St Austell Leading by Example

Posted by Morgan on 3rd Oct 2012

Last week I was invited to speak at a seminar hosted by the National Retail Planning Forum and Action for Market Towns. The topic was Making Small Beautiful.  Basically, how can small town and communities that make up the fabric of British society be protected?

It was a gathering of eminent people from the world of planning and representatives of some of the biggest retailers like the Co-op and John Lewis. There was a lively debate that covered a variety of topics ranging from the role of food stores in supporting and /or destroying town centres to the effectiveness or otherwise of current planning policy.

I presented our experiences in St Austell as a real case study of how small towns can pull together to re-generate themselves into vibrant town centres; but how this process has to be supported by planning policy and decision makers. Specifically in St Austell’s case the threat of a massive out of town retail development at Coyte Farm.

Mike Burchell of the National Planning Retail Forum concluded “much of the debate centres on the need for strong planning controls over out-of-town retail to protect town centres, but that is only part of the story.  Action is needed to make town centres attractive environments for investors, retailers, residents and visitors. Many are not.   Morgan Garfield’s presentation about the St Austell Partnership showed what can be achieved when visionary thinking is combined with concerted action involving all the key players in the town centre.   It shows how small towns can fight back to create a vibrant future, and should inspire others to do the same.’

It is lovely to get the acclaim for what we are trying to achieve with our fellow stakeholders in St Austell. Admittedly any congratulations are premature and should be put on ice until we deliver the positive changes we propose for St Austell Town Centre. Although, I hope that Cornwall Council’s planning department and committee’s will concur with their professional colleagues at the seminar and use their powers to protect the future of the town centre.

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