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