Food and farming community project proposed for Truro, if more homes are built

First published in News

Up to 70 acres of farmland on the edge of Truro could be turned over to the community for access and education, as part of plans to build more homes.

The proposal at Higher Newham Farm, just off Morlaix Avenue and Arch Hill, is at the core of an partnership between Duchy College and development company, Living Villages.

Public consultation on the project will begin on May 12, with a four-day pop-up shop exhibition taking place in Truro City Centre from May 28 to 31.

The proposed scheme will see 70 acres of green space gifted to the local community for the purposes of food and farming education, alongside 155 homes.

The dveloper says that the "land gifted to the people of Truro will provide woods, orchards, allotments, fields and growing areas protected from future development forever, through its permanent transfer to a specially formed community trust".

This Trust will "provide legal guarantee that this 80 per cent of the land at Higher Newham will never be built on and will be accessible to the public in perpetuity - including both the green slopes rising behind Newham Industrial Estate and the slopes on the southern side facing Calenick Creek and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, all of which will be opened to the public".

Tim Walton, spokesman for Living Villages, said: “Living Villages is dedicated to building beautiful new places to live that respect and enhance the local environment.

“Ever since we acquired Higher Newham Farm we have asked ourselves how can we ensure that this stunning site is used to maximise the benefit of its location for all whilst enhancing its capacity to act as a working farm.

“The partnership with Duchy College is the first step toward achieving our aims and we hope to be in a position to announce further exciting partnerships to enhance the delivery of further educational opportunities in the coming weeks.”

Matthew Taylor, former MP for Truro and St Austell, is working as a special advisor to Living Villages on the Higher Newham Farm and Village Project.

He said: “Having opposed former big developments on this site in Truro, my particular interest in Higher Newham Farm is to create something fantastic and open it up to the community so they can access this beautiful green space and all it has to offer whilst creating an exemplar sustainable village affordable for all income groups.”

The project is being managed locally by Vicky Garner, former chief executive of environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, and a campaigner for affordable housing in Cornwall.

She said: “This is a truly exciting project, the first of its kind. We hope that this will lead the way in establishing a better approach to creating places to live, work, learn and enjoy. But most importantly, it will open up this beautiful green space for public access and protect it from further development in the future.”

Of the rest of the land, 13 acres at the top of Higher Newham will comprise a new village of 155 homes.

All the homes on the site will ‘fit’ naturally into the landscape, with 30 per cent being a "mix of rented and part-ownership homes at well below market prices, yet still built to higher space and sustainability standards than required by Cornwall Council policy".

The land surrounding the village will be managed by Duchy College and will be used to deliver hands-on, accredited courses in farming and horticulture. A community farm will house classrooms and facilities for students.

Duchy College says the aim is to give farming and land skills to the next generation in Cornwall, with a particular emphasis on matching skills to the needs of Cornwall as local food and adding value to crops becomes increasingly important.

Andrew Counsell, principal of Duchy College said: “Higher Newham Farm is a great opportunity for students to study horticulture, agriculture and animal care on their doorstep in Truro. “We will be especially focusing on entry-level programmes providing youngsters with the skills to help them gain employment, as well as short leisure-interest courses for the public.

“We are also excited about managing a farm open to the community and working with volunteers to look after the crops and livestock. Being able to eat food in the restaurant produced from crops grown on the land at Higher Newham is another important attraction to this project.”

Plans are due then to be formally submitted to Cornwall Council in mid to late June, after the results of the public consultation have been taken into account in finalising the proposals.

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