Plans to set up a green community hub in Penzance’s historic Morrab Gardens have been given the go-ahead thanks to £2.2 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and £886,000 from the Penzance Town Deal Fund.
Work on renovating a disused building to transform it into an environmental education centre will get under way soon, with the centre due to open in late 2024.
Led by the Gardeners’ House – Penzance, a charity set up to establish and run the centre, the project has been made possible thanks to funding from the NLHF, Penzance Town Deal, Penzance Town Council and The Architectural Heritage Fund.
At the heart of the Gardeners’ House project will be a ‘living archive’ based on a collection of books, papers and objects donated by the Hypatia Trust. This living archive will grow to include items that reflect the thoughts, feelings and experiences of people from the community as they respond to the natural world and the climate emergency.
While renovation of the building is still under way, a new community art project led by Jane Darke and Andrew Tebbs alongside local artists and craftspeople will start in the coming months. The project will involve creating a gateway to link the heritage collection through a new Sensory Garden and is being supported by funding from the Tanner Phoenix Trust administered by the Cornwall Community Foundation.
The Gardeners’ House charity will work with a wide range of partners to develop a programme of events and activities that are inspired by the collection and by their surroundings in Morrab Gardens.
Welcoming news of the latest grant from NLHF, Rich Stever of Earth’s Green Guardians (EGG) said: “The Gardeners’ House will provide the ideal setting for EGG. Instead of us going from school to school, burning fossil fuels, local schools can walk or take coaches to this central location with a classroom and gardens. The planet needs us to connect, protect, restore and prepare. The Gardeners' House is the perfect place for EGG to empower our youth for the future.”
Located next to the Pengarth Day Centre, the Gardeners’ House will help to enhance the lives of older people, particularly people living with dementia.
Sharon Mitchell, Manager of Pengarth, said: “We want to create a space that is accessible to all with no regard to levels of ability. The project would encourage multi-generational activity and working with the Gardeners’ House would extend the activities that we could offer the older people in our community, with indoor and outdoor activities available to all.”
Rachel Yates from the community interest company Sustainable Penzance said: "One of our aims is to co-ordinate and strengthen all of the existing work that's happening in Penzance around putting people, place and planet first. We recognised a need for a community hub to bring groups and people together, and so that existing work could be supported and grow. We're beyond pleased the Gardeners’ House is now able to provide this green hub.
“The Gardeners’ House will provide a base for this work to grow from, as well as our own projects, workshops and events with businesses, schools and the wider community. We will be running a specific workshop programme for the Gardeners' House too, showing how we can learn from the past to shape a better future.
‘We hope that through our community networks we can bring different audiences into the Gardeners' House, to connect with nature and create a more sustainable way of living, working and doing business in the town."
Miki Ashton, Project Coordinator for The Gardeners’ House said: “It’s been an amazing journey so far and we are absolutely delighted that this funding by the NLHF will enable us to save an historic building and transform it into a sustainable green hub bringing our communities and partner organisations together to share in the natural heritage of West Cornwall.
"The Gardeners’ House will provide a home for a knowledge bank which draws on the past and encourages the people of West Cornwall to add new, positive and personal contributions making it a living archive. By connecting people, planet and place the Gardeners' House will support people's wellbeing and empower our community to work together to develop sustainable change for the future.”
Martin Tucker, Chair of the Penzance Town Deal Board said: “The Town Deal Board would like to congratulate the Gardeners’ House project team on their successful application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund. This is a fantastic news and we are pleased to be supporting the renovation of the building through the Town Deal Fund and help create a thriving community facility at the heart of Penzance that will support the town’s sustainability agenda.”
The Gardeners’ House is among seven projects in Penzance supported by the Government’s Town Deal Fund. The funding aims to boost the economy of the regions and support sustainable regeneration. Following the submission of its Town Investment Plan, Penzance successfully bid for a Town Deal worth £21.5 million.
The Penzance Town Deal projects will contribute to bring existing assets back in the community, improve transport, support skills development and business growth. Cornwall Council is the Accountable Body for the Town Deal programme in Cornwall and supports the governance role of the Penzance Town Deal Board and the fund administration.