St Austell town council votes unanimously to back Higher Trewhiddle Farm plans

St Austell councillors have unanimously backed plans for a multimillion-pound retail and residential development on the edge of town – with big retail names promised by company bosses.

At a special meeting of St Austell Town Council on Monday night attended by 40 members of the public, John Marshall, David Simpson and Abe Simpson of Kingsley Developments outlined their scheme to bring 460 homes, food and retail space, and a 60-bedroomed hotel to a site at Higher Trewhiddle Farm. 

The 58-acre development would also involve the creation of an access route from the A390, as well as playing fields for nearby Pondhu School, and allotments.

Mr Marshall said with the town council’s support he hoped to have plans in front of Cornwall Council’s strategic planning committee by April, but due to a backlog of planning applications believed May or June to be more realistic. “We believe this is a high quality scheme. It fits in with Cornwall Council’s framework plan, and we continue to have good local support for it,” he said. Mr Marshall said the company felt it could attract big-name retailers to St Austell, which would result in the creation of hundreds of jobs and help reinvigorate the town. “We have done this before, and know how the process works,” he said. “We will listen to what the retailer wants and then build it for them.”

Kingsley has already been successful in attracting Next to its Kingsley Village retail park in Fraddon. Dave Halton, chairman of the St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce, said Kingsley’s plans had the chamber’s full backing. “We feel that the investment, the infrastructure and the employment opportunities this scheme brings will be a huge help in lifting St Austell fortunes,” he said.

St Austell and Newquay MP, Stephen Gilbert, attended the meeting and addressed the chamber, having already given the scheme his backing. He said: “Everybody in this room, despite our differences, wants what’s best for St Austell.”

Tony Goodman, founder of The Silent Majority of St Austell, which campaigned in favour of a retail park at Coyte Farm, said the council needed to “learn the lessons from Coyte Farm” and back Kingsley’s plans. “There’s been survey after survey and they all come up with the same result. Everybody seems to be in favour of it, and there’s certainly not the hostility there was here last year,” he said. “If we turn this down we really are consigning the town to the 19th century, let alone the 20th century.”

Councillor Gary King, a vocal opponent of the Coyte Farm development, expressed concerns about the size of the proposed retail units at Higher Trewhiddle. Mr King suggested they might be too similar in size to those planned at Old Vicarage Place, which could put the two schemes in direct competition with one another. He referred to a “no-poaching clause” which would be imposed on the development to limit its impact on town centre trade. The clause would involve forcing Kingsley to increase the size of its retail units at Trewhiddle to give potential tenants a clear choice between smaller and larger premises.

Mr Marshall stressed that the company was still in discussions with Cornwall Council about the matter. “It’s likely Cornwall Council will say the units could be bigger and the no-poaching clause a little stronger,” he said, “but we’re not looking to have small units. We’re looking to have larger units and perhaps national retailers who can’t have a presence in the town.”

Councillor Steve Double urged councillors to avoid making their support conditional or ‘too prescriptive’. He backed the scheme, adding that Kinglsey’s Cornish credentials worked in their favour. “On balance I am happy to support this application, I think it offers an awful lot for the town which it currently needs,” he said. “We’re all aware of the huge public desire for more and better quality retail in the area, and this goes a long way towards meeting that desire, and creating jobs. Here we have a local developer, a local family wanting to invest in our town. This is not a faceless corporation, and the level of engagement they have offered is to be recognised and welcomed.”