A park and ride too near: update on Tregurra valley and Truro’s Eastern District Centre

The latest in a long line of Cornwall Council cock-ups is the ill-fated bus lane into Truro from the curiously named Eastern District Centre (of what?) This is part of a cunning plan put together by Waitrose, those ‘carers for our countryside’ the Duchy of Cornwall, and probably the best council in the world – Cornwall Council. Having got planning permission back in 2012 the scheme has been subsidised to the tune of £4 million from European Convergence grants with another £2 million thrown in by the Local Enterprise Partnership. Is underwriting the profits of Waitrose/John Lewis and house builders, while indirectly enhancing the rental value of Duchy land really the best use of that grant money? Oddly, that particular debate has still to take place.

Why is the park and ride failing? Public comment has tended to focus on the fact that the portfolio holder for transport can’t drive. But it’s a bit more than that, revealing how relatively well-paid planning officers are well able to get things hopelessly wrong. The road traffic experts at Cornwall Council had claimed that people coming into Truro from the east would leap out of their comfy, warm cars, brave the howling gales and driving rain and switch to a bus for the last quarter of a mile of their journey. Any idiot could have told them people wouldn’t use a park and ride located so stupidly close to a town centre. And they haven’t.

But the danger is that the bus lane blunder blinds us to the bigger picture. Traffic levels in Cornwall are rising by around 3% a year. Every year. There will be dips and rises in this as oil prices fluctuate but the basic growth is driven by the steady growth in population. If the Independent/Lib Dem Council and the Tory Government are looking forward to at least another five or six Truros being built in Cornwall in the next 20 years, then they can hardly complain about traffic jams or expect them to be solved by a park and ride.

Actually, it’s quite the reverse. In fact, studies of park and rides have shown that they tend to generate extra traffic in the vicinity rather than reduce it. But putting that uncomfortable evidence aside, in most cities with a comprehensive park and ride system (like Oxford or York), they’re stuck well away from the city centres, not a quarter of a mile up the road. Furthermore, they haven’t usually involved the novel idea of dumping a supermarket right next to them. This isn’t a park and ride too far; it’s a park and ride too near and built in the wrong place.

Cornwall”s planners refuse to admit we have a looming capacity problem, caused by their insistence that Cornwall must grow. And grow. And grow. Instead, we’re promised a few meaningless ‘green’ palliatives that do nothing to solve the underlying systemic problem. In the case of this ‘EDC’ it was originally a state of the art biomass centre, a Cornish Food Centre and the park and ride. These ‘green’ measures were tacked onto groundless claims that traffic congestion would somehow be magically eased. Overcome with joy at the anticipated ‘improvements’, sufficient councillors were unable as usual to look at the longer term issues and, like lemmings, voted for the destruction of the valley and the gratuitous extension of Truro eastwards.

Having got the permission, we then find that those ‘greenish’ inducements were gradually stripped out of the plan. First, the Cornish Food Centre was scrapped. Instead, Waitrose promise to stock some local produce. Then, in June this year the biomass energy centre was quietly dropped to very little publicity. Waitrose had discovered it wasn’t ‘viable’. In an interesting correspondence available on the Council’s website, Cornwall’s planners agreed an amendment to the planning conditions. The wording was even supplied to them by Waitrose’s agents. (For this see PA15/05881). The biomass centre was duly erased from history and no mention of it now appears on the Council’s website. Having lost these two greenish aspects, now it seems the park and ride doesn’t work either, as people aren’t parking and riding in the park and ride but driving through it looking for a short cut.

More unaffordable housing

Must be a mistake: more unaffordable housing on way in Bath lookalike terrace. Handy for Waitrose though.

So what are we left with? A giant car park for Waitrose, 95 or so houses that look like Bath rather than Truro, a strategically placed rat run that will allow the boy racers and others to avoid the Tregolls Road/Trafalgar roundabout snarl-ups and cut down through Bodmin Road and Moresk Road to the town centre. Oh, and an upmarket supermarket that will attract God knows how much extra traffic from a 50 mile radius. Was that the intention all along? Were the ‘green’ bits only sops thrown in to confuse and pacify potential opposition?

Having seen the eastern district centre now shrink to just a supermarket and some retro-housing, the original decision to give this permission becomes ever more ludicrous and irresponsible. Worse than that, it amounts to a crime against the local environment. In a world of rational justice, those who voted for and supported this insane scheme would now admit that they made a mistake, apologise for ruining the countryside, take the only honourable course and resign. Little chance. Instead, this Christmas no doubt they’ll be patting each other on the back for being shortlisted as one of the most excellent councils of the year by their mates on the Local Government Chronicle and toasting the Great Leader.

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10 Responses to A park and ride too near: update on Tregurra valley and Truro’s Eastern District Centre

  1. paul dunbar says:

    Incisive as usual, Bernard.

    This needs sharing, and sharing… and sharing.


  2. Frances Thomas says:

    Tregurra is very handy for visiting Treliske. Saves fortune in hospital car parking fees.


  3. Ian Hibberd says:

    Speaking as someone who spent 18 months fighting this development (and failing) it gives me little pleasure to see that nearly everything that I warned about in my submission to the Strategic Planning Committee has come to pass.

    The Taste of Cornwall was a ridiculous business idea which, even if it had worked would only have been to the detriment of the town. The biomass centre was just one of those glittering prizes like Olympic size swimming pools that are offered at the planning stage and then discarded as soon as the diggers move in.

    I suppose that you could argue that in its present state the Truro Eastern Park and Ride is taking a few hundred vehicles off the road (website claims 400 regular users) and that must be a benefit to traffic management but I do remember in the planning document a claim that it would improve traffic heading east from, say, County Hall. Most drivers that I know are finding it even slower heading down Morlaix Avenue.Although your point about the location is well made and your comment about the long walk across the car park is so true, don’t let’s be churlish about it. Let’s award it three stars.

    However my main submission to the committee was on the idiocy of putting a supermarket on the same site. If I remember correctly, they projected around 4000 daily trips being made with the majority going to and fro the direction of the town centre (let’s hope that Highways have got that wrong as well). Problems with bus lanes are going to pale into insignificance once Waitrose is up and running.

    And so we go on the same merry path. A redesign of the top of Arch Hill, a pedestrian crossing on Morlais Avenue and more traffic lights at the Newbridge Lane intersection. You would think Mr Blackler and his merry men would be embarrassed. Not at all! Computer models will be re-jigged, boxes will be ticked and common sense thrown out of the window. Millions will be spent.

    And all this when we learn that they have not got the money to run the libraries.

    Ian Hibberd
    PS I have copied your article onto the Save Truro website.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Luther says:

    What sort of half wit wrote this story. Approach it more objectively and you might have something. This is so far from progressive.


  5. Lp83 says:

    I use the park and ride everyday, whilst commuting to work.So do plenty of other people. They are cheap and reliable and have saved me 45 mins on my commute because I don’t have to fight Truro traffic.


    • Kevardhu says:

      I’m so pleased we lost a green valley to save you a few minutes on your commute to work. Future generations will gaze upon the tarmac of Tregurra and rejoice that this farmland was destroyed to make your day a little easier.


  6. Jamie Purves says:

    Hallelujah, A valley of tarmac, a lost valley and a depot for more Carbon convoys! Forward planning indeed for the brave new Cornwall!


  7. Simon De La Mer says:

    How green are my valleys? Well a lot less green . Thank you Cornwall Council.


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