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PBSA in Penryn to Resume Construction 'Imminently'

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According to a local councillor, an empty student accommodation block in Penryn, which ceased construction over a year ago, has been dubbed an "insult" to the community amidst Cornwall's housing crisis.

The building, known as Studytel or the "purple cube", was being constructed by Caledonian Modular but was abandoned in March 2022 due to the company going into administration.

Sondica, a company based on the Isle of Man, had contracted Caledonian Modular for the £40m turnkey project. The planning department of Cornwall Council granted permission for the 528-bed student accommodation block on Kernick Industrial Estate back in 2018.

The Kernick Carbuncle, as locals have labelled it, was originally intended to open its doors to Falmouth University students for the 2021/22 academic year.

Sondica has commented on the matter, assuring local residents that they have no plans to walk away and remain heavily invested in completing the building. They claimed that work will commence "imminently".

Tamsyn Widdon, Cornwall councillor for Penryn expressed her scepticism, claiming that the company has been using the term "imminently" for the past two years. She expressed concerns that the unfinished structure could continue to decay for another ten years.

The Green Party councillor commented: "You can see it from the school and houses - it's not just the visual impact, it's more the insult that there's a housing crisis and this has just been abandoned.

"This is a really visual example of what's wrong with our housing market and regulation system. It shouldn't be the case that they're just allowed to abandon it for this amount of time. Through Cornwall Council, there is no financial leverage that we can use to force them to even clear off the community field that we've lost, as there's gravel on it now.

"There's absolutely nothing Cornwall Council can do. I've pushed and pushed and they won't even escalate it to the ombudsman because within the rules of housing development and planning laws, once the developer has that planning permission they've got all the time in the world to do what they want with it unless they do something illegal. That could be sitting there like that for ten years.

"This is a political choice, to allow money to be made from development with nothing to penalise people who don't act in the benefit of the community."

Sondica / Studytel's spokesperson acknowledged the complexities resulting from the construction company's bankruptcy but stressed their commitment to restarting the project. They acknowledged the frustrations of the local community, which perceives a lack of progress and fears the building's deterioration. Assuring that work will commence soon, they expressed their dedication to the project, which involves substantial financial investments in Cornwall. The spokesperson dismissed unfounded rumours and distractions, emphasizing the ongoing efforts to mobilize and resolve the legacy issues left by the previous contractors.

They emphasized the paramount importance of maintaining the quality of the student accommodation and the need to address any potential issues before resuming construction fully. The company has deployed a global forensic engineering team to assess the completed work and identify necessary improvements to avoid potential setbacks during the forthcoming phase.

Regarding the recently delivered mattresses, Sondica assured the public that they are being stored securely.

The building, currently lacking cladding, stands out due to its temporary weather defence material, which happens to be purple. Graffiti covers much of the surrounding fencing and security boards.

The Parkengue Road development is intended to offer self-contained studios, cluster apartments with shared kitchens, and communal spaces. Additionally, the project aims to incorporate a Winter Garden Library that provides shared working spaces for both students and startup businesses.


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