Love St. Austell? Love Coyte Farm.

I went to a Public meeting organised by Cornwall County Council the other evening. I even signed up to speak which felt like a big step out of my normal comfort zone.

There are three proposed plans for new supermarkets on the western edges of St. Austell. The biggest, and the most contentious proposal, is Coyte Farm because as a planning application it’s supermarket and a massive retail park as well. Making it bigger than St. Austell’s Town Centre retail area as it is.

Out of 218 attendees at the meeting 47 people had signed up to give their two pence worth. The for and against the Coyte Farm proposal, I thought, were pretty even split. The other two applications really didn’t feature in anyone’s minds at all.

I went because the gist of a piece in my local newspaper had really irked me. The slant of the feature was “Love St. Austell, Stop Coyte Farm.”

It irritated me because there are sadly more people who’d say that they hate St. Austell, than those who claim to love it.

…So, who in their right mind, except a blinkered minority, would come up with a rallying cry like that? It made me cross because it said that “shoppers were disloyal not to be supporting their local town” and that if we let Coyte Farm be built it would kill the town.” I was incensed enough to write a letter on the topic to the local paper. My point was balanced. I wasn’t for or against but I said that Coyte Farm might also be the greatest opportunity the town had ever had and it shouldn’t be rejected before understanding the bigger picture.

Coyte farmFIRSTLY, I’m a bit hesitant as the next person about saying ‘yes’ to ripping up green fields to build supermarkets and shopping centres; but I can’t stand scaremongering without genuine evidence either… To me is it disingenuous, as the people most interested in blocking retail development are the ones who fear competition and worry that they might have to work a bit harder to draw to customers and business to the town.

I could understand people getting up in arms if this was a vibrant little town, full of independent specialist shops, but it ain’t.  The line: “This development is going to rip the heart out of St. Austell” might have had resonance if this was Truro. Instead the general response from local people is, “Why would I worry about saving St. Austell when there’s nothing here to save?”

The nub of the issue is that St. Austell’s shopping town centre, like scores of small towns across the UK, is struggling. And just like everywhere else, people generally love where they live and will loyally defend their home town if anyone else choses to rubbish it…. so no news there. St. Austell’s not unique. Except that in Cornwall it is significant.  This is the county’s largest urban area, and we’ve all been longing to make this town something special. Special enough that we even bid for city status in The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year.  Scratch the surface and the loyalty to the town is here alright.

BUT, and this is to cut a long story short: I have lived in St. Austell,  practically all of my life – I was baptised in the town’s church – and have known it well over 40 years. Hand on heart, I’ve seen this town decline for 30 years from a lively little town to a sad and rather dreary place to shop.

AND, I would like to be proud of where I live (and generally I am). But where I’ll happily tell everyone I live in Cornwall, I often gloss over the fact I’m from St. Austell.

My son once came home from school near to tears. “Only scum live in St. Austell,” he’d been told. It’s harsh and I was angry to have it implied that I am scum and that I’ve chosen to bring up my children in a town only to have them labelled as scum too. But that’s kids for you, isn’t it?  Except that the town has another wider reputation as ‘St. Awful’. It’s difficult to shake, even if all who live here agree that it is ‘St. Actually-quite-nice’.

HOWEVER, St. Austell has been blighted by appalling decision makers with short-termed views and self-interest over the years and these people are just as prevalent as they ever were.  It started with the rejection of Marks & Spencer in the 1960s because it threatened the local shopkeepers (although I’ve been told this is rumour not fact)… the net result is that St. Austell (i.e. those who were in power to take strategic decisions) have never taken ownership for the town’s failure, it is always something other – be it the building of a Tesco and Asda, Par Market, not having a Town Council and so on, that has caused its failure to thrive and continual decline. Coyte Farm will just be another convenient scapegoat. “It’s not us, it’s them.”

It took 7 long years to rather expensively build the new White River development in the town centre with a new cinema and shops. There was a lot of hope that it would turn the place around but the  final plan was immensely unpopular and the people felt disenfranchised because despite all of the public consultation meetings, we never got what we asked for: an iconic, undercover shopping area that would have made us a destination. When it finally opened we were right in the middle of the recession and consequently its new shopping units have never all been filled because the sad fact is that they are too big and expensive for the independents and too small, and without sufficient footfall and consumer spend, for strong retail brands to take them up.  It’s true, its brought more people back to town, but much of that boost has come through putting on events, reducing the parking charges and then new 99p store!

I came away from the meeting, after all my research and careful fence-sitting, leaning on the side of the proposed new Coyte Farm development and I’ll tell you why:

  1. St. Austell has always been too quick to say ‘no’. We’ve become a town with a negative reputation and its high time we showed the courage to take a ‘transformational change’ decision if any more investors are ever going take St. Austell seriously.
  2. Take the personal out of it. This is not about me or my intended shopping habits even if I do want Sainsbury’s and M&S nearby. It’s about opportunities for young people, for familes and the whole of the community . St. Austell may be the largest urban area but it’s shopping centre is hemorrhaging at the seams. It has no draw from the wider area and even its own townsfolk flock to Truro or Plymouth for their retail therapy. Draw people back to the area and it creates more jobs, more local spending power, more business’ benefit, house prices rise and generally the whole area becomes more desirable and better valued.
  3. View it as an opportunity. Why, for heaven’s sake does the Chamber of Commerce and Town Council throw up their hands and cry: “It will kill us?” Surely the obvious approach is to negotiate. It is not in the developers interest that the Town Centre should fail. Negative equity has ripples and it affects the whole community. So ask them what they will do to help support the Town Centre to thrive as well?
  4. Competition makes for better, smarter business. Survivors in this harsh and rapidly changing retail world are those who adapt and innovate to take a more customer centric approach. Perhaps the lack of ‘shopper loyalty’ is actually the result of a ‘lack of customer focus.’ People do want to shop in and support their local town and therefore is it disappointing to find the town doesn’t offer what they need and forces them to look elsewhere. I live 2 minutes on foot from the town centre and I’d say that 90 % of my non-food shopping is done online or in Truro because St. Austell’s lovely traders (not I don’t want them to fail) insist on filling their shops with things I don’t generally want to buy at all or very often.  Most independent retailers get so fixated on themselves in a kind of product vanity, that they take no time to understand consumers and how can they improve the lives of their potential customer rather than their own. Yes, it’s an inevitability that a new retail park will affect the trade in the town centre when it first opens. On the other hand, not having the retail park means that millions of pounds of potential trade is already being lost to Truro, Plymouth and out of Cornwall through internet sales.  By drawing people to St. Austell, via a retail park, means you keep the spend within St. Austell and all local business has the potential to reap the benefit.
  5. What do we risk? If you support the ‘no’ campaign you believe that we risk the death of the Town Centre just as it is struggling to get back on its feet. “Wrong time, wrong place” is the argument against it and “Give us another 5 years is the plea.” But what if in 5 years time, and without Coyte Farm, the Town Centre is no better? What if it were worse? Who would be blamed? No one can predict the future and in a world-changing faster than it ever has in human history…treat anyone who tells what it will be like with skepticism because they can’t know. The only helpful prediction of the future is to looks at trends. Less of what has gone before, but what’s emerging. Examples of town centres that have died after out-of-town centre development were built have to be looked at in context. Big retail shops may have a magnetic pull, but other shops drive customers away because fail to keep their customer’s interest. That’s why, as the experts tell us, shopping giants such as HMV have failed. Maybe these town centres died because they behaved like dinosaurs and refused to accept their customers were changing and they would need to adapt and evolve or become extinct?

I can’t predict the future except that nothing stays the same. Saying ‘yes’ to Coyte Farm will change the landscape and houses will follow. The Primary School I attended surrounded by farmland (we were once taken to see the cows being milked at Coyte Farm) won’t be the same,  the little country Church I was married in will be engulfed and St. Austell will creep west. It will be different but it’s what’s needed. Leaving my personal regrets aside, we need a magnet,  if this town is going to realistically market itself and be taken seriously as ‘St. Awesome.’

Forget the other supermarket proposals on the table that won’t add value but will make the approach roads to the town more congested and hazardous to the local Primary School my children all attended. Like or or not a development such as Coyte Farm is what this super town deserves.

39 thoughts on “Love St. Austell? Love Coyte Farm.

  1. Jessica, you say “Out of 100 or so attendees at the meeting around 60 people had signed up to give their two pence worth. The for and against the Coyte Farm proposal were pretty even split”. Where did you get your facts or are the numbers your estimates? You are wildly out. We (anti-Coyte) made notes. There were 218 attendees. 47 spoke about Coyte with 32 against. Now that you teetering on the edge of an MBA you will be able to calculate that is 68% AGAINST which is close to the Cornish Guardian poll showing 72% AGAINST. We go back a long way. With respect, I believe that to my (almost) certain knowledge you have absolutely zero business experience. Please believe me when I say there is strong evidence that St Austell Town Centre will be destroyed economically and more than that the Coyte Farm Development will rip the heart out of the community of St Austell Town Centre which is more than just about shops. If you are that desperate for a Marks & Spencer get in the car and go to Truro. It is 20 minutes on a good day. Please take a look at Bert Biscoe’s letter printed in the Cornish Guradian recently which makes some very good points and is pasted below:-

    3 Lower Rosewin Row
    Truro TR1 1EN
    01872 242293

    Dear Sir,
    I spent Christmas Day with my wife’s family in the parish of St Blaise. During my post-prandial perusal of the Cornish Guardian I noticed a report about Coyte Farm and, like all Truronians, shuddered at the thought. The report said that the proposed new shopping town will mean that people from St Austell will not have to drive to Truro to shop but will be able to stay in their own town – only Coyte Farm won’t be a town centre, will it? It won’t have a church or a market hall, or a White Hart, or a cinema, or narrow streets to clamber through in search of Alias Smith, or people living there, or a Post Office, or places which evoke memories and poems – it will actually suck more life out of a town centre which, with its new town council, is trying to revive itself – an effort which we should all be supporting and helping with. Such revival does not come from tycoons building houses of footballing cards, or from pension funds checking returns on proeprty portfolios in Location ‘X’ – it comes from the heart – from the welcome and deep knowledge of a church with an open door, or an Old Cornwall Society building a museum. So, Mr Sainsbury, I don’t think you’ll be much help there!
    The report went on to suggest that the Coyte Farm development would be built on ‘green land’ – not quite true! Green it may be, but – and the clue is in the name – it is also ‘developed’ land – that is, land developed by farmers to grow food on – a precious resource in a world beset by growing population, climate change, desertification and rises in sea level – a resource which lies at the very heart of the Cornish economy, and which we seem hell-bent upon consuming willy-nilly to chuck-up supermarkets and housing estates as if, like oil, metal, china clay or, indeed, air and water, we delude ourselves into believing that it is in infinite supply. Ninety acres outside the bounds of a traditional market town is good land – that’s why the town was established with its market all those centuries ago.
    One day the Sainsbury family, and all the other supermarket supremos, will wake up and realise that every time they concrete a splatt of farmland to pursue ‘growth’ they are reducing the very natural, and highly managed, resource on which they rely for the products they sell – farmland.
    People talk about sustainability – handing on a world capable of meeting the needs of the future. Will our childrens’ children need farmland or supermarkets most? Good husbandry, the art of the farmer, has been won over many hundreds of years – our land is the evidence of his skill, achievment and legacy – it could all be lost in a fraction of the time it has taken to develop the knowledge. It is with us.
    Modernity is exciting and full of opportunity – but food, land, water, peace – these are the building blocks of it, not the consumables.
    Best wishes, as ever,
    Bert Biscoe

    • Narrow minded. I know Bert through work and I have heard his views and they have no merit at all. If i want to go to the church – i know where it is, likewise with the cinema. As for Alias Smith – I have no interest in that over priced shop!!

      At the end of the day, if so many people are against Coyte Farm then they dont need to go there do they!!!! They can stay in the dark ages with St Austell town.

  2. Dear Chris, I’ve amended my copy. That’s a vocal 68% AGAINST who spoke. And I wonder where I featured in the ‘anti Coyte’ calculations having spoken neither for or against at the time? I thought there were quite a few neutral voices. Your calculation doesn’t show the feeling of the rest of the room where the majority didn’t speak at all. Was there a hand count vote at the end? I thought the lady who said that green fields and woods are all very well – we still have plenty in Cornwall – “but my children are not squirrels and they need jobs, not just nuts to sustain them,” said it all.

    With respect, I have business knowledge. I ran a business, my parents ran a business for over 30 years. I write about it and study it, I’ve interviewed many businesses, follow the news and I’m gaining an academic business Masters with the focus on creating the business leaders and innovators that we need in this county for the future and putting Cornwall economically in a global context.

    M & S is only 20 minutes away by car, but while I’m there in Truro a do a lot more shopping to make the journey and the parking charge worthwhile. That’s the trade that St. Austell loses through every shopper in and within a 12 mile radius who want to go to M&S.

    And, in the spirit of featuring letters from the Cornish Guardian here was mine:

    Think Different

    Could it be that threat of Coyte Farm might actually be a good thing?

    First question: do we actually need this large commercial development for jobs and opportunities, or will it just ruin the landscape?

    Secondly, competition makes for better business. Rejecting Coyte Farm out of hand risks something worse: Stagnation and Inertia.

    St. Austell rejected Marks & Spencer’s in the 1960s in a desire to protect the interests of local business; ultimately this damaged the town’s prosperity and failed us all.

    It’s naïve to think that shops have rights to custom just because they exist. Business has to keep pace with rapid changes or get left behind when some other bright spark comes along. Being told that shoppers are disloyal when they choose to go elsewhere is a turn off. Scare mongering with claims that Coyte Farm will reduce trade by around 23%, unhelpful.

    Coyte Farm’s proposal gives local people what they want, it also ensures St. Austell doesn’t continue to lose out to other towns. The town’s real threat is its parking charges, the Internet, recession, changes in social shopping habits and, perhaps, better services elsewhere.

    Look to the future don’t reject competition because we fear it. Yes, Coyte Farm is a threat. It’s a threat to Tesco, Asda and other supermarkets. It’s a threat to Truro and other local towns. But by drawing people back to the area it might also be an opportunity.

    Our town’s shops, businesses, councillors and chamber of commerce needs to pull together, stop being the victim and act different. What could become St. Austell’s ‘vibe’ making this town the place to visit?

    Why do I think like this? The slogan for Apple is “Think Different”. It’s what innovative business leaders do. And they don’t stand still.

    Jessica Milln, St. Austell

  3. Coming from an extensive business background I have aired more on the No to Coyte Farm, why? Because it is all smoke and mirrors! I want FACT, I want to see letters of intent from the likes of M&S before one blade of grass is lifted! I asked the question at the start, you say large businesses want to come to St Austell, NAME THEM!
    We need yet another supermarket like a hole in the head! I’m sorry but jobs??? Zero hour contracts? I brought my kids up to aspire to more than sitting on a till all day or filling shelves!
    They did make a mess of St Austell, having a covered in complex would have encouraged people to stay longer, catch up with friends, have a coffee, be more social.
    White River Place is a wind tunnel! The shops have concrete slabs above their doors with no drain pipes whatsoever. Many a time I have seen the wind gust, the water fly off the top and drench the passers by. Those hideous red flower pots no doubt cost a fortune! As did the awful granite paving in the main street! All that has done is give the illusion of a wider street, an even better opportunity to fire a gun and still not hit a shopper!
    When all is said and done, St Austell died with Imerys, the jobs went, the money followed, but the greed of those who own the shops in St Austell will be its ultimate downfall. Shops lie empty! and will remain so. The death knell is already ringing, internet shopping of which the majority of us are guilty, seeing many big names close.
    Being a Par maid, I want to see the area thrive, but just can’t for the life of me see that this is the answer if we are just going to repeat all the mistakes made before!
    As I say, lets see some concrete agreements that in principal the businesses we need are coming, if not I see no need to build more houses which will drain our services even more!

  4. Like you Pauline, I’ve been similarly cautious thinking ‘smoke and mirrors’. I rang the Coyte Farm developers myself to find out what was true. Sainsbury’s and M&S have given their letter of intent according to what they told me and have told the press

    God forbid that at some time in the future we end up with ‘Coyote Farm’ and ‘White Elephant Place’. But I’m trying to think more optimistically than that.

    People tend to think that more jobs just means in construction and then as supermarket check out operators or shelf stackers. However, having people in jobs at whatever level is what boosts the local economy. For example, people with steady incomes buy, rent or do up houses. That creates jobs for builders, plumbers, electricians, DIY merchants, solicitors, insurance brokers, architects, planners, car mechanics, shopkeepers, traders, pubs and restaurant managers and staff and so on. These people earn more and so it goes on. That’s how we get out of a recession.

  5. Good for you!. I’ve read it twice and its great to see the for and against discussing it on your blog. I worked most days in St Austell for about 10 years and therefore have an understanding of the town from a cultural and business perspective. Those that have an interest in making money from what’s there and available will not want to disturb the status quo. Those that have given up or are happy for the government to support won’t care. Those that want jobs will, those that see they can make money if the plans go ahead will. The problem is there is no alignment though as most are motivated by self interest. I think your right it needs someone to lead the success not blame everything else for failure.

  6. “I thought the lady who said that green fields and woods are all very well – we still have plenty in Cornwall – “but my children are not squirrels and they need jobs, not just nuts to sustain them,” said it all.”

    She also said that she ‘hadn’t a clue about this development’ and shouted ‘build the lot of them, then see how it all works out’. Do you still think she “said it all”? Do you really agree with a women who thinks an established Cornish farm produces nuts?

    The world’s population is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. World cereal prices surged 17% in July 2012 alone, With this sort of instability it is essential that far more importance is placed on our local Cornish food supply. Considering that Cornwall’s population is increasing at a rate 3x higher than England’s and 4x higher than Wales – and shows no signs of slowing down – it is of the utmost priority that we look after local farms and food providers, food that can readily flow from fields to town centre markets regardless of potential issues affecting sources from afar.

    Recent research showed that 36% of young people have little knowledge of where their food comes from and it seems many adults are joining the trend. The world is teetering on the edge of economic collapse leading to doom-like statements about how supermarket shelves would empty in days if the worst was to happen. Take all this into consideration together and a new picture starts to emerge, one where the value of local farms increases dramatically while the worth of concrete retail parks in Cornwall – the first to be withdrawn from the game as fuel and food prices rise above profit margins – becomes of little use to a desperate and hungry population…

    You’d have to be ‘nuts’ yourself to side with the likes of that women who you think “says it all.”

    • I respect your desire to look after farms and food providers; and I’ve said very clearly that I am as sorry as anyone else is to see green fields disappear under new development. Coyte Farm was a dairy farm. Have you considered asking the farmer why he sold his land rather than continue farming? Presumably, he found it uneconomic? That his 90 acres could no longer sustain a single farming family. Small farms in Cornwall have to find other ways to sustain their businesses today through providing tourist accommodation (I was a farmer’s daughter and this what we had to do), or creating farm shops (planners have not supported these near St. Austell) or diversifying to provide high value products such as farm produced ice cream. This is how Rodda’s creamery started who sell their products through supermarkets. Have you considered if it is too big an ask to expect Cornish farmers to impoverish themselves in order to grow food to sell in town centre markets? Did you know that St. Austell’s attempt to establish a farmer’s market failed?

      For the record, Cornwall, is too wet and has never been a county suitable to grow grain to feed the expanding population.

      In the early 1970s, while I was at St. Mewan School, we were taken as a class to see the cows being milked at Coyte. I was about 7 or 8 and I remember being told about silage, fermented grass used to feed the cows in winter. “Dangerous stuff,” the farmer told use. “Fall in there and it will suffocate and kill you.” Silage also has pollution and waste issues. The fermentation process of silo or pit silage releases liquid. Silo effluent contains nitric acid (HNO3), which is corrosive. It can also contaminate water courses unless collected and treated – the high nutrient content can lead to eutrophication (growth of bacterial or algal blooms).
      Plastic sheeting used for sealing pit or baled silage needs proper disposal, and some areas have recycling schemes for it. (Accessed 19.Jan.13 Today, I doubt it would be possible to take a primary school class to visit a farm such as Coyte. There would have been reams of health and safety issues to sort through first.

      It is funny how easily people close their ears to what they don’t want to hear, or don’t carefully read what I have actually written.

      Lastly, Of course Jenny Trenelly doesn’t think that any farm in Cornwall produces nuts!

      I beg you, if you hope to be taken seriously as an organisational movement, leave the emotive responses out, reference your evidence, and make it relevant to Cornwall. I wouldn’t dare to suggest it, but I’ve over 700 people have read this blog post so far, and some might suggest you are a bunch of…. .

  7. well said Jessica – loved reading this blog – I am the ”squirrel lady” you mentioned in one of your replies. I also am a St.Austell girl born and bred and whilst I adore my place of birth and will never leave it I also appreciate the need for growth and development. I actually spoke out in favour of all the developments and still say – go for it !!
    Sadly St.Austell has missed out on golden opportunities several times over the years by not listening to folk – quite apparent from what I witnessed as a RBC councillor 12 years ago when they decided on the structure of our new town centre – the general consensus was to build a quality undercover centre that would have been unique to Cornwall and would have brought folk in – but no – the powers that be went with what we have now and we are now dealing with their lack of vision.
    I talk as a Mum, Granny and consumer and lover of the countryside and a person who is passionate about St.Austell !! These developments will NOT turn our town into a city and if the town is managed properly it will enhance our town and bring it back to life. We – as consumers will shop at the best places for us – give us choices and varied shopping experiences and let us decide where to spend our money. I would rather spend my money within St.Austell than go to Truro/Plymouth etc – so give me the places to spend it!!
    We will still have plenty of open green spaces, quality countryside, beaches, coastal footpaths and it is quite melodramatic to suggest otherwise !!
    I want a future for my children and grandchildren – and these developments will give them more of a chance of this without them having to leave their place of birth if they do not wish to – BUT THEY WILL STILL HAVE ENOUGH COUNTRYSIDE TO ENJOY AND APPRECIATE AS THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ABLE TOO !!!
    We surely owe it to future generations to stop saying no to progress and growth – and start putting things into perspective – sacrifices have to be made – but that is life and I am trying to look at the bigger picture and I still maintain this will make St.Austell better and NOT worse as some people are saying.
    Good luck to all 🙂

  8. and in reply to ”Simply Green Cornwall” – I have not ”put down ” or ‘be-littled” anyone else for having views so I certainly do not expect this type of retaliation . I have a view and I stand by it – I can accept others views without being nasty about them.
    I do know that Cornish farms do not produce nuts – I was merely giving a response to those that had mentioned the loss of trees and wildlife – eg squirrels – it was just a fleeting example .
    Please do not criticise me for having an opinion – surely we live in a society that allows us to healthily debate issues without scraping to levels of insulting those who try to express what they believe in – even if they are not quite as eloquent as you would like !!
    Very disappointed in your tone about me 😦

  9. BUILD A MASSIVE SHOPPING COMPLEX !!!! haha sounds about right tarmac the place usual logic from someone just wanting to make a few million.
    oww btw guy just to let you no:
    70% of the world wealth is owned by a few families of wich all presidants are ralated to one way or anouther.
    government has paid to make poorer country infertile
    theres crap in are food to kill us of.
    they put floride in the water
    they send are kids to war to fight for oil
    the whole dollar currancy is printed of with oil to back it up so its a fake made superpower
    people under the age of 16 wont get on the housing lader till there 38
    rich get richer poor get poorer
    the amount of radiation the let of around europe
    contraseption in forms that isnt a condom are making people infertile
    osama binladan aka tim osmond trained by cia
    constant lies nasa tell us.
    constant lies media tell us
    there dumbing are kids down
    they wont us working till 65 then dead
    a rubish wage for people
    curropt banks
    curropt government
    massive company pay offs to select few
    most big company and corporations are and always have been hiding money one way or anougher
    want us i dept so we are slaves

    The worlds gone to shit and there isnt guna be any customers spending large amounts. And im not guna invest my hard earned cash at places like this!!! so the guy doing this can store it in his bank in the caman islands so his kids can live an easy life for generations to come, wile we all get are selves in to dept and are kids take on a dept making us slaves to the banks.

    wake up guys this worlds an Epic Fail, and i bet the coming years there will be mass protests, riots, worse recession then there is now, hay we mite even become a third world country yet fingers crossed. then maybe people will stop careing about material goods and start enjoyin life.
    go spend time with your kids
    go swimming
    go fishing
    go spend time with your wife
    sit down relax
    work but work for something your PASSIONATE about
    listen to music
    learn everything
    and always smile
    cause at the end of the day that should make you happy, not a brand new 40 qwid sweater, or a t.v 2 inches bigger than your other one.

  10. That guy needs to switch his spell check on…….people won’t take what you write seriously if you can’t spell correctly ……!
    The people moaning about developers spending millions of pounds bringing St Austell up to the great retail standard of almost anywhere in Cornwall are outstanding, the planners failed with the re-vamp of the town that is for certain, lets see what this new development will do for jobs, our kids’ futures and investment in the town itself and stop going on with this bloody “cup half full” attitude that will drive any further investment away …….also existing shop keepers take note, if you sell something that people want to buy then your business will thrive.

  11. When I returned to Cornwall after spending several decades in mining in Canada, I heard how St. Austell in the sixties found it had the chance to bring in some big companies and they messed it up. I know that finger pointing is not constructive or useful, but I wonder if it was not initiated by the merchants in Truro, who wanted these companies for themselves. They left us, the people of St. Austell, baffled, fighting amongst ourselves and without these companies, which did go to Truro.

    Today, we find ourselves with the same opportunity and once again we find that, if Coyte Farm is approved, the winners will be the people of St. Austell and the losers will be the people of Truro. Everyone east of St. Austell and many between St. Austell and Truro will turn to St. Austell and not Truro. Truro stand to lose a lot if Coyte Farm goes through and it is definitely in their best interest to make the people of St. Austell ditch Coyte Farm. I agree with Jessica that we do not know what the future brings. The envelope of uncertainty expands in an ever increasing fashion the further we get from the present. But experience and skill allow us to complete evaluations and these show us that it will be a plus for St. Austell.

    I agree that we do not want to see the loss of green fields, but since the sixties we have lost a great deal (it is nothing to do with Coyte Farm) and we will continue to do so as long as the central government continues to instruct Cornwall Council to build homes for tens of thousands more people. The loss of green fields is a result of central government’s policies and not Cornwall Council’s. It is regrettable but it will happen one way or another as long as London continues with their plans.

    With respect to the loss of earnings and the threat to White River Place, I say that it will not decrease, but increase because of the capture of trade from Truro. Everyone east and northeast of us, who used to go to Truro, will stop at Coyte Farm and some of these will go to the White River Place when they never did before. They will no longer have any incentive to go to Truro.

    It is time for the people of St. Austell to stand up for themselves. If we let this opportunity slide, then once again Truro will have won and we will be wondering what happened. We need to unite around this proposal and endorse it wholeheartedly.

    Alan Coode

  12. At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community. The New Economics Foundation, an independent economic think tank based in London, compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program and found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)

    Indeed, says Boyle, many local economies are languishing not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going,” he says, noting that when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers—”it flows out, like a wound.” By shopping at the corner store instead of the big box, consumers keep their communities from becoming what the NEF calls “ghost towns” (areas devoid of neighborhood shops and services) or “clone towns”, where Main Street now looks like every other Main Street with the same fast-food and retail chains.

    Read more:,8599,1903632,00.html#ixzz2IT0AWGJq

  13. I’m right behind you on that point Matt. and that is how I personally like to shop. However, there is a balance. I’ll happily tell people how I like to shop, but I’m not going to preach to tell others they must do the same. As for supermarkets, Sainsbury’s do have a policy to support local producers

    And in the spirit of ‘staying local’ its why it is much better for St. Austell’s local economy if more shoppers shop within the area rather than hightailing off to Truro and Plymouth.

  14. Jess your a great writer and you have kicked up a storm. Its important to have a balance.

    Lets not get it wrong again I lack faith with developers in the bay. Carlyon bay, White river what on earth makes you think this is not more smoke and mirrors? Developers need to get one development right before we go handing over even more land for them to cock up.

    A large out of town retail park built in a recession when national retail are licking their extensive financial wounds. When we have a half empty one less than a mile a way. It’s suicide, lets have two empty town centres in the bay. Embarrassing and disappointing.

    By the way letters of intent are in no way a signed contract. M&S 3.9% further into losses on last year are seriously looking at downscaling their operations. Don’t for one minute think any national business would be daft enough to build a sizeable unit 20 miles down the road to accommodate customers they already service.
    To add to that perhaps three more years of loss before its built? How many more companies will go under or be driving their trade to the Internet. Next Internet sales soaring. Reducing their retail outlets in favour of online shopping.

    It will also set a planning model once agreed That can duplicate its self in other areas of cornwall putting many other towns under threat.
    If you would like a full and comprehensive 74 page professional report to read just ask. Perhaps when you have actually read it you would have a clearer view of just how much thought and consideration has gone into our choice to be not in favour of this development.
    Balance is key for a win win situation. What you can be assured of is you will see your beloved sainsbury here in the next 5 years. Highly likely to see a next and other stores. Hopefully at places closer to the town and not on greenfield.

    Kindest regards

  15. I’m neither for or against. I’ve heard these arguments all before- people whining “why does no one come to Bodmin”.

    However I must ask. If the plans were absolutely perfect, why is the developer on the facebook page practically begging people to support it? Yeah you’re going to get your consciencious objectors, but on the grand scale of things…

    I must just add. Is it just for big retailers or will there be space for other things too. A business development park? We were supposed to have one in Bodmin, but that ballsed up. To grow an area you don’t JUST build more shops. You innovate the area. Do something different. Innovation, not imitation.

    I haven’t read the plans fully but all I can see is it’s a glorified Par Market for national retailers. Please tell me there is more to it than that…..

  16. 100% for this idea, and being a complete hippy, I understand the environmental impact! But everywhere needs balance! Can we loose a few fields to bring jobs, life and people to St Austell?? I feel we can! Unfortunately St Austell has been left in the Dark Ages. White River was failed from the get go, why whould shops pay for overpriced units with no shoppers???
    People say that we need the independant business, I agree, they make the heart of a town! So lets look to St Austell as it is now… The Wassail Bowl, prime shop front on Almer Square…CLOSED, Why? Not making enough money? Who knows? But its hard to keep a shop when there are no shoppers! Planet Lifestyle… reducing there stock? I dont shop in there, too expensive! Could maybe do with some competition to keep prices fair! The camera shop next to Argos…. again CLOSED!!! Why are some people saying this development will kill St Austell??? Its dying on its knees already!! It needs something, anything to get it going, it may be risky… it may not work….but what else have we got to try? Big shops have REFUSED to come to White River… so let’s stop pretending that they will in time! Let’s get people to come to St Austell… bring on Coyte Farm!

  17. Hi Jessica.

    As requested, a comment on your blog (a copy of my reply to your comment on mine!)

    My main concern is that these retail parks also produce biased reports about benefits – as do Cornwall Council if it suits its purpose to push through schemes that look good on CVs.

    Apart from a small number of low pay jobs, the only benefit for Cornwall is more convenient shopping. The majority of the profit derived from money spent at the park will leave Cornwall to swell the coffers of big corporations.

    I believe that we need to consign the ideology that economic growth is achieved by these kind of schemes and the building of houses to the dustbin. It is an easy and lazy way for our ‘leaders’ to claim that they are doing something. The history of the last sixty or so years shows this. Despite Cornwall having massively more higher levels of development than in England, we still qualify for aid from Europe as one of the poorest regions in Europe.

    I’m not saying that all development is bad, just that we need to put Cornwall first at every point. We need development that is going to provide jobs that will begin to get us out of dependency on EU handouts. I don’t believe that Coyte Farm will do this and, as you point out, in the meantime more green fields will have been lost – never to be seen again.

  18. Normally, I would agree with you on every point. Generically that is true and the loss of green fields is a shame. Only every case has to be looked in a careful, measured way unbiased by personal feelings, point scoring on CVs and cynicism about money swelling the coffers of big corporations leaving us with nothing more than low paid jobs.

    The customer is a powerful force and retail that manages to buck the trend in these current times does so because they takes time to understand their needs and their changing habits and they adapt and innovate to keep up with us. Cornwall needs to learn from this strategy and adapt and change too.

    We want the choice to buy local produce and support local businesses and we don’t want to get in our cars to travel long distances to shop. Any planning consideration has to look at how best to fulfil those needs.

    I would advocate an approach that makes conditional agreements. In this case, what will the Coyte developers give towards making the Town Centre vibrant and sustainable too, and how will ensure the environmental impact is minimised or even enhanced.

    For example, in order to ‘choose to buy Cornish food’, I currently have to buy online using Cornish Food Market or Cornish Food Box or get in the car and drive to the nearest Farm Shop near Tregony. There are no local outlets in St. Austell. My nearest place to buy groceries is Iceland (head office based in Flintshire) and the 99p store (based in Northants), or I can get in my car and join the queue trying to get into Asda. The benefit to St. Austell that Iceland and 99p Store provides is some ‘low paid jobs’ as you describde. Sainsbury’s at least aim to support local producers by selling their produce through their stores

    Bizarrely, one of the objections to Coyte Farm is that it will create retail floorspace that will put it third behind Truro and Penzance. I was under the impression that St. Austell was Cornwall’s largest urban area. So our current available retail space is hardly commensurate with the population size. Combine Coyte’s retail space with St. Austell’s current area we’d be on a level par with Truro.

    I suspect that the counter argument to this point will be that our current Town Centre is full of vacant shop units, so why generate more?

    St. Austell’s problem is that our potential footfall is going elsewhere and without that businesses can’t survive and so forth. M&S is a trusted brand. Customers know what they are getting and it has the expectation that it will be quality produce and good customer service. Wherever there’s an M&S the store becomes a magnet. Even if we don’t all choose to shop there it raises the demographic of the type of shoppers in the area. St. Austell would make a major coup if it were now able to bring M&S into the town centre – but I’ve not heard if this is ever likely to happen. But if it could, I’m pretty certain the rest of the town would fill pretty quickly on its heels…the flip would be an over congested town too small to support the population size and insufficient parking and the need for out of town retail would rear its ugly head again.

    Coyte Farm will undoubtedly stop the leakage of shoppers away from St. Austell – the dilemma it poses is St. Austell’s Town Centre interesting enough to able to bring them right back to shop here as well? My thoughts on how to make it so will have to be another blog post…

    The more I read (through all the bias, self-interest and flannel) the more convinced I am that St. Austell needs Coyte Farm in order to turn its fortunes around and without it we are doomed. In fact, if Coyte could bring the first John Lewis in to Cornwall we’d be laughing!*

    Ultimately, I’m not very hopeful that Coyte will get its planning permission passed. Ironically, it won’t be to save green fields it will be because Cornwall County Councillors will object to it as too great a threat to Truro.

    *John Lewis is the example used by economists to assess the level of the recession. Currently it continuing to grow its profits bucking the trend where other high street names are closing.
    Every John Lewis staff member is a partner in the business and gets a share of the company profits.

  19. Pingback: It’s not always greener on green land « The Bancast

  20. I’m not interested in shopping, why dont we use the land for something better?! I’m all for us making use of those green fields, but paving it with boring corporate unimaginative concrete… Lets use the space to expand consciousness…

    The reason everyone wants a shopping centre is because they want somewhere new to go… you wouldnt visit those fields now, it would be a bit boring… So why not put somewhere worthwhile there… instead of some boring shops

    Do something better… way better than marks and spencers, I can get my cornflakes in ASDA or anywhere else… Lets not be dazzled by shiney newness :p We dont want more dull supermarket jobs :p Why cant we use this green space for something a bit more Anarchic and creative… A Free for all space… An every mans land. Shops are boooooooooring… Yes the sheep will be pleased with M&S… Ding dong I have bells in my brain ding dong dang dong…. In all seriousness… How about we build an empty warehouse, a free for all space, a socialy experimental den of kings and theives. Supermarkets always look the same when you’re inside! ;p

  21. Pingback: Playing Devil’s Advocate* (In the Coyte Farm debate) « FishWifey

  22. People must be going round with their eyes shut, or very blinkered. Can you not see the sheer amount of empty and vacant premises in both St Austell and Truro ?
    Forgive me if I’m wrong, out of town trading is no good for anyone. Look at Threemilestone, Comet, JJB sports. etc.
    Why create more disgustingly bland concrete monstrosities for us to have to drive to ?
    Is it not better to create something better than this for recreational purposes, sports etc. for our children to benefit from, instead of sitting at home playing the latest computer generated rubbish.
    If you are a rational human being, why on earth would anyone want to destroy beautiful green farmland into yet more and more urbanisation and commercialism !

  23. Jessica, I also went to St Mewan school and I was married in St Mewan Church. I have very fond memories of a rural/slightly urban childhood. The town centre was buzzing when I was in my teens. Some 30 years later I live in Cape Town, we have huge shopping malls, undercover, with cheap, easy parking and restaurants, cinemas etc. it’s just progress. It’s what people want.

    I was over last July and nearly shed tears at the new town centre, what a missed opportunity.

    I want to move back, at the moment we will not be returning to St Austell, we are thinking Truro. This makes me sad, but life’s too short.

    Coyte Farm could make the difference, we don’t know but “No” can’t be the right answer.

    You wrote very well,

  24. Sorry, didn’t finish!

    You wrote very well, an obvious St Mewan alumnus! It would be sad to lose those fields but I am sure the same arguments came up when they started building Boscoppa many years ago.

    Thanks for your great blog and for the guts to put your views out there. The Internet can be unkind.

  25. St. Austell !! Take your chance while you can. If someone want’s To invest in YOU bite there hand off it won’t happen to often you may never get the chance again ” LOOk” forward not back, “JOBS!!!”

  26. Hold back and regret it St Austell. As someone who has lived most of their life in Snozzle and recently moved ‘over the boarder’ I think it is a dynamic that St A could do with. As for the argument about ruining green fields, see what a certain French company is doing to our spectacular moorland to the north of St Austell. That’s where your gripe should be; as more species are suffering and being wiped out by them.
    It is good having an alternative retail destination on your doorstep, and as for the first comment (Chris from Truro) is there any financial reason that you are saying this will rip the heart out of St Austell when anyone who knows the town knows it needs a jump start by a radical action like this, which would allow the town to develop and a lot more specialist ‘niche’ shops open up. People who visit Coyte Farm or earn their money there can spend their money in the old town; maybe with a two-way park-and-ride shuttle service between the two?
    Opportunity knocks my beauties; but he also passes….

  27. Well said Jessica. Congratulations on maintaining the thread of your argument from day one. I fully endorse the comments you made regarding Coyte Farm. It could well be the best thing that has happened to St Austell for a long, long time. Unlike some of your respondents I have only lived here for 40 years so I’m likely to be branded an “incomer”. That time has come however, been long enough to see St Austell decline and today it is a dying beast. Attempts at resuscitating it with White River Place have proved a failure. Already the new town centre is blighted by empty shops that have never yet been occupied as well as others that have failed to last even 3 months. The attractive piazza, planned to be the attractive centrepiece of White River Place is now a Saturday mishmash of junk stalls, the flower beds empty and being a playground for unruly children.
    I don’t think one of your respondents who was against the project, mentioned the fact that there will be parking free for those people wishing to visit the shops in the new development. Here in town there is limited parking and what there is, is exorbitantly priced and mostly at a distance from the shops. None of your respondents either has commented on the fact that it is nowadays impossible to walk through the one main street of the town without being accosted by a number of highwaymen purporting to be mobile phone salesman or charity “chuggers”. I for one, and I know I’m not alone, frequently now take a detour through Vicarage Place to avoid these persistant and irritating people.
    How many bites at the cherry is St Austell likely to get? It’s missed its first opportunity some 20 years ago and why that happened is common knowledge within the town. It is missing its second opportunity with the recent re-development which is certainly not the success that was anticipated nor is it delivering the prosperity that was hoped for.
    Like a number of your respondents I too love St Austell and would be very reluctant ever to relocate but today as I look at the town, the expression about flogging a dead horse comes to mind. Perhaps we should look further afield? In conclusion I would just wish to say that in an important, and what should be reasoned and rational argument like this, it is disappointing to see the lack of intelligence, poor grammar and bad syntax of some of the contributors to the debate. Perhaps that is symptomatic of St Austell town today?

  28. Great blog Jessica; really balanced look at the various arguments and a common sense conclusion. This is such an opportunity for St Austell and if we don’t take it then we are basically signing up to further slow decline socially and economically. This inward investment brings jobs, facilities and a bit of healthy competition. I enjoyed your blog very much.

  29. Hi Jessica – I know you’re trying to keep an open mind and do what’s right for St Austell but please have a read of my new article about Coyte Farm for the Huffington Post as Cornwall Council and Coyte Farm are not giving the full facts to the public:

    All the best, Lenny

  30. Hi Jessica – b****y fabulous article!! I’ve been looking long and hard for an objective, unbiased response to the Coyte Farm development, and by God, I found it! I totally agree with everything you’ve written. I was a little surprised by some of the comments on here, namely ‘leanbean’… a raving mad conspiracy theorist springs to mind! Keep up the great work… your comments were insightful, intelligent and thought provoking. Thank you!!

  31. All in favour of Coyte Farm. The existing site is not scenically that spectacular and can only be visible alongside the chimneys of Blackpool pit as you ride by in the car. Coyte Farm will act as a gateway to St Austell, leading on to even more spectacular rural and
    Coastal scenery and some good shops in the town. Also a new carehome is badly needed to cater for the REALISTIC needs for elderly sector. Send it on.

  32. And the simple fact is…when Coyte Farm has been developed, when we have a decent shopping centre, when there are a couple of hundred more jobs, the people who have condemned the project WILL be both shopping, and working there. It is only the narrow minded that cannot see how much the town will benefit from the development. Par Market is dying a death, St Austell town centre has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin. Why not bring some decent planners with a decent vision in?

    The Chamber of Commerce got it so wrong with White River Place. They could have, no should have, developed the whole area into a huge shopping mall that the people and commerce wanted, instead they chose to put housing into the development reducing the town to its current size, this was in my opinion counterproductive. There is enough housing development outside the town, we did not need it to eat into the area that could have made the towns shopping centre appealing to all the major retail players.

    What were the people who were paid to market the new town doing when they were paid for all those months leading up to the development? When there were so few major companies interested in moving to the town, they must have realised the development was not fit for purpose. If they didn’t recognise the problem, why not?

    It is not any good sitting on your laurels saying the new development will ruin the town, look at the amount of people using the town. Now look at the amount of people in the town carrying shopping bags. You don’t judge the amount of custom by people, but by the bags they are carrying. I often look at shoppers only to see that the only bags being carried are those of Poundland and the 99p store, this is not the sign of a town that is thriving. All I ask is that you don’t spoil a good thing by pig headedness, we as a town need this development, we need to stop the retail pounds haemorrhaging to Plymouth or Truro, we need the jobs. We also need another recreational facility like Carlyon Bay, Crinnis was the hub of most of our youths, it shaped so many of our lives. We need something similar brought back into the area to give us our heart back. When Crinnis shut it ripped the soul out of St Austell, it has left such a void. We need to work together with one vision, as a united town, to help us become a healthy thriving place, that people choose to visit once more.

  33. Pingback: #CoyteFarm, #LoveSt.Austell. | FishWifey

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