The Public and Coyte Farm

Last night I attended a public meeting in St. Austell to hear the publics views on three planning applications. These are:

  • PA12/06049 – Land Adjoining Existing Pentewan Retail Park Pentewan Road. Construction of New food and non food superstore with associated service yard, customer car parking.
  • PA12/08765 – St Austell One Stop Shop 39 Penwinnick Road. Demolition of the existing Council Office Buildings and erection of a new food store
  • PA12/ 10096 – Land At Coyte Farm St Mewan. A large out-of-town Shopping Park, petrol station, pub, car park and other associated works.

The meeting was packed with over 200 people in attendance, leaving standing room only. It was disappointing that while the crowd were very well-behaved, they only talked about one application, and that was the Coyte Farm. It was like the other two applications were forgotten during the evening.

In total 50 people spoke, and the split for Coyte Farm was 15 for, 26 against the application. There were nine who made comments, but did not come down either totally pro, or against. Sadly, one person decided to threaten the committee members with a Judicial Review if Coyte Farm was not turned down. Threats like this are not welcomed, and I am pleased to say are ignored.

I feel these public meetings really work, as it give the wilder public a chance to give their views as not everyone can speak at a planning committee. These three applications will be heard and hopefully decided in March.

A Supermarket’s Impact Two Years On

Cornwall over the last two years has seen more supermarkets move in. It is not that long ago when seeing a Sainsbury’s was a rare sight in Cornwall. Now, however, they are as common as Tesco. One reason for this is a recession is a good time to expand if you have the money. Tesco did it in the last recession and got an almost got a monopoly. Now by taking a leaf out of the Tesco handbook, Sainsbury’s and Morrisions are on an expansion project

It is often said a supermarket once it gets a foothold in a town will over a period of time destroy that town. Yes, it will have an effect on that town, but it is not the supermarket that kills a town. It is the people of that town who kill it by being lured to the new and shiny supermarket. If we just resisted that lure maybe, just maybe our town centres would be in a better state.

Around two years ago Helston saw one of the new batches of Sainsbury’s get built and open. At the same time the already established Tesco got its ‘extension’. Two years later how has this huge increase in retail floor space affected on Helston and the surrounding areas?

Well, I’ve had a report carried out on the impact to Helston after two years of these supermarkets trading. I managed to convince the people from Sainsbury’s at the Wadebridge application to pay for an independent report. I think Sainsbury’s was so keen on getting planning permission they would have agreed to almost anything. I have now got this copy and it makes for some very interesting reading.

You can read that report HERE

Now conspiracy theorist could claim the report will be biased because it was paid for with supermarket money, but I am not a fully fledged member of the conspiracy club. It is though the first report that’s been carried out since a large scale supermarket development has happened. So it would only be right to give it some credibility.

The perception is a town will suffer and in this report it does show a decline in the town centre, but it is not as bad as popular myth claims it is. The area that has suffered most is in comparison goods (non food). I have felt for a long time the real impact a supermarket has on a town centre is on the non-food goods. It is one reason I have been fighting for a maximum of 20% of comparison good in any new supermarket development. This report gives weight to that theory of mine.

The report also shows that town centres have the knack of adapting to the demands and economic situations. If one type of shop closes it is replaced not by the same type. Helston has adapted in this way. Helston has some very good independent and specialist shops. Like the owner of the hardware shop has just opened a toy shop. Knowing this owner this new toy shop is no punt.

I am not saying supermarkets don’t have an impact as they do. It is just how much of an impact they have. This can be controlled by sensible conditions that restrict certain types of goods. Parking charges also have a part to play in making sure a town centre is healthy. The cost of running a shop plays a big part and there should be more help in rate relief or some other type of incentive will help greatly. These running costs can be just too high for a shop to be profitable, and therefore survive.

At the end of the day the real power is people power. If a few more of us shopped a little more in the town centre, and less in the supermarket beast this would help.

Anyway, let me know what you thought of the report.

Wadebridge, Sainsbury’s and a Few Bushes

The battle between two of the nations big boys of supermarket took place today at Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee. The target, Wadebridge. Now both of these supermarkets had almost similar  plans, and roughly the same store size. Both offered large amounts of money in 106 contributions, but there could only be one (in supermarket terms) winner.

Both claimed to have local public support; only Sainsbury’s had support from the local parish and Wadebridge Town Council. The difficulty in all of this is one application had to go first to state their case. Sainsbury’s won this battle too. When quizzed (by myself) and others as to why Sainsbury’s was first the simple answer was they got their application in first, and Morrisons had some outstanding landscaping issues. This point last point was deigned by Morrisons.

The issue facing both application is in the independent report (many will disagree with it) by GVA it said  Wadebridge could support only one additional supermarket. In any planning application when independent information is presented it can either be used for, or against the proposals. If a report says there can be one more and you say no, you can bet your last pound this report would be rammed down your throat and used against you in the almost certain appeal and/or Judicial Review.

To cut a long story short Sainsbury’s got the approval 14 votes for, 3 against. Extra conditions were squeezed out of Sainsbury’s with no more than 20% of retail space for non-food items. A bus too and from the town centre for the life of the store, and not for five years. Lastly an independent survey to be undertaken in two years time to see the impact the store has on the town.

Morrison’s being the second application heard faced an almost impossible task of getting approval because the independent report said there was only space for one. Again, to cut a long story short a vote was taken for refusal and was carried 12 votes for, two against and five abstentions. Many felt they had to abstain because of the issue of priority on which application got heard first. This being a very moot point and will no doubt be included in any legal action undertaken by Morrisons.

I can help wondering if Morrisons had address the landscaping issues; they might have been first up to bat. Have a few trees and bushes cost Morrisons many millions in lost sales?

Of course there is the NON planning issue of Cornwall Council gaining several millions from the sale of the land to Sainsbury’s. But that is not a planning reason, and one that could not be discussed at the committee. However, conspiracy theorist might think otherwise; especially when it comes to who got to go first.

It was a tough call today and one that will no doubt happen again when Falmouth, Penzance and Hayle’s applications are heard.

Wadebridge and Supermarkets

Tomorrow, the supermarket giants of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons battle it out for a site in Wadebridge. Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee will be deciding if one, two, or none get the go ahead.

The fear held by many is once a supermarket gains a hold in an area it sucks the life out of the town centre. The level of trade taken from a town centre is a hard one to judge. It will take some, but how much is the question. The Independent report by GVA has highlighted such the case in its report. It gives their predictions as to how much trade would be taken away.

The Morrisons site is the larger of the two sites with 2,120sq m net sales area and Sainsbury’s 1,957sq m. There is also a difference in comparison goods with Sainsbury’s having the larger non-food sales. Again, the question is how much trade will either of these supermarkets take away from a vibrant town centre.

In GVA’s report it is said Morrisons will have an impact of between 17% – 30% on Wadebridge’s town centre. This equates to between £1.5m and £2.9m diverted away from the town centre. For the Sainsbury’s store there is a slight difference of 17% – 29%. However, there is a sting in the tail if Morrisons is considered alongside the recent Tesco extension between £2.3m – £3.5m will be diverted, and between £2.8m -£4.1m if Sainsbury’s gets the go ahead.

As for support, Wadebridge Town Council supports Sainsbury’s, but not Morrisons. The recommendation in the report is approval (subject to a referral) for Sainsbury’s and refusal for Morrisons. If Sainsbury’s is approved it will pay near £831k in Section 106 contributions and if Morrisons gets the go-ahead it will pay £790k. This money would pay for various improvements/projects in and around Wadebridge.

This meeting will not be web-cast due to the meeting taking place in St Austell.

Supermarkets, Supermarkets and a Stadium.

One of the Committees I am a member of is Strategic Planning. If truth be told I really like this committee because of the different types of  applications it covers, and the level of detail you have to go into on each application. For any application there can be literally 100s of pages of technical information, representations (from all parties) and various other important information. All of this has to be read and cross-examined before you make a decision that could change people’s lives.

In September and October the Strategic Planning Committee is going to be rather busy. This is because of the number of applications due, and the emotive nature of some (if not all) of them. I can’t recall in the two years I have been on this committee a more busy or important period than the next two months.

The list of applications that are due to come before the Strategic Planning Committee is as follows:

• Dean Quarry, review of mineral planning permission
• Delabole Quarry, review of mineral planning permission
• Denzell Downs Wind Farm
• East District Centre, Truro, foodstore, park and ride, housing
• Garlenick Manor Wind Turbines
• Hayle supermarkets
• Sainsbury’s, Falmouth
• Sainsbury’s, Penzance
• Tesco, Penzance, extension
• Tregadillet Road, Kennards House, trunk road service area
• Truro stadium and road
• Tuckingmill, housing development
• Westwood Quarry, review of mineral planning permission

As you can see, there are some big supermarket applications that include those from Hayle, Penzance, and the controversial Truro East District Centre plan. Included in the mix is the application for the stadium in Truro, which is likely to attract a lot of attention too.

Luckily all these applications will be web-casted due the important nature of the applications, and more importantly, the huge public interest these applications are likely to attract.

One thing I know is my eyes are going to hurt from all the reading that will be required on each application.

Hayle Supermarket Wars – Three Out of Four Survive

Wow, a simple word, but it sums up todays Strategic Planning Committee. This meeting started at 9:30am and continued past 6pm. I always thought it was going to be long, but I never expected how long, or what would transpire during this meeting.

Hayle, a town that has a population of 8000 has certainly been re-placed on the map of Cornwall. It has a proud history, but for the last decade it has been left out of much needed investment. That was until three supermarkets and one international bank decided it wanted to develop various areas.

First to present it’s case was ING, their proposals are for South Quay. I could give a detailed account of what happened, but that would take half the night just to type out. It would be far simpler to say the debate took over four hours, and when it finally came to the vote, four different motions and counter motions were put forward and vigorously debated. At certain times some of the issues got confused, but in the end a decision was made. It was felt that as this application was the preferred option by means of sequential testing, a deferrement for 5 months was passed. This would enable the applicant to address the major concerns that were raised during the debate and highlighted in the report.

Next up was Morrison’s with their proposed plan on the current Jewsons site. This was less controversial on the heritage side than the ING plan, but similarly it had a few concerns needing to be addressed before any application is approved. This debate took slightly less than ING’s but still took around two hours. This was also deferred because this plan was second on the sequential testing and if ING could not, or did not address the concerns, then this would be the new favourite.

It was ASDA’s turn to try and convince the Committee than their plan was best. Unlike the previous two applications this was the first of the out of town proposals. Now this application really did go though the millstone as this was recommended for refusal, but ended up with something different. Lots of the community had turned up to show support, mostly I believe was because of ASDA’s plan for Hayle RFU to be given new grounds. When it came to the vote we started with refusal, then deferment, then approval, and finally deferment. I could go on, as at one stage we could have faced two Judicial Reviews if we had gone down a certain path, but light shone though, and pulled back from the brink (only down to some clever thinking on the consititution).

The last plan to test the metal of the Committee was Sainsbury’s. Again, this was an out of town proposal. This plan was the forth and last on the sequential test. In other words, it would have been a miracle to be suddenly be the front runner as it would have needed the three previous plans to be refused. After a short debate (short by means of the previous three) to motions were presented, deferment and refusal. Refusal won, but I very much doubt the applicants were best pleased with this.

So what happens now? Well, the three remaining plans in the race will need to go away and look at their proposals. They will all need to be improved and the items that need to be addressed will have to be, because as shown today, this Committee will want the best price and deal for Hayle before any permission is granted.

The question now is how far will these three applications will go to secure permission? I hope a very long way, as I believe this will be of benefit to Hayle.

Hayle’s Supermarket War – The Eve Before the Battle

Tomorrow is a big day for Hayle in what could be described as the ‘Battle of the Supermarkets’. Four of the beasts all wanting to come and build in Hayle, but only one spot up for grabs.

From what I can tell the public are split over which supermarket should win. For every person who says they prefer a certain plan, you find someone against it, or who supports another option. My previous blog on this subject has attracted a lot of traffic and comments. Over 22 people have made comments, some close to the personal mark (not aimed at me), but I have allowed them to enable the debate to carry on.

So what is the best plan? That is a very good question which is hard to answer. This though will be needed to be answered by the 21 Members of Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee. Which way will they go? Who knows. I think it would be easier to pick the Winning lotto tickets for the next 3 weeks than make a call on which application gets the nod.

What I do know is that those Councillors present will listen to all the speakers on all sides, the professional officers comments and would have studied the extensive report that has been produced for this meeting. If you have some spare time and want to read this report, then click HERE.

Far too long Hayle has sat between it’s bigger cousins of Penzance and St. Ives, and I truly believe that it has been overlooked far too many times for investment. Could these plans be the break Hayle needs, or will it break it’s back and destroy what is left?

No matter what decision the Committee comes to, it will be wrong. Why? Well, this is because (as I have said before) there is no clear winner of support by the public or a plan that pleases all the statutory agencies that have been consulted. Planning is never simple, even a house extension can lead to hostilities between groups and neighbours. Let’s hope when the dust settles there will be no long term adverse feelings between the people of Hayle.

Hayle – Which Supermarket Do You Pick?

Supermarkets seem to be the de-rigeur applications for planning lately. I have blogged about this subject numerous times before. The last few years the major supermarkets have been waging a massive expansion plan in Cornwall. Wadebridge, Truro and Penzance have proposals on or about to be placed on the table. Helston has just had two large stores recently open.

The Town of Hayle has caught the eye of 3 of the big boys of the supermarket world, namely Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and a major bank called ING who own Hayle Harbour, who in turn want to develop that area. Their plan also includes a supermarket.

Last night, I attended along with most of the Strategic Planning Committee a public meeting on these proposals. All 4 of the applicants were given 10 minutes to outline their cases and highlight how their plan would be best for Hayle. Of course, they all said their plan was the best for Hayle and the other plans would not be as good as theirs. It was then the turn of the public to raise various points and concerns that they had with these applications.

Around 300 people attended this meeting, and roughly 35 of those present decided to speak. From what I heard there was no overall preferred plan, but I did get the impression that the ING and the Asda proposals had the most support from those gathered. That does not mean the whole town feels the same, as only a small percentage attended.

I don’t want to spend much time on the details as it would take a week to read and most probably bore you to death. I will though give you a brief overview on the current proposals. For guidance the Asda store in Penryn is around 72,000 sq ft.

Sainsbury’s – 53,637 sq ft store, located Marsh Lane. Offering a long term nature reserve on the additional land they own.

Asda – 59,535 sq ft store located on the Rugby Ground at Marsh Lane. In their proposals they will build a new Rugby Ground at another site. Also other business units on this site.

Morrisons – 36,113 sq ft store located on the current Jewsons site. Offering retention and renovation of grade two structures in this area

ING – 56,295 sq ft store located on South Quay. Master plan for the whole area and like the Morrisons plan includes renovations of this Quay.

The difficult question that Hayle has to answer is what plan will be best for Hayle in the long term. Hayle from my knowledge has been let down many times before on plans to regenerate the area. Grand plans have been drawn up, but nothing has ever come of them. If Hayle has to sell its soul for development and investment what price will they ask and accept. Then again, they could say no to all.

This is something we as the Committee will have to take into consideration when we make our decision in a few weeks time. Strategic Planning is never easy, especially when the decisions you make could have far reaching effects.