By Linda Joy Lemon
The 19 acre World Heritage free visitor site in Pool near Redruth, opened its doors over a year ago, in April 2012. Heartlands, once part of Crofty Mine, claims to show how Cornish mining ‘shaped our world today’ with its ‘fully immersive‘ experience. The attraction, built around Robinson’s Shaft, boasts state of the art exhibitions, gardens of ‘epic diversity’ and art and craft studios as well as an ‘adventure playscape for kids’.
A great deal of effort has clearly gone into identifying aspects of the history of the site with photographs, a timeline machine and audio visual presentations. The Diaspora gardens are sensory with impressive arrangements of plants and shrubs. Stones bearing what look like fossils contain words about various mining communities who settled abroad. One in particular reads, “Severed from Heartlands, uprooted, sailed to uncertainties”. Most effectively, a Red brick-lined river runs towards the main buildings creating a psychological link with the past by mimicking the local Red River which carried mining waste. A party of school children visiting from Sithney said their theme for the school term was, ‘Leaving a legacy’.
However, much as Heartlands seems to ticks the right boxes, the promotional multi-coloured, cartoon style notice boards surrounding the nearest main road intersection, give a different impression. One reads, “Heartlands -where the future is as historic as the past”; another reads, “Heartlands….19 acres of cultural candy”, and another, “See why we’re being called the big wow”. Is it therefore reasonable to suppose Heartlands will become a theme park rather than a World Heritage ‘Heartland’ to preserve the Cornish Mining culture? Or will it become a ‘white elephant’ used to justify a massive commercial development? Some believe the name ‘Penhallick’ at Carn Brea in Pool, would have been the authentic Cornish name for a Cornish World Heritage site. Although a great deal of work was undertaken to create Heartlands, a new ‘community’ was being manufactured for economic reasons. Rumours that Heartlands was a ‘sweetener’ which would provide a ‘green corridor’ to Camborne to mask a massive housing build were rubbished. However, Four years ago in a clever public relations exercise two online videos supporting Heartlands were accessible. Planning rhetoric was used to market economic plans under ‘Regeneration’ in such a way as to identify commercial interests with those of locals living in Camborne, Pool and Redruth. The videos presented Heartlands as:
“… a community-led vision to transform Cornwall’s most derelict urban area into a trulyinspirational cultural landscape. It will celebrate our local traditions of innovation and creativity and help Pool to be a truly great place to live, work and play… This will be a place where the whole of Cornwall comes together to celebrate its unique and distinctive identity attracting visitors the world over especially Cousin Jacks who still feel their roots are here.”
Described as, the “…once pulsating centre of an historic mining area, part of the Great South Crofty… now derelict”, the video appealed emotively to traditional perceptions and values of people in the area. Cornwall’s Unitary Councillor Mark Kaczmarek evoked the ‘historical culture’ of Robinson’s Shaft and therefore collective memories and identities which bound the former mining community together as he recalled his mining days by playing to the sentiments of former miners.
“This is where the miners used to gather and this is also where they came up from underground. It was quite frightening on my first day. But it was a lovely job. The whole area was bouncing. We had Geevor, Wheal Jane, South Crofty, and Pendarves. A lot of big employers in the area, people happy, the pubs doing well.”
This romantic re-construction of the past contrasted sharply with images of unemployment and dereliction shown in the videos. Pool was described as, “a community blighted by a generation of decline and urban decay”. Councillor Kaczmarek then added Pool was “shabby and run-down” before broaching the need for, “big employers, quality jobs and quality buildings”.
There followed a slow build-up to the fact that radical constructions including housing developments were going to take place. The housing developments became a highly contentious issue raising serious objections with locals especially when a greater number of incomers to the area were predicted over the next twenty years. Accordingly, they would be supported with new housing as the local authority build 68,700 new homes. Some are currently being built around Heartlands on the Trevenson Site. At a Camborne Town Council Parish Plan working party on July 3 2008 Councillor S. Cullimore was interested in why so many homes needed to be built. In answer to a question he posed, Matthew Brown confirmed that 82% of the proposed new housing was for inward migration.
A voluntary non-political pressure group of local residents Trelawney Alliance joined together under the leadership of ex-Mayor of Camborne, Councillor Jean Charman. They objected to the proposed building development of 68,700 homes by staging a mass demonstration in Camborne in April 2009. They set up a website and petition for locals with the aim of overturning the plan. Their main objection was that “local housing needs were being ignored by Central Government and dictated by the South West Regional Assembly”. They contend the Council justified mass development through the Home Choice Register which claims to identify ‘local’ housing needs. Are the Cornish being patronised? T.A. feel local planners and councillors, ‘democratically elected’ are the ones who should speak on their behalf “determine the need for local homes and build accordingly.”
Planned mass development of the area was always played down and not mentioned in conjunction with Heartlands but was obviously part of the grander scheme. According to Ms Charman the land was handed over to Heartlands Trust by Cornwall Council”, who,
“…Still own parcels of land and have most probably done a deal with the developersLinden Homes to build affordable homes in the area. This is the development at Trevenson. The developer was probably funded by the ‘Housing and Communication Agency’ this is a government agency and it funds developers building affordable housing.”
The Council will also benefit from a Community Infrastructure Levy CIL, a new planning charge which has been enforced since 2010. The amount for this development, according to Jean Charman, is £6,000 for each house built except those for social housing. One of the Heartlands videos mentioned affordable housing but when asked if houses would be affordable, former County Councillor Tony Bunce stated:
“What exactly is affordable housing? The cheapest houses couldn’t be built for less that £155,000, which is way above the average wage earning capacity in Cornwall. If building societies lend three and a half times someone’s wage, the locals wouldn’t get anywhere near it”.
Linden Homes are currently building houses adjacent to Heartlands:
“A contemporary mix of one and two bedroom apartments, plus two, three and four
bedroom homes is coming soon to Camborne. The development is next to Cornwall’s
historic mining centre, Heartlands which embraces the wonderful heritage of the local
area. This unique blend of culture, heritage and the local environment will be
complemented in the design style of the homes which will have one of the highest
sustainable build ratings.”
Part 2 will continue to explore this major Cornish site …