A Waitrose For Truro?
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Planning permission is being sought to develop some 50+ acres of farmland on the eastern edge of Truro to include a Waitrose supermarket and "The Taste of Cornwall" retail space for local produce. With this commercial development it is proposed to provide a park and ride area for 1200 cars, 90 new homes and a household waste recycling centre.
Is it a good thing? I can't say I'm sure one way or the other.
We've just calculated that within a 10 mile radius of where we live - which takes in Truro, Falmouth, Camborne/Redruth, Helston and Hayle - there are at least 26 supermarkets or their equivalent. This excludes village stores, farm shops, greengrocers/butchers etc. The indigenous population in that area is about 80,000. Much as we all love Waitrose, there really isn't any need for another supermarket.
If it's successful - and I?m sure it will be - it will have a much wider catchment area than its competitors because of the pull of its name and image of quality. This means that environmental gains from visitors to the city from the north and east who use the park and ride are likely to be substantially reduced by cars crossing the city from the western towns such as Falmouth, Helston or even Penzance. In addition the attraction of Waitrose is likely to pull even more cars in from the north and east.
It is said that the Cornish Food Centre could generate £6 million for the county each year. Its success could be more of a redistributive effect though if there is an adverse effect on alternative outlets for local food such as the Farmers' Markets, farm shops, specialist town and village food shops and other stores.
There is a Cornish Food Hall at Kingsley Village, Fraddon which was built with a large amount of EU money (this scheme will also be looking for government funding). At Kingsley we?ve seen a gradual decline in the percentage of Cornish food and drink sold and if you take out alcohol it probably doesn't go much over 60% Cornish now. The expectation here must be that this size of operation is high risk and that if it does not meet expectations then the area occupied will be taken up by Waitrose in whole or part. This could have implications on the wider local food infrastructure.
The housing development includes 35% affordable homes: in the Cornwall Affordable Homes Development Plan Document 40% is the preferred norm and on an exception site - outside the built up area - a more stringent 50 ? 60% affordable homes might be more appropriate, linked to local needs.
Another question is: does this site make sense for a park and ride scheme as it would seem more preferable to locate two smaller car parks in locations before traffic jams occur.
However, with Cornwall Council having a joint interest in the scheme, the site being owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, and the Secretary of State unlikely to "call in" the application it does look like a done deal.