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Troubled Times

Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Reports and Opinion, Uncategorized - No comments

Truro City Council lost its Judicial Review against Cornwall Council. It was a comprehensive decision. The Judge found against TCC on all six points. The way is now clear for the project to begin. I can detect no change of heart in Truro – the construction of 100 houses, a supermarket and waste recycling centre at Tregurra Valley remains controversial.

The scale of facilitative works at Trafalgar Roundabout is significant and a direct result of the consent for the park and ride (which provides the infrastructural backdrop for the development proposals). In the weeks leading up to the Judicial Review it was rumoured that Waitrose was going to pull-out of the project. The news that developers are now looking at a £93m development on the Carrick site clearly brings into sharp focus the argument about sequentiality. Many people who oppose the Tregurra development would be content to see Waitrose situates at Pydar Street. It is still not too late and it is clear to most people that the mutual benefit to be gained by Waitrose building in-town would far outweigh to contention between town centre and out-of-town which will be fostered by the proposed development.

Questions remain in many peoples’ minds, despite the outcome of the Judicial Review, about quite how the judgement was reached that no suitable site was available in the town centre when, within days of the Judicial Review, announcements are made about the Pydar Street site. Some people feel that a removal of Waitrose to this site would also introduce a degree of transparency to the business arrangements which are not apparent at Tregurra, where concerns still linger that the Duchy of Cornwall and Waitrose have a lease agreement which is commercially beneficial to the supermarket, to the dis-benefit of competitors. Until there is full transparency, a dubious taste will inevitably linger. This is particularly so when one considers that the Duchy is a public body which should be transparent, enjoys significant tax advantages and persists in denying its true status. If Cornwall is to be victim of opaque accountabilities in this manner then the sense of injustice will simply intensify as time goes by.

The fact that the Neolithic remains unearthed on part of the site (that earmarked for a recycling centre) were overlooked in the pre-planning stage by English Heritage which, I understand, mis-interpreted geological data about the site and therefore misunderstood geo-physical data and missed the Neolithic causewayed enclosure, only serves to compound the sense of ill-ease. And this, in turn, is compounded by the Duchy’s effort to re-classify the grade of agricultural land without going through the necessary formal process.

We must now look forward to works on the junction at Workhouse Cross, which will be disruptive, and will inevitably lead to further trade loss by town centre businesses. These works will, to some extent, coincide with the separate works being undertaken by South West Water and Wales and West in Victoria Square and Boscawen Street respectively. The works are all about renewing essential infrastructure but the timing is very difficult and the town centre faces a sustained period of debilitation. SWW is providing support, in the form of a marketing campaign, to try and offset impact as much as possible. It is to be hoped that others will join in this effort.

Of course, from the point of view of impact, a deterioration in the prosperity of the town centre will inevitably lead to a consequent reduction in quality of the Conservation Area – wealth produces quality and maintenance; hard times produce neglect. No amount of marketing can turn around confidence levels which are affected by factors beyond the control of those in business – this is set to be a very difficult period.

However, we must also understand that confidence and self-belief stem from self-persuasion and optimism, and we risk talking ourselves into a worse frame of mind if are not positive minded about crisis. I believe the Society has a role to play in this and I think this should form the nub of our discussion at our meeting.

BHS is proposing to remove the recessed doorway at the front of its shop. This will effectively remove the bus shelter used by many people for decades. Cornwall Council is thinking about building out the pavement and siting a bus shelter on this island – in a similar manner to the bus stop in River Street. The Council has received very strong representations in opposition to this scheme, as it would have a profound impact on the Conservation Area, and on the King Street junction.

A temporary measure – to site a wooden shelter for the period of time that Boscawen Street is disrupted by Wales & West renewing a gas main looks set to proceed. There are grav e concerns about it, not least that, once it is there, Cornwall Council will assume that the principle is acknowledged, and that the more permanent scheme at the other end of the street will be deemed to be acceptable.


Bert Biscoe

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