PEOPLE power has ensured that an historic building will be kept as housing for local families in Looe.

The Three Seas organisation has raised £200,000 in just five months to safeguard the Coastguard Flats.

The building, sitting high on the hillside of West Looe overlooking the harbour, had been used as social housing but is currently in a state of very poor repair.

After purchasing the property from Cornwall Council for just £1, Three Seas set about just five months ago to obtain the £2-million needed for a quality refurbishment.

With the capital in large part coming from Homes England and Cornwall Council, the organisation has just agreed a £250,000 loan from the ethical Triodos Bank – money which will be repaid from the rents taken once tenants move in to the flats.

Raising awareness of the housing need in Looe is the Three Seas banner
Raising awareness of the housing need in Looe is the Three Seas banner ( )

A Community Shares scheme has been a pivotal part of the project, said Three Seas manager Simon Ryan, and the £100,000 invested by some 150 people will be match funded by the Co-op.

Volunteer members of the Looe Community Land Trust were out last week to help with the final push to sign people up and raise the remaining cash.

Speaking on the last day of the appeal was Simon Ryan: “There’s so much excitement and we’ve had a lot of people coming in to write us cheques or pay cash.

“The Community Shares scheme only started two months ago. We’ve been grateful to have Larsson’s cafe in Buller Street thanks to Mr Rodda – it’s been very helpful to have a presence in the centre, and a lot of people have come especially to talk to us and understand the project.

“In monetary terms the Community Shares is only 10 per cent but in terms of democracy and ownership it’s massive. To make any changes, everyone will have to be consulted.”

Three Seas is a Community Benefit Society and is currently in the process of becoming a registered housing provider.

With a successful project on the Rame Peninsula under its belt, the organisation sees the Looe Coastguard Flats as a beacon for what can be done to support local people and mitigate the housing crisis in Cornwall – particularly in coastal communities, where a place to live can be so far out of reach.

“Cornwall Council tells us there are other such properties around the county. This is definitely the way forward and Looe is going to be the pioneer,” said Simon. “The Coastguard Flats is a Grade II Listed building but that’s a benefit. We’re going to do it all properly and preserve it for the long term. With the energy efficiency measures, energy bills here will be almost zero – and that will be amazing for the people on low incomes that we are trying to support.”