£110m out-of-town shopping complex would spell the end for town centre
ABOUT a year ago, this column suggested that town centre traders in St Austell would struggle to stay in business if the £110 million out-of-town shopping complex at Coyte Farm was given the go-ahead.
Well, it hasn't been built yet, but an independent report paid for by Cornwall Council now calculates the town centre would lose a quarter of its business if the retail park is constructed.
Another impact study commissioned by the developers predicts a much lower drop in trade – just 8 per cent. Well, it would wouldn't it?
Sainsbury's are among the retailers keen to get into the St Austell area and could build a giant superstore at Coyte Farm. Then there is the Morrisons supermarket which has been given the green light along the road to Mevagissey.
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Who would be a town centre trader in St Austell right now, given the prospect of being put out of business in 18 months' time?
There is another option I'm sure some are pondering, and that's moving out themselves to St Mewan.
Not the smaller independent shops, which are locally owned, but the national retailers which currently operate in the town centre.
They will look at the economic viability of remaining and, with the predicted 25 per cent drop in trade, could well see Coyte Farm as the answer.
Without the larger retailers attracting customers to the centre of St Austell, local traders will see an even worse drop in trade, and a great many will not survive.
That will leave St Austell with only charity shops, pasty outlets and banks.
This is hardly the future envisaged when the town centre had over £100 million thrown at it a few years ago.
Traders will be praying shoppers will not desert the town centre for Coyte Farm, but deep down they know full well they will.
There will be no parking fees to pay, and there will be a new bus service to the St Mewan site for those who don't drive.
Cornwall Council now says it wants to listen to the opinion of locals on the pros and cons of allowing Coyte Farm to be built.
People will turn up on October 30, but they will be the opposition. Meetings like this tend not to attract people in favour of a development like Coyte Farm – probably the silent majority.
The public meeting will be at St Austell's One Stop Shop, and that is just what Coyte Farm will become.