St Michael’s Church Hall was creaking at the seams, as it appeared the whole town had turned out in a common cause – and that doesn’t often happen in Newquay!
All credit must go to Councillor Lesley Clarke who had taken up the bidding on behalf of Restormel Borough Council to enlist massive support for its grandiose scheme to save Trenance Cottages. Grade II and listed, surely somebody would throw a Million Pounds at the authority – for that is what they told us it would cost. Would nobody dare to ask why the Landlord had neglected the maintenance of our dearly beloved icon, to the extent that its last remaining tenants had had to be rehoused nearly thirty years before? Nobody did, not one – we were all swept along by plans and speeches.
Questionnaires were filled in – what would we like to see the cottages become? Some spoke up for affordable housing, others wanted a community hall, while there was one Town Councillor who honestly favoured filling the shell with concrete and just leaving the facade!
Restormel, however, had loftier sights. Their architect had envisaged ‘Workshops’ – three in all – with offices for start-up businesses. Not many months later, with the enthusiastic backing of the newly formed ‘Friends of Trenance Cottages’, the bid went in to Heritage Lottery Fund and Objective One for the best part of a Million Pounds. With the massive backing of 800 members, who were already planning a programme of fundraising events to celebrate the acquisition in 1906 of the Trenance Valley area for leisure purposes, how could the scheme possibly fail? Very easily, as it happened.
After many hours of meetings and a lot more fundraising, it became clear to both the council and ourselves that we, the community-led group with all the enthusiasm and drive, would stand a better chance of winning grants to save the cottages. The Trenance Cottages Community Interest Company was formed and, by 2007, Restormel had pledged that it would transfer the buildings to our ownership – if we could secure the funds to fulfill a viable scheme.
This is when the shape of today’s project began to be formed - an extension for tearooms, heritage display rooms and a hirable room for meetings, plus a shop. Behind the scenes there was also negotiation going on with those increasingly co-operative owners, the Borough Council, to cough up money they should have spent on the upkeep of the buildings during the past twenty years. Perhaps their vision of the cottages as a future asset was beginning to look like more of a liability and the sooner they could offload their financial burden the better . At any rate £100,000 was found to be available: just the job for stabilizing the place and putting a new roof on! Even the presence of bats didn’t prove the ecological stumbling block we thought it would – suddenly, like peter and paul, they were gone…
The tide was turning. OK, a further grant application to the Government’s Big Lottery Fund failed – more hours of work wasted – but all was not lost…Heritage Lottery Fund loved our project, advising that they might be able to help us – if the Cottages were ours, and if we were a charity. Oh yes, and another small thing – we needed to come up with a robust Business Plan. More hours of meetings and consultation, including journeys to Exeter and canvassing support from local organisations and the community at large. Our MP backed us, as did councillors from all three local authorities.
Santa backed us too. He’d had enough of sitting in drafty, damp old makeshift grottos, year after year. One day, surely, he could look forward to underfloor heating – and a handy toilet!!
There was great excitement when Restormel Borough Council handed us the key to the property on 31st March, 2009. Money changed hands too – they charged us £1 for the privilege! There was no going back now – mainly because the council ceased to exist on the following day!