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St Ives flats on council-owned land to make way for Tate expansion


Staff member
The Westcountry arm of the Tate art gallery is to go ahead with plans to expand after reaching a deal over a plot of land with its neighbours.

Tate St Ives, which attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year, yesterday confirmed it had reached a land agreement with Cornwall Council and Penwith Housing Association (PHA) to buy the neighbouring 0.277 acre plot.

The council-owned land contains one block of eight flats, with two further blocks being retained by PHA. All will be demolished as part of the development.

Residents living in all three out-dated blocks at Meadow Flats next to the gallery have been re-homed over the last 12 months, allowing new accommodation to be built in its place, freeing up spare land for Tate St Ives.

Mark Osterfield, the gallery's executive director, said: "We are very excited about this. The acquisition of this site will enable us to create new facilities which meet the needs and concerns of the people of St Ives, while delivering a bold new vision for the people of Cornwall."

Jonathan Sprague, property services director for PHA, said those residents affected by the sale have been re-homed successfully, and offered first refusal on the new units when the project is complete.

He said commercial confidence prevented it disclosing the cost of the land, while specific details on the gallery's expansion will be revealed following further discussions with backers.

Mr Osterfield was, however, able to outline the vision for Tate St Ives.

He said: "There are two elements to this project – continuing to attract the high number of visitors over the course of the year, and also supporting local people through the community engagement programmes we will be running.

"Tate St Ives has spent the last few years working with Cornwall Council, St Ives Town Council and the wider community, to find a way of ensuring that the gallery builds on its success for the future benefit of Cornwall and its communities.

"I am very grateful to St Ives Town Council and Cornwall Council for their leadership in laying the foundations for a successful project."

Mr Osterfield said the current aim is to expand the gallery space by 60 per cent, with completion by 2014 – the year Cornwall wants to become a European Region of Culture.

The gallery contributes an estimated £15.5 million to the regional economy every year, a figure which is expected to rise when the expansion is completed.

Kevin Lavery, Cornwall Council chief executive, added: "Cornwall Council recognises that Tate St Ives is a unique resource in Cornwall and one that has had a dramatic impact on the local economy through its significant contribution to the renaissance in confidence in the area.

"This investment will enable Tate St Ives to refurbish and extend its facilities, building on its past success, and supporting Cornwall in its plans for an economically sustainable future."

The gallery's plans were first mooted in 2004, after which Penwith Housing Association also identified the need to redevelop part of their land which backs onto the gallery.

Local residents and the town council subsequently called on the two groups to discuss the unusual land-buying partnership, which Cornwall Council agreed to finance.

Mr Sprague said the three vacant two-storey housing blocks will be demolished an replaced with a single five-storey block.

The new accommodation will comprise 21 two-bedroom flats and five one-bedroom flats. The building project is expected to cost just over £4 million, and could be completed by autumn 2011. Mr Sprey said the accommodation providers would "preserve the rent levels" for those residents returning to Meadow Flats upon completion.

Joan Symons, Cornwall Council cabinet member for culture, said the deal was good news for all concerned. She said: "Cornwall Council's investment in this piece of land is an important step in the plans to secure the future of St Ives through the future extension of Tate St Ives and enabling Penwith Housing Association to provide better accommodation for the people of St Ives.

"Through the proposed expansion, Tate St Ives will be able to further its involvement with the communities of Cornwall. This is a positive move which will further extend access to the great heritage of Cornwall and I am excited by the innovative ideas for extending the gallery."