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VIDEO: Penzance "on the tipping point", says Tory Party chair Grant Shapps

By CMJacqui  |  Posted: April 12, 2013

Prospective Conservative MP for St Ives Derek Thomas with party chairman Grant Shapps and The Cornishman's appeal for David Cameron to come to Penzance.

Prospective Conservative MP for St Ives Derek Thomas with party chairman Grant Shapps and The Cornishman's appeal for David Cameron to come to Penzance.

Comments (12)

CONSERVATIVE Party chairman Grant Shapps said Penzance was "on the tipping point" of success or failure as he attended a breakfast meeting in the town today.

The MP for Welwyn Hatfield, who was invited to the town by prospective Conservative MP for St Ives Derek Thomas, said he could see the town going "either way" following the recession.

He criticised councils that used parking charges as a "cash cow" but said free parking was not the answer to every high street's problems and the towns themselves should be finding ways to attract customers.

Speaking to party members and business leaders at Hotel Penzance this morning, Mr Shapps described west Cornwall as a "unique part of the world" facing unique challenges as a result of its geography and limited access from the east.

As part of a wider tour to launch the Conservative Party's election campaign across the Westcountry, he promised to help small businesses with the red tape and bureaucracy that many complained was holding them back.

He said: "I see this town as being on the cusp – almost on a tipping point where it could go one way or the other. You are a completely unique part of the world. It is a fantastic part of the world. It is unique."

Penzance chamber chair Dick Cliffe asked what the government was doing to address prohibitively high business rates that were preventing the occupancy of larger shops on the high street.

"People often say that business rates have gone up," replied Mr Shapps. "But they have not risen at all above inflation for the past few years.

He said the government had introduced rate relief for small businesses as well as an opportunity for those occupying larger premises to defer payment on rate increased.

"As a government we do need to think very carefully about how we can go further to help retail," he added.

On the subject of parking, Marcus Wilkinson, owner of Penzance's largest and oldest town centre store, Alfred Smith and Sons, suggested a levy on out of town store parking that could be used to offset town centre rates.

Mr Shapps said he was in favour of "activist" planning permissions that would outline such plans as part of the agreement but said the government was not in a position to force private companies to charge for parking.

Tim Dwelly, who is setting up Penzance's Work Hub, along with businessman Stuart Hakes and former Newlyn fish auctioneer Robin Turner all raised questions about the bureaucracy surrounding small businesses and Mr Shapps promised a "red tape investigation".

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12 comments

  • jimjams2011  |  April 14 2013, 4:21PM

    Reading the comment by 'Dick Cliffe' when he is the 'Chairman, Penzance Chamber of Commerce' who appears to think a sainsbury is the answer the problems of penzance is really really worrying. A supermarket does not count as an out of town shopping complex. We need a mall in cornwall or a shopping area like Westwood Cross in Broadstairs, Kent. I'm amazed by the blame of the 'government' for the business rates, when if the local decided, they could lower the the rates if they wanted to.

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  • TheGeofflane  |  April 14 2013, 1:55PM

    Bobtoronto presumably lives some distance away, so just a few points: the entire Midland and North of England manufacturing and mining industry destroyed, with no other work offered apart from burger-flipping. Steel, Ship-building, Coal and their communities discarded to be replaced by a service industry. Heroin replaced work. If you had money she made you rich. If you didn't it was your fault. There's barely a Conservative in Scotland, and few in the north of England and we will never forget. Hardly surprising she wasn't celebrated in Liverpool yesterday - she was callous and wrong about that too. Bah!

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  • TheGeofflane  |  April 14 2013, 1:39PM

    I was amused by twofeetofsnow and his tie fixation. Apparently you MUST wear the uniform to be taken seriously. There are two places on the human body that accumulate germs, the tie (which is why medical people are not keen) and the crotch ( which is why the hippie who launders his jeans once a week is cleaner than the three-piece-suit City trader who presses his trousers but rarely cleans them). How many centuries must pass before these uniforms become history? It's really the last post for the public school blazer. But we must get used to all this; the collapse of the Lib. Dem. vote means the Southwest will soon be all Conservative. Heaven help us all.

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  April 13 2013, 5:37PM

    Looking at the video of Mr Shapps/Green, does his mother know he took the day off school? He looks like a fifteen year old on a school outing. You want to talk business? Wear a tie and look as if you know what you're doing, sadly like the rest of this government it is all hot air and no content.

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  • toffer99  |  April 13 2013, 11:21AM

    And here he goes again. More trickery from Michael Green aka Grant Shapps exposed in yesterday's Daily Mirror. http://tinyurl.com/d8rg645

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  • rcliffe  |  April 13 2013, 1:42AM

    The issue with business rates is that they were revalued in 2010 (5 yearly cycle) based upon commercial rents in 2008 – the peak of the commercial property bubble. Since 2010 there has been a ~10% increased due to use of RPI index (which is higher than CPI index). Rents are dropping due to low demand/vacancies and a revaluation in 2015 would be based upon lower 2013 rent but no – the Govt has decided to extend the date of the review to 2017 so high rates plus RPI increases will continue. The Govt policy is making the contraction in high street retail even more severe than it would be otherwise. Properties like the old Currys store (Market Jew Street) have rateable values of ~£53,000 and rates payable of ~£24,000/year. The high street is not the 'goldmine' it was in the 1960s so many businesses cannot make a living in these larger prominent store locations give the total cost of rent and rates. Re Trecurnow comment. The BIH service was commercially unsustainable – it was out competed by Skybus on ticket price. Even at £190 return it made an operating loss and was unable to make provision for replacement of aged airframes. It could not be subsidized without disadvantaging its competitor Skybus. With accumulated losses covered by ever larger commercial loan mortgaged against the Heliport there was only one way out for BIH that avoided insolvency – sale of their one major asset. Lenders only rolled over the commercial loans year after year on the basis that BIH played ball and sold the site to clear the debts. BIH owed about £14 million in 2010 (and paid £1.8 million interest) and is believed to have sold the majority of the site to Sainsburys for ~£10 million. BIH still owns a section of the site. There are no significant retail centres in the SW that do not have competitive out of town shopping areas for large format stores – it is part of the retail mix and shoppers expect it. Not embracing Sainsburys would have doomed Penzance to retail irrelevance in the longer term – we would have ended up just serving the ~20,000 local residents (for part of their shopping) and not the wider hinterland that Penzance has traditionally served ~80,000+). It would have been a repeat of the Town's negative attitude to M&S which just encouraged an M&S store on the edge of Hayle. If Penzance had fought off Sainsburys it is likely it would have ended up at Hayle creating a complete disaster for Penzance. The big losers with the arrival of Sainsburys are the other large supermarkets not the Town. Most independent retails are not harmed by Sainsburys and are much more concerned about parking charges, declining footfall, businesses rates and high rents. Sainbury's multi-million pound investment in seen by many businesses (not all) as a vote of confidence in Penzance and a source of optimism about the future – this has to be good. Dick Cliffe Chairman, Penzance Chamber of Commerce P.S Do not think for one minute that this meeting with Shapps was a Tory Party 'love in'. The full spectrum of political of opinion was present and Shapps acknowledged this. It was however a constructive meeting and import local concerns were voiced and taken on board (to what effect we do not know). It was an important opportunity for the business community to get its voice heard where it matters.

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  • jimjams2011  |  April 12 2013, 10:43PM

    How do cornish people vote in these people ?!!! How does anyone think that these types of millionaires have any concept what it is like to grow up, live and work in cornwall and the struggle to make ends meet! These people have never had to budget and worry about their monthly paypacket. But its alright... they have an answer. Anyone for foodbanks ?

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  • dee_2  |  April 12 2013, 9:50PM

    There is a certain irony with the chairman of the Tory party meeting the St. Ives PPC and the PZ Chamber of Commerce to talk about the future (or not) of Penzance. It was the Tory controlled, repeat TORY CONTROLLED, Cornwall Council that decided to move most of the staff from St. Clare to Camborne and beyond, at a stroke cutting their spend in Penzance. Then, as has already been pointed out, we have the Chamber of Commerce and its unquestioning support for the new Sainsburys. If the loss of St. Clare was the first nail in Penzance's coffin, Sainsburys will be the last. All the posturing in the world can't hide the evidence of who, in a nutshell, we can blame for the towns demise. It would be naive to think that these same people can, somehow, now undo the damage.

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  • Trecurnow  |  April 12 2013, 8:17PM

    Penzance chamber chair Dick Cliffe asked what the government was doing to address prohibitively high business rates that were preventing the occupancy of larger shops on the high street. This is the man who preferred Sainsburys to the vital helicopter link to the Isles of Scilly and can't see the damage it will do to the town. I am told by shop managers it is rents that are causing problems in the high street.

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  • BobToronto  |  April 12 2013, 5:47PM

    Wicked Witch comments are tasteless, sexist, and at this time lacking in common decency. If the writer is from Cornwall, he/she should be made so uncomfortable that leaving the county is the only option, but not to Canada Is this the level of political debate in the UK? Are male politicians called warlocks? The writer should remember that four prime ministers since Thatcher's time have had the opportunity to correct any errors she may have made. They obviously have not to the writer's liking so I suggest the uncorrected errors are in the writer's bitter imagination and that his/her health could be affected by this hatred of actions supposedly taken nearly a quarter of a century ago

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