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Plans in for a new community

By West Briton  |  Posted: August 21, 2014

  • Artist's impressions of the Higher Newham Farm vision: left, affordable housing, centre, a typical street view, and right, the community hub and courtyard.

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A VISION of creating a flagship project combining food, farming and housing within "one community" on the outskirts of Truro has taken a step closer to becoming a reality.

Following three months of public consultation on the Higher Newham Farm and Village scheme, its developer has submitted proposals to Cornwall Council.

They include 155 houses, of which about 46 would be classed as affordable homes, and a community farm with a restaurant, cookery school and educational facilities.

If planning consent is granted, Higher Newham Farm, off Morlaix Avenue, would become one of the UK's largest community farms, with around 70 of the site's 92 acres gifted to a new charitable trust and run by Duchy College, providing food and farming education.

The gifted land would also be safeguarded from development in perpetuity.

The project is a partnership between Duchy College, the Cornwall Food Foundation – the charity which runs Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall restaurant at Watergate Bay – and Living Villages.

The vision was born after plans for a 1,000-home scheme on the site were thrown out in July 2010 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.

Since then new plans have been drawn up, more than a year of discussions and three months of public consultation and feedback have taken place, indicating substantial support, before the outline planning application was submitted, which includes an updated masterplan for the site near the Arch Hill roundabout.

Project co-ordinator Vicky Garner said: "It's been a busy few months behind the scenes as we gather as much feedback as we can around the proposals. We've been talking to schools and education providers, voluntary sector organisations and community groups and these discussions have helped shape our evolving plans."

Cornwall Council will hold its own public consultation, likely to be in September, before the proposals go before the strategic planning committee later this autumn.

Dr Phil Le Grice, head of rural economy at Duchy College, said: "Community farms such as this are brilliant vehicles to deliver real, hands-on experiences to people who live around them, focusing on the 'plough-to-plate' message and hopefully encouraging some young people to consider agriculture as a career."

Farming industry experts were warning that if 60,000 new students were not found there would be a future skills shortage for the industry, he said.

"The ethos at Duchy College is about making learning work – delivering young people with the right skills and experiences to help them progress in their chosen careers – and Higher Newham is a fantastic location to deliver this," he said.

Matthew Thomson, chief executive of the Cornwall Food Foundation, said he backed the scheme because it provided a "unique opportunity to work with people and food to improve the economy, environment and health of Cornwall".

The developer says it welcomes questions and queries, and a Friends of Higher Newham network is open to anyone interested in the project proposals.

A community fête will take place at the site on Sunday, September 7, between 11am and 4pm, and anyone interested is invited to come along.

Tickets are free via www.highernewham.com

The plans will be available to view and comment shortly at www.cornwall.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/planning/online-planning-register

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