Need big names in town not out-of-town
THE GOVERNMENT recently produced a paper on the decline of the high street.
Its conclusions were that the internet shopping boom and out-of-town shopping centres could be identified as the main cause of this decline.
In the case of St Austell, it is obvious that we all want big-name shops, such as Marks & Spencer, Next, Primark, etc, but the truth is they never were coming to St Austell. It was proposed that they should go to an out-of-town shopping centre.
Had they have been coming to St Austell, we would almost certainly have had nobody against that plan.
So what can be done?
With St Austell having the largest population in Cornwall, and a potential mega-investment for national retailers, we must find a site within the town.
The tax office site, with an underpass, would be perfect; linking it to the town centre or Priory car park, again right in the centre of town.
A park-and-ride on the boundaries of the town would also be excellent, and a multistorey parking facility should be built into any new development.
These are smaller sites, but they would be used for retail purposes only, whereas Coyte Farm was also for major housing, a pub, a residential home, an extended school, etc.
It is not that the people of St Austell particularly wanted Coyte Farm, but they did want the retail stores that were going there; so I wonder if our council can now be brave enough to find a site that will make the town and not break it?
It is true that, in the 1960s, the chamber of commerce turned down Marks & Spencer, Debenham's and several other big names. These retailers located themselves in Truro. Truro immediately prospered.
But the difference between the proposed plan in the 1960s and today's proposed plan at Coyte Farm, is that they were not proposing to go to an out-of-town shopping centre; they were proposing to come to our high street, as they did in Truro.
Get them into our town and we prosper. Put them out of walking distance of our town and the town will obviously suffer.
I think the council did it right by turning down Coyte Farm, but will it have the vision to get these stores into our town?
MP made me a hollow promise
OUR MP, Stephen Gilbert, while trying to sit on the fence about Coyte Farm, subtly showed his bias by his gleeful assumption that it will now be decided outside the county.
He thinks it will be allowed on appeal.
In other words, the considered (and, I think, correct) decision of our elected representatives will be swept aside by powerful property speculators.
A couple of years ago, when the new pro-business, anti-environment, planning laws were being rammed through Parliament, I discussed exactly this scenario with Stephen in our local pub.
He assured me that the new planning laws, with their emphasis on localism, would protect local democracy and strengthen the ability of our councillors to make decisions based on local policies.
What a hollow promise that proved to be.
Either he was too naive to understand what Eric Pickles was up to, or he was deliberately trying to sideline opposition to the Government's destructive plans.
The pro-Coyte Farm lobby (mostly on Twitter and Facebook, which are notoriously easy to manipulate) is making a great fuss about it only having been rejected by one vote; and that vote by a councillor from Truro.
Don't they realise that is how democracy is supposed to work? The side that gets most votes wins.
Instead of accepting the decision of our brave councillors, who are standing up for our local businesses and our environment against the hollow promises of developers, they seek to discredit it.
Our councillors should be congratulated for their independence, and Stephen Gilbert should try harder to live up to the green promises of the Liberal Democrats.
Total failure to capture the mood
CORNISH Guardian, shame on you for misrepresenting the views of the silent majority of the people of St Austell when reporting the negative decision made on the Coyte Farm application.
You have totally failed to capture the mood of those who are left still having to travel to Truro (not any more, we might go to Hayle), Plymouth, or Exeter to do our shopping.
For far too long we have stood to one side while business leaders, councillors, developers, et al, have failed miserably and repeatedly in providing what the people want.
The editor should be taken to one side and given a good talking to. What are you doing? You should be berating the very people who brought about this refusal and grilling them about it, but instead you give them some sort of credibility in your two-page report.
St Austell Chamber of Commerce should also be ashamed of itself for being so negative about the development.
During this process, I wrote and raised some criticisms with the chamber directly, to which I received a response from Tom French, chairman, commenting: "I am sure you understand it is our responsibility to represent the concerns of our members."
Interpret this how you will; I know what I thought.
I have lived in St Austell all my life (56 years) and have seen what has failed to be achieved with the many opportunities to redevelop the centre for the benefit of shoppers.
Years ago, part of the centre – that is the concrete monstrosity which currently houses Iceland and other traders – was redeveloped. This originally contained small retail units and was frankly rubbish in terms of providing shoppers with what they wanted.
This was realised by the powers that be and the building was redeveloped to house one store: Iceland.
So, that was a huge waste of local taxpayers' money.
When the current town centre was developed I was amazed when, during the early planning stages, I questioned them about major stores coming into the town and was told they didn't want them and were striving to ensure they were kept out.
They said they preferred to provide a "town centre experience where people could come to have a coffee and meet friends, together with plazas which would be ideal for showing visitors our heritage".
What a load of rubbish. Look at it now – a dreadful place.
Local people voiced their opinion at the time that they wanted a Drake Circus-style shopping arcade, but were totally ignored.
Those who now say they would like the town centre units to be occupied by major retailers should take note of this.
Those major retailers would have done so years ago but now they look at the town centre and want nothing to do with it. A Marks & Spencer spokesman was reported as saying this precisely. It's criminal what's happened.
I urge the developers to appeal the decision to reject the Coyte Farm development as I hope that, at some point in my remaining lifetime, I shall once again be able to shop in St Austell.
We are all culpable in one way or another for what has happened to our town, me included; but I have felt powerless to do anything about it. I'm sure the silent majority of St Austell residents feel the same way.
I can only, therefore, exercise my democratic right in future. I shall be asking any politician who wants my vote one question: did you support the Coyte Farm application?
If they say they did they will get my vote, regardless of which flag they fly.
To finish, I repeat how I began this communication. Cornish Guardian: get it right in future.
We all want our town to recover and thrive
JOHN KNELLER's comments in your coverage of the Coyte Farm decision last week are, in my view, quite wrong.
He describes the community of St Austell as being divided by the Coyte Farm debate. I genuinely feel that this could not be further from the truth.
Not everyone here has the same view of what is best for our town, but we are united in wanting her to recover and thrive.
If nothing else, the Coyte Farm debate has brought us all together and woken us up.
Large numbers of St Austell residents have joined the Silent Majority social media group, or have contacted their ward councillor over the last few months and engaged in a way they never have before.
There is now a groundswell of activity in the town of which I am glad to be a part.