'My future hangs in the balance': Tenants left at closed-down Heartlands say they've been forgotten

Jacky Blakeway runs a Magnetic Earth Studios crystal shop in the retail quarter of Heartlands. Credit: Lee Trewhela / LDRS.

Traders, tenants, and residents at Heartlands say they are concerned about their futures following the closure of the site.

It comes after the National Lottery pulled its funding saying the visitor attraction was unsustainable.

Heartlands opened 12 years ago and reinvigorated Cornwall’s heart of mining as a celebration of its industrial heritage.

Now, everything run by its charitable trust is closed, leaving those still trading and living on the site in Pool wondering if Heartlands will become a wasteland.

The museum, Red River Café, Wheal Play soft play centre and conference centre have all permanently shut up shop.

The chairman of the trust said that the council has not given commercial and residential tenants any details of contacts for maintenance and security.

The £35m community site closed its doors at the end of January. Credit: Lee Trewhela / LDRS

Jacky Blakeway began to run Magnetic Earth Studios crystal shop in the retail quarter of Heartlands soon after the attraction opened.

She said was feeling highly emotional saying goodbye to the staff who have been a vital part of her life.

Jacky said: “A senior member of Cornwall Council has reached out to us with regard to our collective and individual needs as commercial units, but as yet we have no contact information with regard to emergencies, ongoing studio maintenance or site security.

“Anti-social behaviour will become an issue if the site is left derelict. In fact, it’s already started happening.

“There are a lot of stones across the site which are being thrown in the water containers and a window had been smashed this morning.

“Things have started going missing too, including a picnic bench.”

Jacky said she has heard passers-by saying the retail units will close as well. “We want to assure members of the public that the businesses here are still trading as usual,” she stressed.

The trust announced it was closing after nearly 12 years due to financial difficulties. Credit: Lee Trewhela / LDRS

“I’ve watched 27 businesses go from this part of the site in the 11 years I have been here; creative enterprises that members of the public – even in the locale – were not aware existed.

“Poor marketing, a lack of curiosity from the wider public and an appalling lack of signage on site has all contributed to the lack of footfall.

“Add to that ticketing of events so that access to the commercial units was limited or non-existent and that was the kiss of death for many of the creatives here.

“My own future hangs in the balance … I don’t see that we can ‘mothball’ a site that cost in excess of £30 million to create.

“I’m hoping from the ashes something good will rise.”

David Collins, who bought a property at Heartlands, says the situation is demoralising. Credit: Lee Trewhela / LDRS

Surrounding the site are a large number of residential properties, occupied by leaseholders and rental tenants.

Many of them are worried about the upkeep of their homes.

David Collins has been living in his flat for 18 months. In an ideal position, the living room overlooks the once bustling open courtyard featuring the dramatic engine house. It’s now completely dead. “If you want to live somewhere peaceful and tranquil, there’s nowhere better,” he joked.

“I asked the staff what the council had told them about the future of the site and the properties. Nothing. We’ve heard nothing from the council. Your guess is as good as mine. It’s disgusting.”

David added: “We pay service charges and everything to Heartlands. Who do we pay now? This is our council and their property. The least they can do is keep us in the loop.

“I had a nice little bungalow in Tolgus, but wanted to move somewhere smaller after my wife died.

“I thought this place would be ideal – there was a thriving café and it was really popular. To face this now is demoralising.”

Heartlands, at the centre of a former mining area in Pool, was opened in 2012 with more than £20m in lottery funding. Credit: Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Like others, he fears vandalism saying there were staff employed to oversee security, but doesn’t know what will happen now.

Speaking on Tuesday 30 January following a meeting between the Heartlands Trust and Cornwall Council, the trust’s chairman David Sillifant said: “Unfortunately the meeting changed very little.

The trust will cease trading tomorrow and it will be the end of employment for our staff. It is terribly sad – the Lottery will not allow any further access to our endowment to keep anyone on, even for a managed wind down. You can imagine how devastated the staff are.

“We have pressed the council for information on their plans for the future of the site, and arrangements for the commercial and residential tenants. We have not been supplied with any answers or details of whom tenants should contact if they need to. Those tenants to whom we have spoken are not happy.”

Mr Sillifant added: “It is unfortunate that an orderly transfer doesn’t seem within our grasp.”

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council is committed to maintaining public access to the parks and gardens at Heartlands, once the trust’s legal obligations under the lease and management agreement come to an end.

“The council will carry out an assessment and if necessary undertake works so that they can safely remain open. The registration service and commercially let shops and offices remain open.”

Credit: Lee Trewhela/Local Democracy Reporting Service.