Prince’s vision spurs new Cornwall coastal village

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Freshly painted exteriors are pictured in Nansledan housing development, championed by Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, at Newquay town in Cornwall on Oct. 25. -- AFP

NEWQUAY, UK — In his long wait to become Britain’s king, Prince Charles has pursued his passion for architecture. His latest brainchild is a new neighborhood in a deprived area of Cornwall in England’s southwestern corner.

“Nansledan” (“Broad Valley” in Cornish) is an extension of the seaside resort of Newquay, popular with surfers and young revelers, and aims to provide environmentally friendly housing and give a shot in the arm to the former mining region’s economy.

“We are looking to create a viable community… we will be building a school, we’re building a church, offices, shops,” said Alastair Martin, from The Duchy of Cornwall, the prince’s estate.

With an architectural focus on combining tradition and modernity, the new one- and two-storey houses line neat streets with Cornish names.

The homes’ stone and pastel-hued facades as well as the slate roofs are a deliberate effort to help blend the homes in with the area’s older buildings.

Unlike many suburbs where the car is king and everything is a drive away, Nansledan has its own amenities and is a short walk to the shore and town center.

Developers hope the project will regenerate and diversify Newquay’s economy, which currently relies on tourism and low-paid seasonal jobs.

Some 137 houses have already gone up since construction began on part of the prince’s vast landholdings in 2014.

In total, some 4,000 dwellings will be built over 40 years on the 218-hectare (538-acre) plot, which belongs to the Duchy.

“For a town of only 20,000 people that’s quite a lot,” said town councillor Louis Gardner.

The green, pink and blue buildings remind Theresa Ferguson, an employee at the nearby airport who moved into one of the new houses in June, of the small Irish village from where her mother originated.

“This is something that’s going to be really good for Newquay, good for the area and good for me and for family when they come down,” Ms. Ferguson said.

Nansledan is also forward-thinking in a bid to remain sustainable, combining Charles’s twin passions of architecture and the environment.

“He’s been very heavily involved,” said architect Hugh Petter, director of ADAM Architecture which has helped coordinate the project. “He comes down twice a year.”

Nansledan is not Charles’s first attempt at a planned community.

The project is based on the principles that Charles already established in Poundbury, an experimental new town in Dorchester, southern England, in the early 1990s.

That initiative prompted criticism over its mix of architectural styles, with one critic describing it as a “feudal Disneyland.”

More homogeneous in style, Nansledan seeks to offer a different experience to the average suburban housing estate, with a focus on nature, amenities within walking distance and ensuring a social mix.

“You can take your child to the swings and go and attend your vegetables,” said Mr. Petter, referring to the integrated play area and allotments.

All the trees around the houses will bear edible fruit, while beehives will be built into the houses.

Economically, the goal is to create a job per household through the offices, businesses or services that the new development will attract, and 30% of the homes will be social housing, or cheaper than the market rate, and indistinguishable from the other homes.

It is hoped the project will give local people a chance of getting on the housing ladder, a task made ever more difficult by the proliferation of second homes, accused of driving up local house prices.

“I think within the Newquay area we could do with more affordable homes and I think that the Nansledan development could go further” than the planned 30% allocated as social housing, said Mr. Gardner.

With many houses on the development currently priced at over £300,000 ($395,700, €335,000), they “would be out of reach for the average family,” he added.

The same criticism was leveled at the Tregunnel Hill project of 174 dwellings that the Duchy built on the edge of Newquay and served as a blueprint for Nansledan.

Overall, there has been little criticism of Nansledan. But the Tregunnel Hill development saw hundreds of people oppose the loss of green space where the buildings went up.

But, with £21 million already invested, Mr. Petter said: “There will be a big economic dividend for the local people and local businesses.”

Support for the local economy begins with the construction of the homes, using materials such as slate and granite from nearby quarries.

Mark Jackson, site manager at Morrish Builders, one of three contractors working on Nansledan, said the company had “spent the last five years developing and training a labor force” to work to scale with the local materials to a high standard.

Thanks to Nansledan and other projects, Fraser Parkin, a barber in Newquay town center, said he had already seen a boost in business.

But he voiced concern over whether new residents would all manage to find work despite the creation of jobs in the neighborhood through the project.

Mr. Gardner agreed that the more highly qualified or skilled new residents could have difficulty finding jobs in the area.

“That will be a challenge,” he said. — AFP