‘Post–internet High Street’ Under Threat from Retail Park Plan

Posted by The Daily Telegraph on 7th Jan 2014
A vision of a modern high street – one that can co–exist with online shopping – is under threat from a planned out–of town retail park, just a mile up the road.

The owner of St Austell’s White River Place shopping centre, Mark Robinson, is leading a multi–million pound project to create a “post internet high street”.

The founder of retail property investment firm Ellandi has already added free wi fi in the Cornish town, slashed car parking charges and created a cafe culture – all tactics that have increased trading by 15pc year–on–year, higher than the national average.

The next phase of the scheme, fondly titled “Together St Austell” and backed by private sector investors, will bring retailers, leisure facilities, homes, local authority offices and business services into the town centre, linked by shuttle bus to peripheral areas to improve the local economy and create more jobs.

John Kneller, chairman of the Together St Austell group, said: “These are exciting plans that will secure St Austell’s future… We want it to grow and flourish, rather than [have] a single developer looking to make a quick buck from a massive out–of–town development.”

The project is under threat from a £110m retail plan, said to include Marks & Spencer, Next and Sainsbury’s, for a neighbouring countryside site.

Cornwall Council’s strategic planning committee will make decision on the proposal on January 16.

The plan for the 65–acre Coyte Farm development, submitted by Mercian Developments Ltd and Metric Properties, has received fierce opposition from some quarters.

The Together St Austell programme is being championed by the Government’s Distressed Town Centre Task Force. The body, which launched a blueprint for the retail sector, “Beyond Retail”, in November, has warned that “the retail sector may never go back to normal”.

Mark Williams, chairman of the task force and Hark Group partner, said: “St Austell was one of our case studies as it was clear that the town faces challenges on a number of fronts.“

However, it was also apparent that there was potential to attract residents and visitors back to the town. It is encouraging to see various private sector stakeholders coming together to try to shape an innovative and cohesive strategy for the town that embraces so many different elements to promote growth and vitality for St Austell.”

Together St Austell has been formed by St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement District and Ellandi.

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