Sunday, 21 April 2013

Penzance its future.

Does Penzance turn down development?

I have read much on social media and in the press claiming that Cornwall Council doesn’t care about Penzance and why is there no development going on in Penzance,  The reply most often heard is that Penzance turns every thing down. Just looking at the recent past this is obviously not the case,

Application to build Hotel, retail outlets and office space at old Gas Works Site.  PzTc in favour.

Application to build Supermarket at Eastern Green. PzTc in favour.
(There is no such thing as a planning application to close a business i.e. The Heliport, that is a commercial decision for the owner. As to the supermarket there are no planning grounds on which to refuse the application)

Application to build 60 retirement flats at Old Gas works Site. Not in Favour.

Application to build Route Partnership Harbour scheme. Not in Favour.
Alternative Harbour schemes. PzTc in favour.

Re-development of Truro & Penwith College. PzTc in favour.

Re-development of St Johns Hall. PzTc in favour.

Skateboard Parks at the Rec. PzTc in favour. At Wherrytown (own scheme) PzTc in favour.

With the exception of the 60 Retirement flats also opposed by Cornwall Council, Penzance Town Council has not opposed any large housing scheme in Penzance.

Alexandra Road, Ocean Blue, Lescudjack Heights etc.

If you believe that the Town Council turned down M&S please read Urban Myth Here.

As can be seen from the above it’s actually a bit of a mixed bag, tending more to development than against, so why are more developments not coming forward. Rather that the presumption that Penzance likes to say no, I think that’s more to do with the fact that Cornwall Council and developers don’t know what Penzance is or wants to be.

From Cornwall Councils point of view, it’s a big town, in the far West that can not be pigeonholed.

If you look at other large towns in Cornwall it’s easy to see what they are and possibly where they are going.

Truro, it’s the administration centre, the courts are based here, offices. Retail. Cornwall Council.
Falmouth, it’s the Docks, University, Boats & Sailing.
Bodmin, mid-Cornwall, distribution.
Newquay, tourism.
Redruth, Pool & Camborne. Manufacturing, industry, offices.

A little simplistic I know but these are the core activities taking place in these towns.

That leaves two large towns St Austell and Penzance both facing similar issues and problems.  Both are suffering from a decline in the core businesses that helped them grow, in St Austell it’s the decline in the China Clay industry, in Penzance its more complex.

Penzance was a large Market Town providing services to the far west of the county, it had the courts, Penwith district council, Hospital, HMRC offices, The Cornishman was printed here, sea & helicopter link to Scilly, Newlyn had the fishing, quarry, Mousehole had fishing and tourism.

But sadly many of these activities have now gone and the rest are much reduced. With the loss of these core activities, the secondary activities of the town also come under pressure with the courts gone there is no requirement for the solicitors and court staff, P.D.C has now become a One Stop Shop and staff levels have fallen from 450 to 190 with this number to be reduced further, West Cornwall Hospital is a shell of its former self, without these jobs the number of people needing the town centre has declined leading to the closure of shops and those business servicing them.

So what is the future for Penzance, it has much to offer, it has a very strong Arts & Culture industry, it is still the principle retail centre for West Cornwall with two streets of independent retailers any town should be proud to have in Causewayhead and Chapel Street. It has three leading public Art Galleries, a Public Park and Garden in the centre of town.
A further presumption is that towns such as Falmouth have overtaken Penzance in retail space, this is not true as can be read here.
Its cafes restaurants and night time economy are strong. It has a large modern College. Its location, architecture and (dare I say it) climate are all extras.

So what are the problems and solutions?

First I think it’s the message, its has to be one message from the same hymn sheet, facts over perceptions.
The town is open, it does want to take part, it is forward looking, it is a great place to be. It has to put out a positive message, not the constant knocking from some quarters, just read some of the election leaflets going around town. 

It must look to the new industries that it can serve and encourage those it has, it is ideally placed to be a centre for design, it needs to encourage and develop its leisure sailing and maritime industries, and by this I don’t mean a bit of a fiddle with the existing harbour, which in truth is too small for its current use, why not push for a brand new Harbour arm doubling the size of the harbour. Support the development of the Quarry into a new harbour space. Look at the positive elements of the town and promote those, think cup half full not half empty.

Does Penzance have problems? Yes it does, can it solve these? Yes it can, the biggest asset the town has is the people who live here, the vast majority of people here are positive, so stop knocking it, promote the Town, shop in its shops and look to the future.

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