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Will major development at Coyte Farm destroy St Austell town centre?

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

  • Looking north from St Austell Golf Club accross the site of the proposed Coyte Farm development.

  • BIG PLANS: Developers' impression of how the site could look.

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A major £110 million planning application that could change the face of St Austell has been submitted to Cornwall Council.

If approved, the development on a greenfield site on the outskirts of the town at Coyte Farm will provide more retail floor space than all the St Austell shops put together.

St Austell’s town centre traders fear, if approved it could have a massive impact on retail in the town. The developers say it will create more than 1,000 jobs and provide an economic boost for the town. We want to know what Cornish Guardian readers think. Vote on the poll to the right of this page and leave a comment below.

'A fantastic vote of confidence'

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THE DEVELOPERS of Coyte Farm have defended their plans, saying their £110 million investment would complement St Austell town centre.

Phase one outlines a 68,000sq ft Sainsbury's supermarket with eco-credentials, a 160,000sq ft shopping park with large units for up to ten national retailers, a care home, 12-acre youth academy extension to St Austell Golf Club, a pub and land for improvements to St Mewan's school and church.

Phase two, due to be submitted in 2013, would bring up to 250 homes, 30 per cent of which would be affordable.

The developers say it will bring the following benefits:

About 1,600 jobs (600 during construction).

The scale of the modern development would provide a destination, encouraging other major national retailers to set up shop in St Austell.

St Austell loses about £100 million of non-food retail expenditure annually to other towns such as Truro and Plymouth – Coyte Farm would act as a buffer, keeping people in St Austell and encouraging them to make linked trips with the town centre.

It is a privately funded proposal investing £110 million in St Austell at a time of economic uncertainty.

"At a difficult economic time, it's a fantastic vote of confidence in St Austell that both the owners of White River Place and us are seeking to invest in the town's economy, create jobs and help the development of St Austell," said Mercian spokesman Simon Hoare.

"I want all of us to work together to ensure a vibrant town centre and new retail at Coyte Farm.

"I want to see a complementary approach that maximises the opportunities for jobs and new companies coming to town."

The developers say the roots of the 98-acre proposal stem from Cornwall Council's emerging Core Strategy, which recognises the need for 'transformational change' in St Austell, flagging Coyte Farm as a potential site.

They also argue that their own studies show Coyte Farm would only decrease annual turnover in the town centre by 7 per cent, which is within National Planning Policy Framework guidelines.

Those who would feel the pinch most would be the town's existing supermarkets , said Mr Hoare.

Chris Towers, from Mercian, said a public consultation in July showed 67 per cent of people supported the development, and 69 per cent wanted a Sainsbury's in St Austell.

"This has given us real confidence to move forward to submitting our plans," he said. "The proposal has evolved over the last two years with very significant changes being made to the initial masterplan in response to consultation."

Bruno Moore from Sainsbury's said: "Sainsbury's has wanted to come to St Austell for some time. "Coyte Farm gives us the opportunity to build a sustainable store of sufficient size to give local people real choice when deciding whether to shop with us or the other two out-of-centre supermarkets already in the town."

Who are Mercian Developments – biography

SHREWSBURY-based Mercian Developments Ltd is part of the Merbuild (Holdings) Group of companies specialising in property development. Its sister company, Mercian Properties operates the group’s property portfolio.

Mercian started life in the early 1970s, initially specialising in the industrial property development sector. Towards the end of the 1980s Mercian branched out into residential, commercial and leisure development and in 1990 it undertook its first retail development.

Today retail development remains its principal strength with a number of retail projects currently being undertaken throughout the UK.

Mercian currently have an application underway to build a Tesco in Looe, with affordable homes and a skatepark.

The developer is also behind plans for a major non-food retail scheme in Liskeard, including four or five units ranging from 5,000sq ft to 20,000 sq ft.

Passionate cry to save the town from proposals

THE TOWN is fighting for its life – that is the message from business leaders who are calling on the community to back their campaign to save St Austell.

This week a passionate rallying cry was sent out to save the town centre from the effects of the huge out-of-town retail development on the greenfield site at Coyte Farm.

Campaigners argue:

Coyte Farm’s shopping area would be bigger than that of all St Austell’s shops put together.

It would be the third largest retail centre in Cornwall.

It threatens businesses and jobs in not only St Austell, but Bodmin, Newquay, Wadebridge, Truro and Liskeard.

Independent research by industry consultants Deloitte shows turnover for businesses in St Austell could drop by 23 per cent.

“The town centre is in a fight for its life. We are calling on the entire community, everyone who values their town centre in St Austell, to join us in opposing this totally inappropriate development,” said St Austell businessman and St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce member Steve Hurst.

“Cornwall councillors need to understand very clearly that the people of St Austell do not want their town centre and the traders within it put out of business.”

The chamber is spearheading the campaign, supported by White River Place owners Ellandi, St Austell’s Business Improvement District (BID) Steering Group and town centre investor Colvase Estate.

The chamber decided to launch a campaign after securing the support of 80 concerned businesses at a meeting in September.

It has set up a campaign base in the town centre and will be looking to mobilise backing in the community through petitions and letter-writing campaigns to Cornwall Council’s planners.

Morgan Garfield, Ellandi partner, said: “We bought White River Place earlier this year because we believe in town centres and we are already working with partners in St Austell and investing heavily as part of our plans to revitalise the town’s retail environment.

“People need to be in no doubt that Coyte Farm would kill off the town centre.

“It is outrageous that a plan like this should even be brought forward given that it is so completely out of touch with regional and national efforts to value and preserve local town centres and services.”

Chris Witt, St Austell BID steering group chairman, said: “The research carried out by Deloitte shows that while town centre turnover could fall by 23 per cent, for some smaller businesses this could actually be much more.

“It is extremely concerning for everyone involved in the town, and an unwelcome threat at a time when the BID is aiming to revitalise retail in St Austell town centre for the benefit of traders and everyone who lives and visits here.”

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  • stonkin  |  December 24 2012, 12:49PM

    Ok I grew up in Newquay and worked in the local shops every weekend from the legal age right up until leaving school. I have lived abroad, other places in the UK and am now raising my family in St Austell. Since the decline of our industries in Cornwall we have since been dependent upon the tourist industry for the majority of our income, particularly small businesses. The reality is the weather in this country is unreliable, it is expensive to holiday anywhere in the UK, people work hard all year and who can blame for them for wanting to go on holiday where there is guaranteed nice weather? If the weather is bad in Cornwall there is literally nothing to do as a tourist or local. Also, how many of you had friends who went off to university and never came back to Cornwall?? Why is that? We all love the open space in Cornwall but maybe we need to face facts. If we want to protect the future of our economy we need to do it ourselves by making ourselves more appealing to the larger companies and to people who want to live here all year round not just the summer months. At the end of the day, all those who are against this development, where do you do your weekly food shop?? Do you go to the individual small businesses and get specialist bread, local produce etc or do you shop at a big supermarket because it is more convenient?? Where have you bought all of your christmas presents from?? Have you been to the small local gift shops or have you been to the bigger chains or shopped online?? The world is changing. I love Cornwall but there needs to be a compromise somewhere. For the people who are against this, everytime you walk into a Tesco, Asda or any other national chain, you are a hippocrite.

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  • CoyteFarm  |  December 18 2012, 11:15AM

    For more information on Coyte Farm like our Facebook Page: http://tinyurl.com/d6z8v7g or follow us on twitter: @coytefarm

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  • CoyteFarm  |  December 18 2012, 10:53AM

    For more information on Coyte Farm like our Facebook Page: http://tinyurl.com/d6z8v7g or follow us on twitter: @coytefarm

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  • shagrats  |  November 29 2012, 2:52PM

    Didn't St Austell have a blank canvas where they coul have designed the most spectacular shopping centre in the south west. They could have had a under cover market, vibrant mix of victorian old and cutting edge new design, but no they developed a faceless S-hole they call white river place. I can remember the first time I walked through it, I didn't stop and just got up to the queens head and had a pint in disbeleif that that was their best shot at bringing a shopping experience to St Austell. All I can say is shame on the developers, shame on the architects, and shame on the council for being a collection of "morons" to rubber stamp this faceless development. Now selling something fo a 50 million loss 3 years after you built it is THE BIGGEST insult to the people of St Austell that they could have made. St Austell is rubbish.. It has been and I can't see it changing anytime soon when the people in charge have about as much vision as your average "Sun Reader". This development should go ahead as you should just give up on St Austell town centre. I have.

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  • jimjams2011  |  November 29 2012, 10:59AM

    St Austell is a terrible place to shop. IT could do with a retail center to draw people nearer the town. Cornwall NEEDS a retail park that is open later into the evening so that people working for government organisations (the main source of jobs in cornwall) can do some shopping.

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  • Ashers  |  November 27 2012, 9:11PM

    This is a totally unnecessary development which is bound to detract from the 'redeveloped' town centre which apparently cost in the region of £70million and recently sold for £20+million. Good business sense? I don't think so! And why now use good agricultural land for something that it seems the majority don't want. I come from the South East and my area was 'developed' in the 60's. It's ghastly! I don't think that the people of Cornwall want to see the same happen to their county to line the pockets of developers with the promise of a few measly jobs. Growth seems to be the in-word but what we need is stability and security and this kind of development isn't likely to achieve that. Keep Coyte farm as a farm because this is going to be the all-important thing very soon. Give this proposal a very big NO and put it in the bin. That's where it belongs! Keep the town centre alive.

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  • Ellandi  |  November 26 2012, 5:09PM

    @Razordad@dma5545@elfa66@LAKEX2@GTWiddows@gammatink@fullscott@twain1@josdive@jo-staustell@dma5545@caroclemens@localteacher@MikeH@grahamcoad@JP2609@roger_agove There have been some serious, valid comments and concerns that we share. However, to make a difference, letters and or emails, really need to sent by concerned individuals to the planners. The officer dealing with the matter is: Gavin Smith, Cornwall Council, Carrick House, Truro, Pydar Street, TR1 1EB.

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  • Razordad  |  November 23 2012, 7:20PM

    Yet another development intended to be built on grren fields, on good farming land. Yet another development which would creep St Austell outwards . Why do we need this destructive plan especially as - after many decades - we have seen progress being made on the Town Centre? It is as if someone wants to destroy what we have and want to destroy another bit of Cornwall. One of the reasons so many people come to visit this green and open county is because we do have the space and we don't have sprawling, ribbon developments spreading like tentacles from our population centres. The developers promise additional jobs. Of course they do but how do they know? It can only be guesswork and doesn't take into account that jobs would be lost from elsewhere. It will be job migration not job creation and the developers will not be held responsible for any 'promises' they make now. We are also promised yet another huge development on the already busy A390. The corridor from Holmbush going West is overcrowded already without the current plethora of intended building all affecting this artery. We do not need to see another plan on the green edge of our town. We do not need this vision brought to us from way beyond the Tamar.

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  • dma5545  |  November 16 2012, 4:34PM

    I read all the comments about not wanting to change as if thats a bad thing. There are some things I dont want changed...like our country side!! If this development was to be in a better place, say on old clay working land, many more people would be in favour of it. The Coyte farm area is not the right place to build this. Ive said it before, but we still need more investment in the town centre EG: a roof over the White River shopping complex. This would attract more shoppers and inturn more shops would want to come here, bringing more jobs. The half assed way that the White River development was left (because the money ran out!!) is not allowing it to develop into the shopping area it could be. If we dont do something soon this will be more of a white elephant rather than white river.

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  • elfa66  |  November 16 2012, 2:52PM

    I agree with gemmatink. It's a disgrace to build anything on agricultural land. And when did an out-of town shopping development ever help the town nearby ?. If it does go ahead, and its up and running, you will see For Sale notices on a few of the shops in town. So the jobs created in one, will be lost in the other. Its happened before.

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