Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The sale of St Austell

In last week's Cornish Guardian, I had more to say on the sale of the former Restormel Council offices in St Austell. It was as follows:

It is well-documented that I opposed the creation of Cornwall’s unitary authority. And I have seen nothing, since then, to suggest that I was wrong to take that view.

I still despair at the take-over of the six district councils by the County Council and the subsequent birth of the highly politicised and ever more centralising Cornwall Council.

As a member of the new Council, I have consistently argued that it should maintain a strong presence in key towns such as Penzance, St Austell, Wadebridge and Liskeard, in order to act as a buffer against the Truro-centric nature of the authority.

I was therefore very disappointed when the Council’s ruling Cabinet voted to proceed with the sale of the former Restormel Borough Council offices in St Austell to a property developer, so that another supermarket could be built in the town.

In terms of the land in question, the proposal is to sell off three-quarters of it, to knock down perfectly good offices and use the receipt from the sale of the land to build new council offices.

Various claims are being made to justify the sale.

The Council claims that the new office would accommodate existing staff based in St Austell, while the developer (Terrace Hill Properties Limited) is spouting the nonsense that the decision would secure 450 council jobs.

The reality is that there are already less staff in the town than in 2009 while the proposed new building would be much smaller, crammed into the corner of the present site with less parking and, crucially, no space for future expansion if and when we wanted a stronger council presence in the town.

The Council, which is failing to maintain the present building, also argues that the new building would save the Council money because it would be more efficient to run.

Terrace Hill Properties Limited meanwhile claim that hundreds of new jobs will be created. Where have we heard that before?

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I fundamentally disagree with the decision to sell the land, which I consider to short-sighted and lacking in financial sense.

It is my intention to continue to oppose this sale and to argue for Cornwall Council to have a strategy for its buildings that reflects the needs of the authority and its communities – not the profits of developers and supermarkets.

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