Almost half a million pounds is set to be spent on a new boardwalk linking Prince of Wales Pier to the car park in Church Street, the Packet can exclusively reveal.
The £455,000 earmarked for the project is just under half the potential lump sum offered by Sainsbury’s to the towns of Falmouth and Penryn, in return for Cornwall Council’s blessing over the supermarket’s proposed move.
Work is expected to start on a new Sainsbury’s superstore at Ponsharden next year.
It will sit on waste ground south of Falmouth Road, the former site of Dale’s Garage, and was granted planning permission by Cornwall Council in December last year.
As part of the deal struck between county planners and the supermarket, it was agreed that a contribution – known as a “Section 106 agreement” or “planning obligation” – would be made to both Falmouth and Penryn in an attempt to offset the loss in trade expected by the two towns if a new superstore is built.
Surveys done at the time suggest the new store could cause a loss of business for both town centres of anywhere from six to 12 per cent and Sainsbury’s have now agreed to compensate for this loss with a lump sum payment of just over £1 million, according to documents seen by the Packet.
Penryn is set to receive £175,000 of this cash for “pavement repairs, the provision of street furniture, improved signage for the town centre, landscaping and improving shop fronts of independent traders within the town centre” as well as “improvements to the waterfront area.”
Town clerk Michelle Davey said councillors at Penryn were aware how the money was going to be spent.
“We have been involved with that all the way,” she said.
“Although it’s Cornwall Council’s decision in the end: what to spend it on and where to spend it.”
As well as money ringfenced for road improvements around the new store, secure fencing around the site and a “waste management contribution” to be paid to the council, approximately £26,500 will be used to help conserve the neighbouring Jewish and Congregationalist cemeteries, which were designated as a scheduled monument in 2002.
A further £125,000 is earmarked for a shuttle bus between Penryn, Falmouth and the superstore – a move which has been criticised as potentially driving more people away from the town centres.
The remaining cash – minus up to £5,000 for an in-store “information board” promoting both neighbouring towns – will go towards Falmouth’s “pedestrian walkway” or boardwalk.
Town manager Richard Gates welcomed the proposed project calling it a “very positive addition to the town.”
He said it would “open up more of the waterfront to the public” and bring “obvious benefits” to businesses.
“Many towns and cities across Europe that are adjacent to the sea or nearby rivers are ensuring their waterfront is accessible as possible for people to enjoy,” he added.
A study carried out by the now defunct Carrick District Council in 2003 suggested a similar but more extensive scheme that would also have seen the redevelopment of Church Street car park into a new town square.
These proposals, which in one version also suggested an access road and promenade on the harbourside, would have cost anywhere up to £55 million and were scuppered by lack of funds and the contamination of the car park (a former gasworks site).
Chair of the town planning committee, Diana Merrett, said something more akin to these former proposals would be better.
“What we wanted was a promenade, a proper one,” she said.
“But if we can get the boardwalk it would open up all the back of the shops.”
Concerns have been raised that little consultation has taken place with Falmouth Town Council, despite the “deed of planning obligation” - seen by the Packet - specifically calling for a “liaison group” to represent the town’s interests.
Town clerk Mark Williams said some “initial discussions” had taken place but the group had yet to be set up.
“We have made repeated requests to Cornwall Council to see where we are with that, but we are yet to hear anything back,” he said.
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council confirmed the liaison group was “yet to be established” but refused to say who had put forward the request for a boardwalk in Falmouth and insisted that both the town's councils have been “involved throughout.”