Last chance for locals to transform Looe's historic coastguard flats into affordable housing

  • Charlotte Gay speaks to the community in Looe

A project to transform a row of abandoned cottages into affordable housing in Looe enters its final day of fundraising with £30,000 still to be raised.

Three Seas, the organisation selling community shares for the historic coastguard flats, are confident they can reach the £100,000 goal by midnight on Friday, 31 May.

People in the town say the need for local affordable housing is as desperate as ever.

Kia says it's really sad that she may have to move away from such a "beautiful town". Credit: ITV News

20-year-old Kia Tonkin works six days a week in one of the town's chippies but said finding a place to rent there feels impossible.

"I need the hours anyway because I can't find anywhere to live here," she said.

"I live with my partner and his family. It's really, really nice that they've let me live there. But I'm 20. I want to start my own life."

Lynne Overd, a parent, said Looe is unaffordable for people on local salaries.

Having living in the town for 26 years, she said: "It's very important because the younger families now we've got nowhere to rent. It's very, very hard for them to find anywhere at all in Looe. So they're having to move away from their hometown."

Bosses like Hannah say they have noticed the difficulty getting staff for May half term Credit: ITV News

It's also proving a challenge for employers like Hannah Staight, who is the owner of Dotty's Cafe. She relies on young staff for service roles but said their wage needs to be competitive if they are travelling in for work.

"It's really difficult because [they] have to rely on trains and busses or they're having to rely on mum and dad for transport, which again is difficult", Hannah said.

"And then because of that we then have to think about staff wages - is it worth them travelling to us to work in comparison to working somewhere else close to home?"

The need for housing for locals has already been recognised by Cornwall Council when it sold the Grade II listed flats in Looe worth £640,000 to the Three Seas Community Land Trust for just £1.

The not-for-profit group plans to use a combination of grant funding and community shares to raise enough money for the costly repairs needed to the dilapidated interiors.

The renovations would need to strip a lot back in the Grade two listed flats which are in dire need of repair Credit: ITV News

Manager Simon Ryan said they need to close in on £100,000 worth of community shares for the project to go ahead."It's not donation. This is shared ownership.

"People genuinely become a part owner of this property. You put in your money, whether it's £100 or £25,000, and you get one vote with just past 100 members now. Those people are the custodians of this housing. Long term it's them that will hold us to account for any changes, which we are not intended to make, but it's real, genuine democracy in practice"

Simon said when they have reached their target and have started renovations they will be considering people based on a points system of how well connected they are to the local community.

"It's not for young people," he said.

"It's for anybody who wants one of these and can demonstrate their connection to the town. Realistically, there are tiny little flats, there's no parking, so probably most will go to young people leaving home for the first time but we're absolutely not limiting it to anybody, anybody who fits our bill."

Members of the team behind Three Seas worked on a similar project in Cawsand, which saved three cottages from being turned into holiday lets.