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25.08.05
Ambitious Plans For Traditional Barns

Work is underway in the heart of the Cornish countryside to transform a large complex of traditional barns into top class accommodation and a cordon bleu cookery school. The plans, which will create jobs and help catering students train, have been backed by Tim Smit, of the Eden Project, as well as organisations and businesses including South West Tourism, Cornwall College, Barclays Bank and Boddingtons Berries.

Ian and Susan Chinn, of Polsue Farm, near Mevagissey, want to ensure the complex meets the top English Tourist Council award for bed and breakfast – five diamond gold – and will be spending more than £700,000 to meet that aim. Of that, £140,535 will come from the Objective One European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, the same amount from Defra, and a large part of the investment from Barclays Bank.

The couple began running bed and breakfast from their 180-acre farm in 1999 to supplement the income from their dairy herd. Mrs Chinn, who trained as a chef at Cornwall College in St Austell, also offered dinner to the bed and breakfast guests. They soon realised that the 200-strong dairy herd was no longer making money and "It was either get big or get out," said Mrs Chinn. "We would have needed to build more sheds and install a new milking parlour. We did our sums and realised that neither of us would have lived long enough to repay the expenditure involved in expanding the dairy herd as the milk prices were still dropping."

So, with the help of James Whilding and Mike Bamforth of Acorus Rural Property Services Ltd, the Chinns came up with the ambitious conversion plans for the 200-year-old barns and some of the surrounding grounds. The work, which is being carried out by Talling Construction of Newquay, is due to be completed in May 2006 and includes six luxury en-suite rooms with full facilities for visitors with a disability, an industrial kitchen for the cookery workshops, day to day cooking and catering for functions, an outdoor ornamental pond area, a hot tub, a tennis court and a walled garden with seating. The 'roundhouse', which used to be the farm mill, will become a huge restaurant with a glass wall to give panoramic views of the countryside.

Natural materials are being used wherever possible, stonework left exposed and old beams from one of the barns are to be used as pillars for the glass wall in the restaurant. The Chinns have their own stone quarry on the land. A wood pulp burning system is being installed to keep costs down and to be more environmentally friendly and this system will provide the heating and hot water for the complex.

James Whilding MRICS, an associate at Acorus who has worked on the Polsue plans, said: "We are delighted to have had the opportunity to bring our wealth of expertise to this niche project. We wish all concerned a prosperous future."

In a letter of support Tim Smit, who played a major part in setting up two of Cornwall's most famous attractions the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project, said: "I wholeheartedly support your ambitions to extend the facilities available to you at Polsue. It is hugely important for the whole of the agricultural community that those with a stake in the land and hence a role as stewards of the land for everyone's future enjoyment, to be able to make their living in an appropriate manner. The plans you have for Polsue perfectly fit in with this and will satisfy a need that at present is not catered for locally."

Annette Cole, of South West Tourism added: "South West Tourism wholeheartedly support this project as it is in accordance with our strategy, Towards 2015, with the combination of very good quality accommodation, the added value of local foods and the provision of additional facilities to the product."

David Rodda, senior agricultural co-ordinator for the Cornwall Agricultural Council Development Team, said: "This project is an example of a Cornish farming family taking stock of the future direction of their business and considering where best to invest their capital resources for maximum benefit. They have taken into consideration their location, building availability and the skills base of the family members to develop a business that caters for a niche market. As an example of innovative farm diversification the project fits well with the strategy of the Cornwall Agricultural Council and their ethos of using local food will ensure that the benefits of the investment will be passed on to other businesses in the local area."

Mrs Chinn uses Cornish ingredients for her cooking, sourcing much of her meat from local farmers, including the Lobb family who run Lobbs Farm Shop, next to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. She bakes most of her own bread and makes preserves and the Chinns still keep chickens and plant vegetables on the farm. They also have their own well for natural spring water.

When the complex is finished Mr and Mrs Chinn plan to start by offering one-day cookery workshops with overnight accommodation, which, in addition to the preparation and cooking of meats and fish will encompass other cuisines such as Indian food, demonstrated by Ali from the Gulshan Restaurant in Probus. It is also their intention to teach participants how to make a 'proper Cornish pasty'.

The guests will cook their own lunch which will include local wines and in the afternoon they will make a product to take home, such as a relish or pickle. It is also the Chinn's intention during the winter months to offer specialist breaks such as alternative therapy, psychic seminars and healing workshops. Christmas functions for companies in the surrounding area and Sunday Roast are also to run through the winter months.

Mrs Chinn will be helped by her son Michael Salt, who is Catering Manager at Newquay Zoo. Mr Chinn will take the role of 'mine host' keeping the wine cellar/bar and general day to day running. The Chinns initially expect to take on at least three new members of staff with the later intention to expand even more to offer short breaks, with accommodation, combining cookery with golf or sailing and to get a wedding licence for those who want to tie the knot in beautiful rural surroundings. They also hope to use catering students from Cornwall College. In his letter of support, Jim Pickup, head of hospitality and tourism at the college, said: "There is need for good quality food and upmarket accommodation in the St Austell area which this development will satisfy. In the college we are always looking to collaborate with local businesses to improve standards in the catering environment. I am sure that this project will raise standards and give the students an opportunity to work in a first class establishment."

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in Polsue Farm barns through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

For further information please contact Clare Morgan of the Objective One Partnership Office on 01872 223439 or email: cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

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Editor's notes:


European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF)

The EAGGF is one of the four funds that make up the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

EAGGF aims to:

Help preserve the link between diversified farming and the land.
Improve and support the competitiveness of agriculture as a key activity in rural areas.
Ensure the diversification of the economy in rural areas.
Help to keep thriving communities in rural areas.
Preserve and improve the environment, the landscape and the rural heritage.

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

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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