Sunday, 28 October 2012

Penzance M & S Urban Myth

A few weeks ago in the Cornishman Dick Cliffe, the chairman of Penzance Camber of Commerce repeated what is probably the most common Urban Myth in Penzance,
‘Marks & Spencer tried to open a store in Penzance and it was turned down’.

Repeated in the letters page last week 21 March by Mr Winterbourne.

How can I say it’s an Urban Myth when we all know it’s true? Well as far as I can find out, it simply isn't,

I've been a councillor for over 14 years and lived in the town for nearly 40 years and I have heard this story so many times even I was beginning to believe it.

Its most recent incarnation was when the retail park on the A30 outside of Hayle was being built, ” M & S wanted to build in Penzance, but the town didn't want it. “

Rubbish, at no time did M & S approach the town with any plans to build in the town, the plans for the retail park were put forward by the then Penwith District Council and M & S was a key part of that plan from the start, at no time was it even considered to be built at Penzance.

The time before that was as the Wharfside Shopping development took place and the usual rumour mill swung into action “M & S” are going into the development, in truth it was talked about as a hope but no approach was ever made by M & S, the developer I'm sure approached them, but nothing ever came of it, I believe as the site was to small for what they would have required.

Now moving back before my time on the council I spoke with a fellow councillor of well over twenty five years, active on both  the town and District councils, and he confirmed that during his time M & S had never approached the council and no plans had ever been discussed or application made.

Going further back in time, I have spoken with a former councillor who was a member of the then Borough Council back in the 70’s & 80’s and once again at no time did M & S make any approach to the town.

So that’s the last 40 years covered I'm now looking into the 50’s  & 60’s but have so far found no evidence of any approach or application being made. 

There is also one other consideration that people should bear in mind,  Town Councils have no powers 'what so ever to' determine which shops open or close, if there is a retail shop premises in the town and you wish to move into it and open as a retail shop, there is no requirement for planning permission, no need to inform anyone, you just open (may be a requirement for planning permission to change signage). 

If every shop in Market Jew Street decided to become a Mobile Phone shop, that would be a commercial decision for the shop keepers. The town of Hay on Why, population 1500 has 35 bookshops. 

I should also mention that the same Urban Myth regarding M & S circulates in St Austell. 

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