Bunhill: Cornish car park

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THE reason I wanted to speak to Mr Winfindale at the Unco-operative Bank was the new multi-storey car park that is currently rising above the pretty town of Launceston in Cornwall. His bank is financing its construction, to the great fury of the local people, who say they don't need another car park, thanks all the same.

In March they voted 2,820 to 156 against the pounds 500,000 car park in a referendum carried out under the Local Government Act, but the town council took no notice, insisting the concrete edifice was necessary. Construction is still going ahead on the site, a stone's throw from the Norman castle.

Last week opponents were given fresh hope by the North Cornwall District Council, which unexpectedly refused planning permission for the demolition of a former mortuary building that is on the site.

But what of the Co-op Bank, which makes great play of sacrificing profitable business rather than breach its strict ethical code? It refuses to have any truck with tobacco companies, arms makers and firms involved with animal experimentation or in desecrating the environment.

What about lending to a council so at odds with its own electors? A Co-op spokesman (not Mr Winfindale) says: 'It isn't an ethical issue. It's gone through all the democratic procedures of the town council.'

John Coles, a furniture maker and local councillor recently elected to fight the car park, disagrees.

'If the Co-op are going to have any credibility for their ethical banking stance, they should take account of the poll. That was truly democratic,' he said.

The peaceable Coles, nevertheless, is against boycotting the local branch of the bank's sister company, the Co-op Leo's grocery store. I'm not sure other locals will be as understanding.