Property consultants GVA have hit out at a report commissioned by Cornwall Council to assess how a proposed £110 million out of town retail park and Marks and Spencer store at Coyte Farm would affect trade in St Austell town centre.
Earlier this year, planning consultants Chase and Partners were instructed by the council to analyse two conflicting retail impact assessments regarding the controversial plans for St Mewan.
The first, which the council commissioned GVA to complete in September 2012, concluded the development at Coyte Farm would result in businesses in the town centre losing up to 28 per cent of their trade.
The second assessment, produced by Barton Willmore on behalf of the developers Mercian Developments Ltd and Metric Properties, came up with the much lower figure of seven per cent.
After reviewing both assessments Chase and Partners concluded the development would result in an 11 per cent drop in trade for businesses in the town centre.
But last month Matt Morris, director at GVA, wrote to the council highlighting what he describes as several “inaccuracies” within Chase and Partners’ analysis of the two assessments.
Commenting on Chase and Partners’ letters to the council, Mr Morris said: “There are many parts of the December 2 letter that I disagree with, not least the lack of comprehensive analysis which is required in order to justify C&P’s [Chase and Partners’] conclusion that the impact of Coyte Farm is not significant.”
Mr Morris argues the guidance given by Chase and Partners is not supported by substantiated evidence and “misrepresents the views and advice from GVA”.
In their guidance to the council, Chase and Partners’ claim: “It has been accepted that there is a qualitative deficiency in clothing and footwear sectors in St Austell.”
But Mr Morris says the firm has failed to supply evidence to support this.
“This may be the view of C&P, although they don’t provide any analysis to rebut the comprehensive analysis in the 2010 Cornwall Retail Study,” Mr Morris said.
“In any event, the allegation made by C&P is not representative of the GVA advice to the Council in either our May 2013 advice report on Coyte Farm or our 2010 Cornwall Retail Study (which the Council has accepted and not challenged).”
In his letter to the council’s principal development officer, Mr Morris said GVA have been advising Cornwall Council for many years.
“There are many arguments for and against this proposal. However, please note that when
considering what weight to place upon my advice to the Council, GVA has provided
advice to Cornwall Council and the former Restormel Borough Council on retail issues in St
Austell since 2007.” he wrote.
“Through this work we have spent considerable time in towns like St Austell, understanding at first-hand the changes that have taken place in recent years and understanding the
pressures that a town like St Austell faces.
“This has led us to build up a detailed working knowledge (and respect) of the local area, which others further afield may not have, and which I hope you will acknowledge when reporting our advice to members of the planning committee.”
A representative from Cornwall Council said it had commissioned Chase and Partners (C&P) to enable the planning committee to be suitably informed when making the final decision on the Coyte Farm development proposals.
She said:“Prior to their involvement, the potential retail impact of the proposed development was largely informed by contrasting the applicant’s and GVA assessments. Chase and Partners were employed to examine the key assumptions in both reports. The officer report to the council’s Strategic Planning Committee will set out the issues pertaining to the potential retail impact based on the advice and comments received.”
No one from Chase and Partners was available to speak to the Cornish Guardian.
The plans are due to go before Cornwall Council’s strategic planning committee on January 16.