A landmark Cornwall Council scheme providing ten new modular homes in the former yard of Cowlins Mill near Pool has been completed, with the first residents due to move into their new homes within the next few weeks.
The former industrial yard on Penhallick Road, Carn Brea, comprised redundant workshops and offices that have lain unoccupied for some time. The site and the surrounding area is steeped in local mining and industrial history, and the Council’s sensitive redevelopment has preserved important elements of the site’s architecture and history.
The new development of ten one-bedroom modular homes for former homeless individuals and provides ‘move on’ accommodation to support people on a pathway towards settled, permanent, homes.
The site is now called ‘Spisers Yard’ (meaning ‘Grocer’s Yard’ in Cornish), a reference to the locally renowned R. Cowlin Family Grocer & Corn Factor, which operated from the site in the late 1890s and early 1900s.
The net-zero-carbon designed homes at Spisers Yard have been supported by funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities’ ‘Next Steps Accommodation Programme’.
The homes are expected to have very low running costs and are heated and supplied with hot water via a solar-assisted heat pump, and photovoltaic (solar) panels. They come with an open-plan living layout, along with a separate bedroom and shower room.
The new homes are accompanied by the refurbishment of ‘The Old Annexe’ – originally part of the Cowlins Mill building – into an attractive and architecturally sympathetic management, support, and community space for the new residents. There is a pedestrian link to Pool, and significant landscaping completes the transformation of the site.
Key elements of the site’s history have been carefully preserved during construction, including a local company restoring a former arched stained-glass window and converting it into a large clock, which is now mounted within the new communal building.
A new Scots Pine tree has also been planted in the middle of the site to replace a tree which had to be removed during construction.
“This has been a very complex project” said Olly Monk, Cornwall Council cabinet member for housing and planning. “The location of the site, adjacent to a main rail line, and the site’s mining heritage created some significant engineering challenges for the team. I am delighted the project has now been completed”.
The site will be managed by Cornwall Housing Ltd, a specialist housing provider who will be responsible for repairs and maintenance of the accommodation and grounds to ensure the site remains an attractive and comfortable space for residents to live. Coastline Housing will be providing support services to the individual tenants once they move in, with links to additional services and infrastructure at the nearby facility at Chi Winder.
Tackling current housing pressures is a top priority for the Council. The impact of the Covid pandemic, the reduction in the number of privately rented homes, in part put down to increased demand for holiday accommodation, rising rental costs and the recent general property boom have created a ‘perfect storm’ in the local housing market.
There are currently over 700 households living in temporary or emergency accommodation across Cornwall, with more than 330 single people in need of housing. People can find themselves homeless for many reasons, including family or relationship breakdown, fleeing domestic violence, eviction from a privately rented home (including ‘no fault’ evictions), loss of income/employment, bereavement, significant changes to mental or physical health, or struggling to cope with life outside the armed forces.
“We are taking action to tackle the serious housing crisis facing the people of Cornwall by providing homes for those that need our help,” said Olly Monk. “The lack of affordable accommodation is affecting all types of households, including working families, couples, and single people.
“Modular homes offer us an opportunity to provide excellent quality accommodation for single people who would otherwise be homeless. We all need and deserve somewhere to live and call home. By delivering these homes, we are helping residents live nearer to where they want and need to be, with the security of knowing the home is theirs until a permanent home can be found.
“I would like to offer my thanks to all the Council housing delivery specialists, and the construction team at Cormac, who have collectively worked so hard to overcome the challenges on this site.
“This is a scheme we should all be proud of, and I look forward to working with Coastline and welcoming the first new residents into their homes, shortly”.
The Council is providing a number of other modular housing schemes across Cornwall. Last year saw the completion of the 15-home development at Old County Hall in Truro (recently featured on the BBC’s Simon Reeve’s Return to Cornwall), with work underway to provide a further six modular homes at Commercial Road in Penryn and 18 homes under construction at Tregunnel Hill in Newquay.
The Council has also recently secured planning permission for its fourth SoloHaus scheme, which will see the construction of an 18-home scheme for former rough sleepers at the former Newtown Depot on the outskirts of Penzance.
As well as providing modular homes to provide temporary and emergency accommodation, the Council is also continuing work to:
- Buy existing homes to use as social housing
- Build more Council houses for local people to rent or buy
- Support the provision of affordable homes by housing associations for local people to rent or buy
- Ensure sites deliver affordable housing through the planning process
- Unlock the potential for town centres to be regenerated to provide more housing
- Support community-led organisations that want to deliver their own homes
- Offer loans to bring empty homes back into use
- Enable communities to stop new builds being snapped up by would be second homeowners.