdam & @pramsrmike Well said I think you are spot on with how you've summed up Councillor Heyward and Stephen Gilbert. These two individuals are in positions that could do something positive to help the area but have both turned their noses up at £110 million of private investment that would undoubtedly bring hundreds of jobs to the area. I hope the electorate remember how they serve the community when it's election time.

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  • StAustellAdam  |  March 14 2014, 10:03AM

    I would also add that Councillor Heyward is very much out of touch with the residents of St Austell, and Gover in particular. As stated above, Councillor Heyward was incredibly vocal in opposing Coyte Farm at the Strategic Planning Committee in January, an investment opportunity that would have given a massive vote of confidence to the wider town, bringing jobs, training and other benefits. At the same meeting she also spoke in the most derogatory fashion about the town, its people and the jobs they are currently employed in ... As for Steve Gilbert, and all fences notwithstanding, "There's no doubt that more needs to be done to turn our community around and deliver the good quality, well-paid jobs that people need," - indeed, no-one would disagree with that sentiment, but as our MP it is your job to make sure that opportunities leading to these outcomes are maximised. Coyte Farm is/was one of these opportunities and yet you remained very much on the fence of indecision when the application was being considered.

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  • pramsrmike  |  March 13 2014, 9:26AM

    To Councillor Heyward, I would like to point out that St. Austell IS worse off than other towns in Cornwall, because the report actually states that the number of people in bad or very bad health is "above both the national and Cornwall average at 7.4 per cent". There were also "some strong movements to bring the town back to where people would like it to be" before the Planning Committee met in January and, egged on by Councillor Heyward, refused to allow planning permission for Coyte Farm. This, despite 85% of the comments left on her (now defunct) website being in favour of the scheme, which would have made such a dent in the 900 unemployed in St. Austell. To Stephen Gilbert MP, I would like to suggest that he gets himself down to B & Q to buy a new fence as soon as possible, because the one he is currently sitting on must be nearly worn out.

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