Former Council House Sales Could Fund Carn Thomas Demolition

school 02Money from the sale of former council houses in Scilly could be used to demolish the old secondary school building at Carn Thomas.

That was the suggestion put forward at the Community Services Committee meeting last week.

Members were told that an application to the government’s Homes and Communities Agency for funding to build at least twenty, two-bedroomed specialist homes on the site, for elderly and vulnerable adults, had been turned down in January.

Cornwall Rural Housing, the housing association planning to develop the site on behalf of the Council, had made that bid.

Aisling Hick said the scheme was deemed poor value for money because of the cost of construction in Scilly, adding that the decision wasn’t a surprise.

But she says they’d had good conversations with the agency about driving down costs and using other options, such as shared ownership schemes.

That would need changes to the planning rules in Scilly, she said.

Aisling suggested that money from the sale of former council houses could be used to “pump prime” the project, by demolishing the existing buildings.

Previous estimates have put the cost of clearing the site at somewhere between £150,000 and £250,000.

She says it would show Cornwall Rural Housing exactly what’s underneath and give more certainty about how much it will be to build there.

If a funding bid is successful, the Council will sign over the land to the housing association.

But Housing Officer Ian Hamilton says it’s a tricky site, covered by a Duchy of Cornwall covenant that enables them to decide the design of the building.

It also restricts use to educational or social schemes, although it’s understood they would only expect re-imbursement if there was ever a plan to develop the site commercially.

Ian says the housing association are in discussions with the Duchy’s Preston-based architect about what would be an acceptable design to Prince Charles.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough was concerned about this, describing the Duchy as “feudal.”

He says it should be the elected members who have the final say and he wouldn’t tolerate the Duchy dictating the design.

But Ian told him that they couldn’t get away from the covenant. The Duchy can veto the plans submitted by the CRHA, although they don’t have any say in the planning process itself.

Aisling told councillors that there’s definitely a need for more “lifetime” homes on the islands.

She said the current housing stock can’t be adapted for use by people through to the end of their life, because they’re old properties, “that are too cold and the stairs are wonky.”

She said all the research shows that people don’t need additional care, such as home helps, if they live in the right homes.

Around 90% of over 75’s can live independently and that will drive down the social care costs, she says.

Ian says he’s optimistic that the scheme will eventually receive funding.

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