Youngster’s housing plea prompts meeting with Council cabinet member

A Year 6 pupil from Treleigh Primary School was so concerned about the increasing numbers of people in Cornwall who are struggling to find somewhere to live that she wrote to Cornwall Council’s housing team asking them to help.

Five people stood at the entrance to a building

The team were so impressed by Darcie’s letter they forwarded it to Councillor Olly Monk, the portfolio holder for housing and planning, who immediately invited Darcie and three fellow pupils to visit the landmark housing scheme which is being developed at Cowlins Mill near Redruth.

“As part of our English lessons we were asked to write a formal letter to a person or an organisation about something we would like to see changed” explained Darcie. “I had heard about people in Cornwall who could not afford to buy or rent a house, with some of them having to live on the streets, and so decided to write to the Council to ask them to build more homes.”

In her letter Darcie points out the impact of the housing crisis is having on local people.

Extract from a letter which reads: "Dear Sir/Madam, My name is (redacted) and I am writing to ask you to build more houses in this area. I know that you are going to say it is expensive for the community but every day people become homeless because there are no houses. Do you want people to leave Cornwall?"

Whilst recognising the impact building more houses could have on the environment, Darcie argues that the shortage of affordable homes is forcing more and more people to leave their local area.

She ends her letter with a plea for the Council to act now to ensure that today’s young people will be able to afford somewhere to live in the future.

A former industrial yard with workshops and offices in Penhallick Road, Carn Brea, Cowlins Mill is being redeveloped by the Council’s Housing Delivery and Development Team to provide 10 one-bedroom modular homes which will be used as ‘move on’ accommodation to support people on their journey towards settled, permanent, homes. 

Welcoming Darcie, Sophia, Tiana and Lexi and teaching assistant Paul Mitchell to the Cowlins Mill site, Councillor Monk said that tackling the housing crisis continued to be the Council’s top priority.

“The combination of the impact of the Covid pandemic, the boom in house prices, the reduction in the availability of homes to rent and significant increase in rental costs, has created a ‘perfect storm’, leaving many people in Cornwall struggling to find somewhere to live.” said Olly Monk.

“With more than 1,500 people currently in temporary accommodation, we are committed to ensuring that those most vulnerable and in greatest need have a safe place to stay.” 

The first net-zero-carbon housing development to be delivered by the Council, the Cowlins Mill scheme is being supported by funding from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Next Steps Accommodation Programme.

All the homes have been designed to have the lowest possible running costs and come with living, kitchen and dining space in an open-plan layout, along with a separate bedroom and shower room. They will be heated and supplied with hot water via a solar-assisted heat pump. Solar panels will also help to offset energy consumption. The homes are permanent structures, built to a mortgageable standard and are supplied with a new build warranty.

As well as providing the 10 modular homes, the scheme, which is being delivered by Cormac Solutions, also includes converting a derelict building into a community area for residents. This will include spaces where residents can meet as well as a base for support services. A pedestrian walkway is also being created to provide a safe route through the site to Pool.

Key elements of the site’s history are being carefully preserved. This has included creating new walled gardens on the site of former workshops and restoring an arched stained-glass window and converting it into a clock to be mounted within  the new communal building.  A new Scots pine will also be planted in the middle of the site to replace a tree which had to be removed during the construction.

The 10 Zed ‘pods’ were delivered to the site earlier this year. Despite some additional challenges created by the site’s mining heritage and its location adjacent to a main rail line, the scheme is due to be completed by the end of the July, with the first residents moving into their new homes in August.

The Council is also working with partners on a range of other schemes to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, increase the availability of homes for local residents, and provide more affordable homes and homes for social rent.

Initiatives include:

  • Providing temporary and emergency accommodation including Solohaus homes
  • Refurbishing redundant Cornwall Council owned properties to provide homes for local people in urgent housing need
  • Building significantly more Council houses  for local people to rent or buy  –
  • Buying existing homes to use as social housing
  • Buying new homes on the open market for social and affordable rent or shared ownership schemes for local people –
  • Supporting the provision of affordable homes by housing associations for local people to rent or buy      
  • Ensuring sites deliver affordable housing through the planning process     
  • Unlocking the potential for town centres to be regenerated to provide more housing     
  • Supporting community-led organisations that want to deliver their own homes     
  • Offering loans to bring empty homes back into use 
  • Enabling communities to stop new builds being snapped up by would be second homeowners.

“We all need and deserve somewhere to live and call home,“ said Olly Monk. “Having a home to call our own provides a sense of belonging, it means better health and wellbeing and it strengthens community spirit.

“As well as providing homes for the people who need them today, we also have to make sure that homes are available for our young people in the future.

“Darcie’s letter talks about children being unable to afford homes when they grow up and having to leave the county. We must take action now so the next generation will have the opportunity to live and work in Cornwall in the future.”

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