Erase the Negative. Embrace the Positive.

Poor old St. Austell, beleaguered, battle worn and blighted in particular over this last year, by division and negativity.  The refusal of an out-of-town retail development for St. Austell at Coyte Farm didn’t bring jubilation in the street, despite the ‘Stop Coyte’ spurious claims that 83% of the people were against it. In fact, judging by the sheer volume of letters, almost unanimous in the voice of disappointment, printed in the Cornish Guardian in the weeks following the planning refusal, the opposite was true.

The trouble is that every attempt to give a ‘positive’ message either limps with phrases like, ‘St. Actually-quite-nice’; is lacklustre with ‘show some nice, not depressing, pictures’; or it backfires completely as the ‘Stop Coyte Farm’ campaign certainly did.

A recent poll on the ‘Silent Majority of St. Austell speak up’ Facebook page asked the question directly: “For a year the ‘Love St. Austell, Stop Coyte Farm’ posters were on display around St. Austell town centre. What effect did this campaign message have on your attitude towards the town centre?” 217 people answered the poll. A mere 5.1% said: “It made me feel more loyal to St. Austell. The message was positive and I felt more inclined to support my local traders”.Untitled

The campaign certainly made people much more aware of Coyte Farm, but not actually in the negative way the campaign intended. St. Austell people love and are fiercely loyal to their hometown and their memories are long. The majority consensus changed as they felt the addition of M&S to the retail portfolio of St. Austell would be a genuine opportunity for the area to claw itself out of the doldrums. It also insulted them because the campaign message implied that you couldn’t LOVE St. Austell if you wanted Coyte too.

Now, this is where things start to get serious. The campaign failed absolutely to have an impact on local people’s current shopping habits and neither did it make a significant number more inclined to support their local traders. In fact, 48.8%  said that the negative message in the word ‘Stop’ made them more inclined to shop elsewhere. If a retail survey were to show that trade in the town worsened in the last 12 months, then the energy that went into stopping Coyte Farm, rather than marketing the town itself in a wholly positive way, may well have been a contributing factor.

But the point is, people who have made a deliberate and conscious choice to live in or near St. Austell, buy houses and put down roots, haven’t done so because they hate the place. Ask anyone in the street, they’ll all say how much they want the town to improve and prosper even if each personal vision might differ.

Sadly, nothing will change and negatively will continue while one side remains mistrustful of the other.  As the article regarding the resigning of the Chairman of St. Austell Bay Chamber, last week in the paper, illustrated.

It stated, that a longstanding member of the Chamber said that 145 members voted against the Coyte Farm scheme. This cannot be true as the Chamber’s membership only recently topped 70 businesses.  The report also said the Chamber had received seven applications for membership from prominent supporters of the Coyte Farm scheme. It seems an odd thing to make mention of, it also makes a prejudicial assumption, as the particular member went on to say: “If they are genuine applications from businesses in the area that’s absolutely fine.” Meanwhile, the Chamber currently has four members whose addresses are from outside the St. Austell Bay area. So what is the point he is trying to make?  Could it be that different opinions, that might shake the status quo to oppose certain schemes and support others only, are really not acceptable?

So, while we wait for new Coyte plans to be submitted and with much cynicism placed on the genuine credibility of the ‘Animal Farm’ sounding ‘Together St. Austell’ where certain developers (because they are more local) ‘are more equal than others’ and who claim to have the backing of St. Austell Bids and the Chamber of Commerce when officially they haven’t been given that mandate… a split town is the present legacy of Coyte.

Let’s hope its not to be the enduring one, because, like an incitement for civil war, the Stop Coyte lobby have made it clear: “If you don’t entirely agree with us, you must be in the other camp by default.”

The reality is that most people, residents and business people, are much more open-minded, or have yet to be decided, and would rather be able to ask frank questions, get straight answers and consider the positive merits of each and every scheme, plan and vision and not just a chosen few. The biggest single act that will change the mood is a smile with a handshake; the most positive phrase St. Austell should adopt more frequently is simply, ‘Yes’.

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Love St. Austell or loath it, why does Coyte Farm divide so much opinion?

What do people really think about the Coyte Farm development? Are greater number for it or against it?

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, Coyte Farm has been put forward as  the best opportunity for St. Austell for a generation  and the very worse threat on the other? It’s both the saviour of this town and our damnation? So evangelical the nature of the debate that the ‘Love St. Austell, Stop Coyte Farm’ supporters would have it implied that you can’t do both. 

I’d really like to be able to leave this topic alone, but it has become like an itching sore and the more entrenched, polarised and blinkered the views become, the more I’m inclined to want to scratch it.

I’ve been well and truly been given the cold shoulder by the Anti Coyte Farm protestors who used to try to engage with me. Probably after I managed to summon up the courage – alone and without my bringing along  supporters – to speak up at the 2nd Cornwall Council public meeting on the subject on 30th October. I was number 25 on a long list of 63 people who signed up to speak.

Why does Coyte Farm represents many different things to different people?  In a nutshell these are the sum of all the views:

  • It’s the opportunity to have a better class or bigger retailers closer to St. Austell. We’re fed up of having to go to Truro for such shops.
  • Significant investment in a town that has the largest population in Cornwall and has suffered continuous decline in the past 30 years. Around a million pounds a week of potential spend in St. Austell is being lost to Truro.
  • It’s a catastrophic, out of scale retail park that will kill St. Austell’s town centre, destroy small businesses and the social heart of our town.
  • It’s unsustainable: the population of Cornwall and the amount of money to spend cannot support additional retail of such scale. Shops in St. Austell and other towns, Liskeard, Wadebridge, Bodmin, Lostwithiel etc.  will lose their own trade as a result.
  • The loss valuable farmland that should be kept to grow food in the future as the population grows and we have less to eat; it’s a flooding risk to Polgooth and the Pentewan stream; and a danger to pedestrians, especially those walking to school.
  • It’s outside the planning boundaries, contravenes the town plan and there are brownfield sites that should be used instead.
  • It’s a threat to Truro as it will draw back some of the millions that this catchment area spends in Truro, and it will have an impact on Truro’s own development plans for further retail. 

I stayed for three hours and heard them all. It was a very civilised debate. Nobody heckled. Everyone was heard. For sure there were more who spoke up against Coyte than for it, and compared to the public meeting in January, the quality of arguments on either side were generally much more thought through, considered and intelligent. Where I’d swung more towards Coyte after the ridiculous arguments made at the last meeting… this time, listening to the alternatives for larger shopping retail closer to town, I was back on the fence again.Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 17.02.10

Here are the arguments put against Coyte Farm and the deliberation I put forward.

1.   “It will kill St. Austell.”

We cannot blame Coyte, which is still only a planning application…I’ve known St. Austell for my whole life (almost half a century) and Coyte will most definitely not kill St. Austell.

To be absolutely clear, I mean the whole of St. Austell – the area and it’s population – not merely White River Place and the old town centre.

The thing this town needs is investment and every offer of such has to be very carefully considered on how it will improve the economic and social welfare of St. Austell.

The trouble is with all the laying blame in the past is that it blinds us from facing the present situation and diverts our energy from preparing for an increasingly changing future.

Why are the big supermarkets so successful? Because they have to be mindful of their rivals and responsive to social change and the demands of us: their customers. These grocery stores now have cafés, sell us wine, clothing and household wares, have online shops and provide banking, travel money, insurance services.  Everything that town centres once were, but made vastly more convenient. Supermarkets also predict future growth and where it is likely to come from.  The growing population size and the attractiveness of Cornwall to bring in more people to live, develop or relocate business, and the potential of an area to become more affluent.

If it were possible to make St. Austell operate like a supermarket.  The council with St. Austell’s landlords and retailers would have to pull together and follow this example, seek to have a competitive edge and operate with a common purpose St. Austell would win back shoppers as a viable alternative.  Added to which the town would be a more enjoyable experience, than our soulless supermarkets.  What is killing the town centre is negativity: poor image, parking charges, lack of imagination. If Sainsbury’s and M&S want to come to St. Austell it’s because they know that the right demographic currently live in the area and more of the same will come to live here.

The strongest argument against Coyte Farm say that as an out-of-town shopping centre it will kill St. Austell’s town centre. They forget the fact that St. Austell already has an out-of-town shopping centre that is killing us: it’s called Truro where the majority of the town’s more affluent population chose to shop and they haven’t set foot in town for ages.

St. Austell is currently a plastic bucket full of holes. It appears to have nothing of offer of value and lets opportunity seep away to shop elsewhere. The few pennies not lost through the holes get spent in Poundland and the 99p store.  In the absence of significant serious retail opportunities, we fail to keep the majority of our local population local, and  St. Austell’s shopping centre will continue to be vulnerable. Turn our back on Coyte for the sake of nostalgia or in the belief that local businesses can be saved without it is not a good move. All signs of improvement over the next 12mths, 5 years and into the future will continue to wax and wane and other future investment opportunities that we need to grasp in an attempt to put St. Austell back on the map will be fewer and further between.

2.    “It will destroy valuable farmland and green fields.”

Coyte Farm amounts to 98 acres.  Agricultural land split by the A390 and, sadly, is not large enough nowadays for a farmer to make a viable living. It has been said that the Coyte development is massive, I can only assume this is because calculations were made on the total area of the farm. Perhaps that’s how the conclusion was reached that it would be the third largest retail space in Cornwall and a bigger shopping area than the existing St Austell town centre.

The retail park including the new road improvements that will make access to St. Mewan School safer and easier, and landscaping to reduce the environmental impact is actually about 24 acres in all. I know this because I bothered to work it out using a Google map calculation tool. This amounts to about three fields mostly hidden from the approach view just as the Recycling centre on Tregongeeves Lane is hidden from view. I’ve been amazed and horrified how easily people accept what they are told rather than checking these things for themselves.

I’m also of the belief that nothing is for ever. We just can’t imagine the future. When the world changes to the extent where land to grow food is more necessary to our existence than cars and supermarkets we humans are clever enough to grown food in other ways we may not imagine, or will have removed the concrete and tarmac and sought the earth again.

3.    “The shops that want to come to Coyte can be accommodated in White River Place and on brownfields sites within the town.”

It is a big pity that White River Place doesn’t have M&S or Primark etc. I’m fairly certain that if it made good commercial sense to be in St. Austell they would have taken the opportunity to be in town already.

In all the so-called independent reports I’ve read, I’ve had to unpick statements given as empirical evidence that Coyte will have a negative effect on the town.  The scary part is that the quality of these ‘expensively produced’ reports is, in my own view crammed with ambiguous quantitive statistics presented as definitive evidence to tell us how much other retail is likely to lose out on. They are all deeply lacking in qualative data. None really prove anything, as they are not balanced by how much St. Austell already looses to Truro and so forth and how much spend Coyte could bring back to the town as a whole.

They’ve used examples to suggest Coyte will have an adverse effect on St. Austell that are irrelevant to Cornwall (I think it’s more important to reference Hayle – has that out-of-town retail park had an adverse or positive effect on Hayle?). I’ve looked at Margate. Google it yourselves. It’s really not comparable as a real example – scale and context – by any stretch of the imagination. Balance has to show cases where out-of-town shopping has improved the quality of an area as well as those that don’t so that the the likely impact, positive and negative, can be properly predicted in this case and plans adjusted accordingly.

They also ignore the topography of the town completely. The town centre is wrapped around the side of a hill. White River Place has helped to increase the amount of level shopping area, however in these reports some of the possible sites are absurd. People won’t walk uphill between retail areas, especially if the route is not lined with other shops they are likely to visit on the way.

No report examines if Coyte might improve the overall economy of the whole of St. Austell? The fact is that turning our backs on Coyte will have a much more damaging effect on St. Austell’s regeneration and reputation which is, frankly, pretty poor. Without a retail magnet, people won’t come back to shop and people won’t want to come here to live which means that the value of our homes is also suppressed.

I’m not saying that St. Austell should say ‘yes’ without asking lots questions. Potential flooding, busier roads, the environmental impact and the effect on the town centre are all negatives that have to be offset as much as possible. And it is important that the developers’ offered investment of ½ million to the town centre is used to the best possible effect. Ultimately, this is a one of a kind opportunity to bring credibility back to the area.

I said back in January that Coyte shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. I was advocating an open-minded view but I was accused of not knowing what I was talking about. So I’ve been very careful to read the reports and listen to all the arguments and do my own research. I have no agenda – so I have nothing to personally gain. I don’t run a business – but I am sympathetic to those who do and are struggling; I’m not being paid to voice my opinion. I just live here and I choose to live here is because I love St. Austell and wish to invest my livelihood in my local area.

Ultimately it cemented my view that a decision has to be made. On balance I would much prefer to see Coyte get its approval, with stringent conditions attached. For the sake of the whole of  St.  Austell  I believe this plan is better than the alternative without it.

However, after the meeting I have to add a post script. An alternative proposal  to Coyte is a possibility. It’s not without great merit but is it ultimately better in the immediate and the long-term?

To be honest, I’m not sure.

Next, we were told, could be interested in the Halfords Store near B&Q; M&S Food might come into White River Place; the  Restormel Offices could be pulled down to create another supermarket or Higher Trewhiddle Farm – where Westcountry Land have a similar scheme for housing and would like to include a petrol station and supermarket…. The proximity to the centre of the town is closer and some use brownfield sites.  I have to remain uncertain as the arguments to suggest these were better were put forward by the very developers and owners of these schemes. Plus, we’ve had Master Plans made for St. Austell before that resulted in nothing other than the same situation of stagnation that we had before.

More debate.

Playing Devil’s Advocate* (In the Coyte Farm debate)

EPSON scanner imageI am (very much) pro St. Austell.

I’m actually pro keeping green fields and farmland rather than covering them in swathes of little-box housing estates.

I’m also pro, despite the wind tunnel effect its lack of covered space, of White River Place.

St. Austell has been built on a hillside, with the main street wrapping around one of its contours. The topography, that gives St. Austell Town Centre’s  its unrestricted views over countryside, also inhibits the town centre’s size.

White River’s construction, cleverly raising the new shopping level to the same level as the old town centre and concealing multi story parking within it  is, quite simply, genius. At the same time it enabled an expansion of the retail space of the town.

I’m also anti lots of things too, and capable of my own wild ideas for change. Some can make me quite emotional.

Brown field sites being left derelict rather than re-developed for housing or something other seems criminal.  The negligent waste of old, important historic buildings that should be restored and reused… being left untouched or worse still, pulled down, feels utterly insane.

The grip of multi-nationals, greed of bankers, landlords, developers, over dominance of supermarkets can all have me shaking my fist in my sleep.

But, I also take issue with one-sided lobbyists and withholders of information who reveal only a partial picture that suits them. Or passionate extremists who demonize anyone who doesn’t fully support their argument. I particularly dislike being patronised, or told what I should think, as if I don’t have  a mind capable of weighing up all the issues on my own.

These are the questions that I want answers to:

  • How will the environmental impact, with increased risk of flooding, from concrete, tarmac and loss of farmland be offset?
  • What are the plans to manage increased traffic flows near schools and pedestrian areas near any new development?
  • How were the impact assessment scores calculated to estimate how much established businesses might be damaged? If there is the possibility for so much margin, explain why one calculation method is likely to be more accurate than another.
  • Is the suggestion of long-term, sustainable jobs real or imagined? Please give me positive examples as well as negative ones.
  • Will it, or will it not, bring more money into the local economy of St.Austell and how?
  • What’s the amount of local spend is currently going to Truro, Plymouth and online shopping and how much could St. Austell (with or without Coyte) be able to claw back?

But every answer has to be questioned and examined too. How reliable is the source? When was it published? Is it likely to show bias? How relevant is the evidence to the context and so on…critical-thinking-cartoon

Tell me to ‘Stop’ I’m going to ask ‘Why? What’s in it for whom?’ My critical head starts to play devil’s advocate. I want all the answers, and every answer raises more questions.

And it’s my business to know the importance of choosing emotive words carefully. Any copy writer worth their salt knows that selecting the right word to convey a message is really, really important. Get it wrong and the intention can just backfire creating more dissent than unification.

Isn’t it preferrable to tell people what they can do to make things better, and make them feel good about themselves. For example,  the ‘Choose Cornish’ campaign: If everyone who lives in the county spent just 50p a week on local produce from a local supplier, it would deliver over £10 million into Cornwall’s economy in a year. The message is simple, achievable, embraceable, but most important, you won’t be demonized when you buy something that isn’t Cornish. And actually, supermarkets have to adapt to people’s ethical buying habits and consciences.

The scale of the Coyte Farm development is said to have “Transformational Change” potential for St. Austell and the surrounding area. It has the potential to be the town’s best ever ‘Opportunity’ or  worst possible ‘Threat’. That’s why I raised the question; “Can we afford to reject Coyte without fully exploring every detail that surrounds it?” I need to add, “Is this the type of Transformational Change that we can negotiate to make our lives better?”

WHAT IS TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE? (see video below)

My last point is that I am always happy to have my mind changed. Not as a woman’s prerogative but because I wish always to be able to remain open-minded. I may have written a pro Coyte piece but I’d still be ‘jury’s out’ on the decision if I happened to have the power to vote on the matter.

I’ll support Coyte as a Sainsbury’s and as an out-of -town retail area if the retail area does not compete for the same shops as in the Town Centre as I believe that Coyte, could change the way that people regard St. Austell and improve the economy of the St. Austell area.

But unlike Bert Biscoe, I’ve understood that Coyte would be a site for big retailers such as M&S, or hopefully big retail giants, the likes of  Ikea, that can’t be accommodated in town, but would bring shoppers back to the area. I’ve never thought it would replace the town centre.

However if Coyte is built merely to entice what little we have in our current high street away – then I was wrong – and I’ll take great issue with that.

I’ll give my support if drainage can be managed to pose no risk of flooding the Pentewan Valley; if the retail area can be largely hidden by trees and landscaping; if access to St. Mewan Primary School is made safer; and if offset money is used towards projects such as turning brownfield sites into productive market gardens, or the Market House into something amazing…. (Wild ideas in the offing for which I’d expect someone to play devil’s advocate with me).

However, I’m not yet convinced by the need for all the housing on green fields in Phase 2 of Coyte. For that reason the Trewhiddle Farm plans, a supermarket with houses in pre-application planning and directly adjacent to Coyte, wouldn’t get my support either…. and interestingly this developer spoke against the Coyte development (Well he would, wouldn’t he?)

devil’s advocate is someone who takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, for the sake of debate. In taking this position, the individual taking on the devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position.

It can also refer to someone who takes a stance that is seen as unpopular or unconventional, but is actually another way of arguing a much more conventional stance.

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.