pix show ‘shabby chic’ furniture, and some of the art commissioned for Heartlands; main pic ‘Mineral Wall’ by Michael Rowe
by Bernard Marx
A £37million theme park built with taxpayers cash on a historic Cornish mine is already in financial trouble, CCN can reveal.
‘Heartlands’ in Pool – where there’s long been a big industrial estate boasting flourishing factories, bargain retailers, thriving local businesses and a popular and affordable market – was trumpeted by Whitehall and the council as ‘regenerating’ the area.
In January Heartlands laid off two staff – now it’s in crisis talks over dropping its business rental rates.
The Heartlands project raised a furore on Facebook when it emerged so much public money was going into it, and that the council was a financial partner in its running.
Promotional videos went viral and were ridiculed as ‘Soma-land’ – a reference to the mind-numbing happy-drug of Aldous Huxley’s 1930s dystopian classic ‘Brave New World’
But criticism of site was crushed at launch.
In 2011 small businesses crossed their fingers the play-park would work as bosses spent thousands of public pounds on a vast PR drive which appeared to consist chiefly of an attempt to get supporters to post ‘Wow’ on social media.
Big pink and pastel signs – since partly ripped down – at a large traffic junction rebuilt near the parks entrance also proclaimed ‘Wow’.
As the site opened, four ladies moved into the business units: a photographer, a psychic, a maker of ‘shabby chic’ furniture, and a holistic healer.
Some of the four exchanged the remark ‘Wow’ on Facebook.
The staggering PR drivel for Heartlands oozes soft-soap about ‘diversity’, ‘diaspora’ (six granite boulders representing the Cornish Diaspora), before inviting locals to plunge into an ‘immersion-scape’.
Folk from the proud working class towns of Camborne and Reduth can snap up a Hand & Forearm Aromatherapy Massage for a tenner, enjoy an hour of foot ‘reflexology’ for £20, or for just £28, get their ears candled.
At Magnetic Earth, the shop-girls, grease monkeys and struggling small tradesmen of the two towns can enrol in ‘Mayan Cosmology Courses & workshops’, and undergo ‘Soul Readings’, whilst resting assured of a “stunning selection of high grade Crystals & pendulums”, should they have any readies left over.
Typical of recent events at Heartlands was January 2014’s Holistic Health and Spiritual Weekend
For two quid visitors got the chance to browse stalls offering “healing, reiki, shiatsu, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, aura soma therapy, sound healing, reflexology, massage, readings”, and last but not least – ‘angels’
Supporters say over the last two years Heartlands has proved a vital community hub.
Critics say it’s a pointless shrine to hippy-divorcees-who-lunch.
Opinions aside – in 2014, Heartlands can’t afford to pay its staff, or charge for its units.
CCN got an email last week from a local who said they knew one of the two people laid off early this year. It offered a scathing, if blunt, description of the beleagured site.
The message, which focused on a seperate story, read in a brief aside: “The place is bollocks.
“Nobody goes thear (sic ). They told mate had a job but now has to go back on the dole.”
Just weeks after sacking the two staff, Heartlands held a secret meeting with on-site traders about a ‘new business plan’.
A council spokeswoman told reporters: “There has been a meeting between the traders at Heartlands and the Heartlands Trust.
“It was not be a public meeting. It provided an update to the traders on the new business plan and future aspirations of the site.
“The change of use application is an element of the new business plan for Heartlands.
“The change of use aims to give greater flexibility over the type of business which is allowed to occupy the units available for rent in Market Square at Heartlands.
“Heartlands aims to see Market Square populated with a diverse mix of units which provide a year round presence.
“This is emphasised in the new business plan by more advantageous rental rates compared to other forms of use.”