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Historic town receives makeover

Penryn Town HallA photographic exhibition is to be launched to celebrate the completion of a project that has invested millions of pounds in changing the face of an historic Cornish town.

Penryn Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) was a project worth over £3 million. The project included saving buildings at risk, restoring others and returning them to commercial and residential use. The public realm work included carefully relaying existing granite paving and reinstating other areas with stone from a local quarry. All work including the benches and other 'street furniture' has been designed so it would not impede disabled access. The lighting has been improved, granite flower troughs add colour and 19th century railings have been restored. In June 2004 the project team also organised two, one week traditional building skills training programmes. These were open to local contractors and all 15 who attended, gained some form of qualification.

The exhibition will be in one of the buildings that benefited from a major refurbishment under the THI – Penryn Town Hall. It includes before and after photos of restored buildings and will run for two weeks from June 20th.

The THI began in May 2002 and is set to be completed in July 2008. Led by Carrick District Council it received £1,340,000 investment. This came from the Objective One European Regional Development Fund (£670,000), the Heritage Lottery Fund (£400,000) the South West Regional Development Agency (£170,000) and Carrick itself (£100,000). It levered in a further £1,619,074 of private investment. Cornwall County and Penryn Town Councils also contributed £50,000 and £10,000 respectively for the public realm works.

Penryn was granted borough status in 1236 and was once a far more important port than Falmouth, but over the centuries fell into economic decline. However, since the Objective One Programme began in 2000 Penryn has received substantial investment including the building of the Combined Universities in Cornwall hub at Tremough. Private sector investment has also transformed the town's riverfront gateway with Islington Wharf (which also received Objective One investment) and Anchor warehouse being developed. The Penryn THI has helped to consolidate this.

Dr Alyson Cooper, the Penryn THI project manager explained that although the town received substantial grant aid in the 1970s, by 2000 a survey of the town revealed that out of 69 potential commercial properties 25% were vacant. The empty buildings, poor maintenance and repair and tatty public realm severely compromised the character of the Conservation Area and sent out a negative message creating the impression of economic stagnation. Even in a competitive market, this would discourage investment and perpetuate decline. The scheme has helped enhance the town's historic environment and boost the economy.

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "Penryn Townscape Heritage Initiative, alongside Falmouth Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme, has stimulated business growth in this region. It has also encouraged a growing sense of business pride while protecting and improving Cornwall's historic character and making it more easily accessible to all."

Julie Cooper, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: "Historic buildings tell the story of a town, they make it individual and unique, and the best way to save and maintain these buildings is to get them back into use. The THI scheme is a great way of using heritage as a springboard for regeneration and investment. We want to maximise the recognition and use of Penryn's heritage to help attract people and businesses back to the town."

Penryn THI successes so far have included:

  • 29 buildings improved including 24 Listed Buildings
  • 6 buildings at risk of collapse or in a condition seriously affecting business brought back into full use
  • 29 buildings with architectural features restored
  • 30 small or medium sized enterprises assisted as a result of works to buildings
  • 36 small or medium sized enterprises assisted as a result of environmental enhancements
  • 37 direct full time equivalent jobs have been created with 50 full time equivalent temporary jobs
  • £973,747 private sector contribution to match fund grant applications
  • £645,327 private investment on improvements to grant aided buildings, either concurrently or subsequent to grant aided works being completed
  • £1.2 million sales generated

Dr Cooper's final report on the THI which is available for download from Carrick's website continues: "The following chapters provide detailed evidence of the impact of the THI on the local economy, employment and the historic environment and illustrate how heritage-led regeneration can benefit the wider whole. It is unlikely that the scheme would have had as much success in isolation and there are still opportunities for enhancement and improvement. However it has encouraged private investment in the historic environment and it has pump primed non grant aided improvements which are now being executed. The Town Council is keen to lead on further public realm works and Penryn is regularly highlighted in the media as an up and coming location."

For further information please contact Clare Morgan, Media Relations Manager, the Partnership Office, on 01872 223439/07973 813647 or email:

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Penryn Townscape Heritage Initiative through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Editor's notes:

For the full report, including lessons learned and best practice see:

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating over £4 billion across the UK.  This includes over £411 million to more than 2,600 projects across the South West.  Website:


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
The Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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