A man who lives next to an abandoned tourist attraction, which was once bustling with visitors, has said it’s now ‘demoralising’ to be there.
Heartlands used to be Cornwall’s largest adventure play park, always packed and thriving with crowds, as children begged their parents to take them there for a day out.
However, due to a lack of funding, the park and it’s equipment began ‘rotting and breaking’ after years of wear and tear.
The well-known free attraction was forced to close last week on January 31, meaning 26 members of staff lost their jobs and everything run by the Heartlands Trust such as the cafe, museum and soft play center, shut their doors permanently.
With the space itself left desolte, those who still live and trade on and around the site in Pool have concerns it will become a wasteland, doomed to attract anti-social behaviour and vandalism, Cornwall Live reports.
David Collins lives in a flat which overlooks the open courtyard where visitors could find the dramatic engine house.
He’s been residing there for 18 months, but says now it is ‘completely dead,’ joking that, ‘if you want to live somewhere peaceful and tranquil, there’s nowhere better’.
David told the outlet: ‘I asked the staff what the council had told them about the future of the site and the properties. Nothing. We’ve heard nothing from the council. Your guess is as good as mine. It’s disgusting.
‘We pay service charges and everything to Heartlands. Who do we pay now? This is our council and their property. The least they can do is keep us in the loop’.
He admitted: ‘I had a nice little bungalow in Tolgus, but wanted to move somewhere smaller after my wife died.
‘I thought this place would be ideal – there was a thriving café and it was really popular. To face this now is demoralising’.
Spanning across 19 acers and located in Pool, the park had everything from botanical gardens to mining attractions, a cafe and even a yearly firework display.
The slow death of Heartlands began once the National Lottery pulled its funding after claiming the site was unsustainable, despite attracting an estimated 360,000 visitors per year.
After unsuccesful efforts to raise cash, workers admitted last week that the 19-acre site would close after being unable to cover its rising operating costs.
Jacky Blakeway, a shop owner in the reail quarter of Heartlands, says the closure led to her having a ‘meltdown’ as she said goodbye to the staff who had been laid off.
She had run the Magnetic Earth Studios crystal shop within the attraction since the park first opened.
Jacky revealed to Cornwall Live: ‘Anti-social behaviour will become an issue if the site is left derelict.
‘In fact, it’s already started happening. There are a lot of stones across the site which are being thrown in the water containers and a window had been smashed this morning.
‘Things have started going missing too, including a picnic bench’.
However, she wants to assure the public that businesses who have been left on the site are still trading as usual, despite an ‘invisible barrier’ being created to the retail sector.
The shop owner added: ‘My own future hangs in the balance … I don’t see that we can ‘mothball’ a site that cost in excess of £30 million to create. I’m hoping from the ashes something good will rise’.
Stuart Soffe, owner of Canary Chiropratic, the shop next door to Jacky’s, adds: ‘There is a chance positive things could be coming, but there are concerns’.
However, he is, like all of the business owners nearly, worried about the maintenence of the premises and what the future holds.
Speaking on Tuesday following a meeting between the Heartlands Trust and Cornwall Council, the trust’s chairman David Sillifant said: ‘Unfortunately the meeting changed very little.
‘The trust will cease trading tomorrow and it will be the end of employment for our staff. It is terribly sad – the Lottery will not allow any further access to our endowment to keep anyone on, even for a managed wind down. You can imagine how devastated the staff are.
‘We have pressed the council for information on their plans for the future of the site, and arrangements for the commercial and residential tenants.
‘We have not been supplied with any answers or details of whom tenants should contact if they need to. Those tenants to whom we have spoken are not happy. It is unfortunate that an orderly transfer doesn’t seem within our grasp.’
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: ‘The council is committed to maintaining public access to the parks and gardens at Heartlands, once the trust’s legal obligations under the lease and management agreement come to an end.
‘The council will carry out an assessment and if necessary undertake works so that they can safely remain open. The registration service and commercially let shops and offices remain open.’