Ambitious plans to turn a mostly derelict harbour and brownfield site into one of Cornwall’s most attractive and vibrant destinations are coming to life.

Hayle harbour used to be home to heavy industry, until most buildings were demolished in the 1940s or 1950s.

And after decades of dereliction and many failed attempts to regenerate the harbour, work is currently underway to turn it into a bustling riverside quarter.

Phase 1 will feature approximately 140 properties over eleven buildings, including 17 three-bedroom wharf-style houses and one, two and three-bedroom apartments, many with views over the Hayle estuary.

It also includes the development of North Quay Square, which will host events all year round, and some 20 retail units for offices, shops and restaurants, creating a bustling café culture.

Simon Wright, CEO of Corinthian Homes.
Simon Wright, CEO of Corinthian Homes. (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Phase 2, which hasn’t been approved by Cornwall Council yet, would include a new hotel and community centre, improved water sport and harbour facilities, a cinema and new open-market and affordable homes.

Cornwall Live has met with Simon Wright, chief executive of developer Corinthian Homes, to discuss the progress of the scheme.

After ten years of pre-planning, three years of planning,months to change plans following consultations with residents and organisations including Cornwall Council and UNESCO, the construction works are well underway.

“We bought the site five years ago, but the talks lasted much longer,” Mr Wright said. “Cornwall Council was very keen to see it regenerated.

“There was planning for 1,000 homes, but we are building about 500 because it’s the right thing to do.”

The works started seven months ago and, despite being suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, they reached a significant construction milestone earlier this month after the superstructure to the first block of new quayside townhouses, which will be named Cannery Row, was completed.

More than 80 people are currently working on site, most of them being from the local area.

Construction work continues at the North Quay development (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Although the first residents will move into Cannery Row in the autumn, completing the harbour’s makeover will take years.

“We’ll be here in the next seven to ten years,” Mr Wright confirmed.

Major ground works are currently being carried out to create two underground car parks near Cannery Row. There will be space for 268 parking spaces as well as surfboard and wetsuit storage.

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Mr Wright said they chose to do it underground not to ruin the views.

Elsewhere on site, structural work is under way on the first block of apartments, work has started to prepare a new spine road which will link the waterfront and hilltop areas of the site. Demolition of the last remaining redundant buildings will start shortly.

Workers are digging two underground car parks (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

On the commercial side of the development, things are also shaping up.

The new quarter will include an art centre, a wedding venue overlooking the river, shops - and some of the units have already been allocated.

“We’ve already got two restaurants, a gin distillery and one hotel signed up,” Mr Wright said, adding that he is also in talks with a local artisan baker.

CGI of what Hayle harbour could look like after being transformed (Image: James Lawley)

Mr Wright wants the quay where the old Customs House is located to be extended. He also envisions a marina to be built in the future.

"On average, people who moor one night spend £78 locally," he explained.

The hope is that the regeneration of the harbour will stimulate economic growth in the town and that North Quay will become a destination in its own right, for people living and working locally or enjoying a visit to Hayle.

Cannery Row, which will offer waterside townhouses (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“Hayle could have really died,” Mr Wright said. “Locals think we are regenerating something that was going backwards.”

But, above all, the developer stresses that he wants North Quay to be accessible and attractive to the local population.

There are plans to extend the quay were the current slipway is. A bridge will also be built between North Quay and East Quay (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“We want to keep the fishing element,” he explained. “We have currently 26 fishermen in the harbour. We’ll do everything we can to support them.

“The quayside is also still open for walkers.

“We are building 93 homes and want to give them to locals. I don’t want anybody to think, ‘I can’t afford to go to Hayle’.”

Public access to Hayle beach will be maintained for all to enjoy and there will also be new seating areas incorporated into key locations along the wharf.

CGI on how the finished townhouses at North Quay, Hayle, could look (Image: James Lawley)

A planning application has already been submitted for Phase 2 of the scheme.

It includes 377 homes, a new hotel, a multifunction community hall, improved water sports facilities, cinema, an art gallery, a water sports centre, improved facilities for local fishermen, additional moorings and a new pedestrian footbridge to East Quay.