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11.08.04
Dramatic cliff-top rescue, thousands involved

The mine is dead, long live the mine! With investment from the South West Regional Development Agency and the Objective One Programme, Carrick District Council is set to ensure that the deep roots of Wheal Kitty continue to sustain the working population of St Agnes.

St Agnes, on the north coast of Cornwall, is just nine miles from Truro, a mouse click from the rest of the world but more than a thousand years from its origins. Symbolic of the area's proud tin mining past, Wheal Kitty is now set to benefit from an investment of some £900,000 as part of Carrick District Council's exciting plan to redevelop part of the old mine site and preserve an icon of Cornish endeavour.

Designed by the Lilly Lewarne Practice, Wheal Kitty Workshops Phase II will create five new business units ranging from 50sqm to 200sqm, all built to a high specification. Drawing on the surrounding industrial architecture for its inspiration, and utilising a mix of materials ranging from profiled steel to stone, timber and slate, the development aims to create an amalgam of related styles and textures which acknowledges the mining heritage of the complex whilst creating modern work spaces. This second phase of construction utilises a small development plot set out for the purpose and substantially completes the Council's vision of a modern Wheal Kitty based on a tighter nucleus of buildings than that existing when the site was purchased in 1987. The Council is delighted to have secured the services of KHJ Trethewey and Sons Ltd, building contractors, of St Erme to implement this important local project.

Most exciting of all is the preservation of the Edwardian engine house by converting it into a modern-day workplace. As a perfectly sound building within an active industrial complex, attention became directed to the engine house when it was realised that its conversion could achieve the double benefit of preserving an historic structure whilst maximising the potential of a site with no real prospect of future expansion. Many engine houses simply do not lend themselves to conversion and quite rightly remain romantic ruins in the landscape, however, a favourable permutation of factors at Wheal Kitty led to the development of this unique element of the Council's project.

Externally, the engine house will be restored to its authentic appearance including a local slate roof, arched timber windows and door openings, and a shortened reconstruction of the "bob plat." The bob platform in its original form would have been used by the engine man to access the mighty cast iron "bob" of the Cornish pumping engine which kept the workings clear of water by driving the pumps within the mine. Internally, the engine house will be presented in a totally modern style making full use of the height of the building by incorporating four floors supported on an internal steel frame. The frame makes it possible to maintain the integrity of the listed building which will otherwise remain unaffected by the conversion. Without doubt, the engine house will be the defining feature of Wheal Kitty Phase II.

Interest in the proposed units has been keen and the Council is hopeful that all of the workspaces, including the engine house, will be occupied shortly after practical completion in June 2005. New or expanding local businesses seeking a leasehold opportunity are now requested to come forward, especially those working in aspects of manufacturing or knowledge based industries. Working closer to home on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has its appeal. Those prospective local tenants seeking to reduce their current journey to work time and in search of a pleasant, modern working environment as part of their expansion plans or a new venture, should seriously consider Wheal Kitty.

St Agnes was once an important focal point for tin mining; Wheal Kitty was one of its most successful mines. For generations Wheal Kitty provided employment for local people, indeed some spent their entire working life there. When mining operations ended in 1930, the mine complex evolved into a small industrial estate, the old mine buildings becoming at various times in their life warehouses, factories, workshops and even net stores for fishermen. Carrick purchased the site in 1987 and began a series of projects to improve its prospects. These included the demolition of nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of 'mundic' and other substandard buildings, the upgrading of its road, installation of modern services, creation of an amenity area on adjoining land and, in 1997, the construction of a first phase of new units to encourage the development of local businesses. Phase One was a mixture of new-build and refurbishment and as a result has a degree of individuality which, combined with its dramatic cliff-top environment, is envied as a place of work by many of those who visit. Within days of practical completion local businesses had moved into Phase One, its immediate success created demand for further leasehold units and ultimately led the Council to its current proposal.

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Editor's notes:

For further information please contact:

Roger Radcliffe
Economic Development Officer
Carrick District Council
01872 224325
rradcliffe@carrick.gov.uk

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Sue Wolstenholme
Objective One Communications
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01579 370991

lmroberts@cornwall.gov.uk

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