The key to Helston’s future could be under our very noses – or feet at least. The town’s pavements have been judged “the best in Britain” by an award winning architect who said more should be made of the “shockingly interesting” granite slabs.
Stephen Witherford was referring in particular to paving stones at the bottom of Coinagehall Street, outside Vision Express and Borlase & Co Solicitors.
These are covered in a curved pattern, almost resembling a series of rainbows. However, it is believed that many more of these paving stones were dug up in years gone by and sold on – with some now forming the steps down the cliff to Kynance.
Mr Witherford’s suggestion was that a long-term initiative could be introduced to reinstated granite pavements in areas where the original paving stones had been lost and replaced with concrete slabs.
He suggested this could be possible to achieve over time by inviting Helston residents to give money to project, with paving stones bearing the names of the subscribers, and/or by piecing together old stones.
Mayor Jonathan Radford-Gaby said: “It would be super if we could bring a scheme forward like that. I would like to see the town looking very much better in terms of its paving. “It’s not a new idea but it’s an example of something that we could do that would make a positive impact.”
It was just one of the ideas raised in a lecture given by Mr Witherford and colleague Arthur Smart, of London-based architects firm Witherford Watson and Mann, in Helston last Wednesday.
The pair had been invited to the town by CAST (the Cornubian Arts & Science Trust) to spend a day in Helston and then speak on how improvements could be made – possibly using the £250,000 pot of cash available to spend in the centre, which forms part of an ongoing consultation with residents and businesses.
Their talk looked at their past projects that Helston could take inspiration from before focusing on some of the aspects they felt could be developed.
Mr Witherford urged those making decisions on the future of Helston to understand its “deep historical nature” and work with what was already there, blending the new with the historic.
He illustrated his talk with plans and aerial photographs, showing the development of Helston from the 1780s to the present day, before pointing that in any town – not just Helston – the centre tended to get “eroded and dishevelled” as development occurred on the edges. He warned this process would continue in Helston, especially with plans for a 400 new homes, and the challenge was to link the two.
Other advice included improving the approaches from the car parks through the opes and alleyways, possibly through planting.
When questioned about the issue of pedestrianisation, he used Woolwich in London as an example where a pedestrianisation scheme was produced quickly, on a very limited budget and with poor materials, which resulted in an area that deteriorated quickly until it was much worse than what had existed before – but he also suggested that closing the streets to traffic intermittently, as is already done on Flora Day, might be a possibility.
He pointed to the junction of the Meneage Street and Coinagehall Street, the area in front of the Guildhall, as one that could be improved, and noted that the railings at the corner of Meneage Street and Wendron Street were out of keeping.
A follow up meeting is now planned for this month and anyone interested in taking part should email firstname.lastname@example.org The lecture was organised in association with the South Kerrier Heritage Trust that now manages Helston Museum, South Kerrier Alliance, the Helston branch of the Old Cornwall Society, Helston History Group and Falmouth University, and was attended by more than 100 people including councillors, business owners and community organisations.