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Penzance is 'on the cusp', Tory chairman tells town

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: April 18, 2013

  • Derek Thomas, right, the Conservative candidate for St Ives, shows party chairman Grant Shapps The Cornishman's appeal to David Cameron to come to Penzance.

  • From left, Derek Thomas, Angie Elliott, Grant Shapps and Michael Rabbitte. Ms Elliott and Mr Rabbitte are standing as Conservative candidates in the Cornwall Council elections. Buy this picture: www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/buyaphoto

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CONSERVATIVE Party chairman Grant Shapps said Penzance was "on the tipping point" of success or failure as he attended a breakfast meeting in the town.

The MP for Welwyn Hatfield, invited to the town by Derek Thomas, the party's candidate for the St Ives constituency, said he could see the town going "either way" following the recession.

Speaking to party members and business leaders at Hotel Penzance, Mr Shapps, who was in the West Country to launch the Tories' election campaign, described west Cornwall as a "unique part of the world" facing challenges due to geography and limited access from the east.

He promised to help small businesses with the red tape many complained was holding them back.

"I see this town as being on the cusp – almost on a tipping point where it could go one way or the other," he said. "You're a completely unique part of the world."

Penzance Chamber of Commerce chairman Dick Cliffe asked what the Government was doing to address prohibitively high business rates that were preventing the occupancy of larger shops on the high street.

"People often say business rates have gone up," replied Mr Shapps, "but they haven't risen at all above inflation for the past few years."

He said the coalition Government had introduced rate relief for small businesses as well as providing an opportunity for those in larger premises to defer payment of rate increases. "As a government, we do need to think very carefully about how we can go further to help retail," he said.

On parking, Marcus Wilkinson, owner of Penzance's largest and oldest town centre store, Alfred Smith and Sons, suggested a levy on out-of-town store parking, to be used to offset town centre rates. Mr Shapps said he favoured "activist" planning permissions that would outline such plans as part of the agreement but said the Government was not in a position to force private companies to charge for parking.

He criticised councils that used parking charges as a "cash cow" but said free parking was not the answer to every high street's problems and the towns themselves should be finding ways to attract customers.

Tim Dwelly, who is setting up Penzance's Work Hub, businessman Stuart Hakes and former Newlyn fish auctioneer Robin Turner all raised questions about the bureaucracy surrounding small businesses and Mr Shapps promised to instigate a "red tape investigation".

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  • David_Buckley  |  April 19 2013, 12:55PM

    It's about the crazy parking prices in this town, you get the council to lower the price of parking and you will see more visitors and people staying longer to shop. Tons of the parking machines don't even work properly, I see them taking people's money and not giving them at ticket regularly. Also charging for evenings is ridiculous, just like many other counties, it should be free to park after 6pm. Just the council knows this is a tourist town and people want to go out and enjoy themselves at night so why not grab some extra money off them eh? It's totally wrong and more people need to speak up about this.

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  • toffer99  |  April 19 2013, 9:37AM

    This story is getting quite familiar, as you seem to be repeating it again. Funnily enough its lost the comments it had first time round, so I've taken the liberty of repeating mine: "So he's calling himself Grant Shapps now is he? "While he was a senior Tory MP who attended shadow cabinet meetings, Shapps also presented himself as Michael Green, apparently a millionaire web guru, who claimed that customers could make $20,000 (£12,373) in 20 days with the help of his online guides – priced at $497." Sounds ludicrous? Can't be true? Unbelievable? Take a look here if you don't believe me. http://tinyurl.com/9xxd3wc And he's launching the Tory campaign of somebody called "Steve Double"! You couldn't make it up."

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