Point Cloud Penzance – the town in 3D

Using 3D data (LiDAR) collected by the Environment Agency through the Government Open Data initiative I have created an interactive 3D model of the town centre of Penzance, Cornwall.

It’s a very detailed model, with a measurement point every 50cm or so across the entire town. There are 12.9 million vertices (points) in this model.

You may need a reasonably modern computer for the model to work correctly, but give it a try. Use your left mouse button to rotate the model, right-hand button to pan, and the scroll wheel (or equivalent gesture) to zoom.

View this model directly on Sketchfab, where you can try full-screen mode.

If you get too close to buildings you may notice that you can see the ‘points’ that the model is made from. In the future technology will allow agencies to collect much more accurate and dense data, and faster computers will allow us to view more detailed models. Until then – enjoy!

LiDAR data is extremely useful to archaeologists to identify features in the landscape. This is my primary use of such data. In the future data like this will be useful for understanding how our towns have changed. This model is presented here for a bit of fun, and to demonstrate the many uses that this kind of data can have.

Penzance LiDAR
Penzance LiDAR with Ambient Occlusion to show streets and features more clearly.

Is Penzance’s Iconic Market House falling into disrepair?

As Penzance celebrates the 400th anniversary of the granting of its Royal Charter by King James I, is its most iconic building, the handsome Market House, falling into disrepair?

[See the updates at the bottom of this post – as of September 2014 progress has been made and the first wave of repairs to the Market House are due to begin in October]

To use its formal name, Penzance Market Building is Grade I listed (English Heritage building ID: 69515), and of national importance. Its impressive portico atop ionic columns on the eastern side has commanded the view of Market Jew Street since its completion in 1838. The building, crowned by its lead-covered dome with octagonal lantern, can be seen from all around the town and surrounding landscape.

The western half of the building is occupied by Lloyds Bank. Unfortunately the eastern half, once home to the town’s Guildhall, lays empty and at risk from further dilapidation. The basement shop has been vacant for many years. The former clothes shop on the ground floor closed over two years ago. The businesses occupying the offices on the first floor left years ago. There are no “To Let” signs. Many of the basement windows are boarded up.

It is becoming a shadow of its former glory, right under the eyes of everyone who lives in, works in, or visits the town. Slow decline can be difficult to notice. But listen to tourists visiting the town – I have heard several saying that it was a shame that it’s all shut up.

A few weeks ago, I had a good look at the eastern half of building. A quick look through the middle side door on Market Place alerted me to the damage that may be occurring inside.

The middle side door

Damp runs up the wall and across the ceiling. Fallen plaster lays on the floor. This indicates water ingress, possibly as a result of the recent storms. There will also be damage in the floor above.

Damp and fallen plaster

Damp and fallen plaster

Inside the old Guildhall, with its beautiful moulded ceiling, paint is peeling off and plaster falling off around the ornate ceiling rose. Dark stains indicate water damage.

Peeling paint and fallen plaster around the ornate ceiling rose

Peeling paint and fallen plaster around the ornate ceiling rose

Meanwhile, several of the windows of the basement are boarded up, reinforcing an image of neglect.

Boarded up windows

Tehmina and I have been worried about the building for a long time, and have gone to some effort to try and discover who is responsible for the building. The Corporation of Penzance owned the building until 1965 when it sold it to Lloyds Bank, retaining use of the flagpole and portico for official occasions.

Lloyds sold the freehold of the Market Building in 1995 as part of a sale and leaseback programme. They remain lessees of the building, and responsible for repairs. Sadly, until recent pressure, they have let the unoccupied (eastern) portion building fall into disrepair. The lack of any “To Let” signs have done little to encourage local businesses to move into the premises.

The best way to look after a historic building is to use it. People working there would notice leaks, and keep it ventilated and heated. This is what needs to happen to our beloved Market House. It needs to be used again.

In mid-April, after first noticing the damage inside, we contacted the Cornwall Buildings Group with our concerns.
They took them very seriously, and summarised them on their website:

We are concerned about the state of the Market House building, Market Jew Street, Penzance. The major portion including the basement lies derelict and has done so for some years. We are concerned that

  1. Despite the building being cleaned in 2011 the surface of the granite is showing signs of algenous growth and vegetation is emerging from the pointing between the granite blocks.

  2. There are probable damp problems in the basement, it has been boarded up for so long.

  3. Plaster is falling from within and the interiors are becoming ruinous.

  4. The building appears to be in a neglected state

We have asked Cornwall Council Enforcement and a conservation officer to get together to look at this important building in Penzance.

Cornwall Buildings Group also wrote to SAVE and the Victorian Society. I have done the same to the latter and Cornwall Council.

Simon Reed, a good friend and former Mayor of Penzance, has been lobbying Town and County Councillors, and the matter will be brought before Penzance Town Council’s Planning Committee on 21 May 2014.

The pressure from the Cornwall Buildings Group has caught the attention of local newspaper, The Cornishman, in the article “Pressure group calls for clean-up of Penzance’s historic Market House” which was published whilst I was drafting this blog post.

A Lloyds spokesman said:

“We understand that Market House is an important place in Penzance and take our responsibility to manage the building very seriously”

“We are currently evaluating the required work, and plan to carry out a repair programme over the coming months.”

This is excellent news. However, we must continue to keep up the pressure to make sure that this grand old building gets the new lease of life that it deserves.

Penzance Market House was built to:

direct its users attention away from the vulgarity of the streets and the uninspired and often depressingly ugly uniformity of the town.

Here’s to it continuing to do just that. Maybe one day it could even host the Town’s market once again.

See more photos of the problems caused by the dereliction of the Market House.

[Update] There is a movement by Popup Penzance to negotiate with the property owners to transform the vacant units into a multipurpose community venue, incorporating a museum exploring the life of scientist Humphry Davy who was born here in Penzance in 1778. It will be fantastic to have the building repaired and see it used again.

[Update 11 August 2014] No visible repairs have been made to Penzance Market House since this post was first written – I assume that we are still in the “coming months” period. Further damage is visible through the glass of the Market Place door – a large piece of wood has fallen from presumably the ceiling of the landing and slid down the stairs. Further plaster is visible on the floor.

Damp, fallen plaster and wood inside the Market Place door into the eastern half of Penzance Market House

The warm weather has dried out some of the damp visible on the ceiling of the former Guildhall, but it is not possible to see if any plaster has fallen off. The building requires an internal inspection.

There are still no “To Let” signs, suggesting a lack of will to have the building reoccupied.

Cornwall Buildings Group have issued a statement about the state of Cornwall’s listed buildings and Cornwall Council’s lack of action in several cases. Watch this space.

[Update 27 September 2014]

Progress. A survey of the external and limited internal damage has been completed, and a planning application has been made and approved by Cornwall Council. The Heritage Statement, prepared by B3 Architects suggests that an enforcement notice has been served on Lloyds, compelling them to fix the damage. It makes sad reading:

To date the bank as failed in its duty to maintain this building effectively so these proposed works – as a result of the enforcement notice – are designed to put that shortcoming right.

The damage in the eastern half is more extensive than is visible from the outside, and quite shocking, especially on the first floor:

This area has suffered from lack of maintenance for many years; there is a large buildup of organic spores on all surfaces.

The ceilings have largely collapsed, the doors have delaminated and a good portion of the flooring is soft under foot.

This area is a danger to Health and a real safety risk. It should not be occupied unless under strict supervision.

According to a further report in The Cornishman entitled Repairs to start at listed Market House building in Penzance repairs will begin in October 2014, and from a glance at the Heritage Statement, it’s going to cost Lloyds a pretty penny as the entire building and dome will be encased in walled and roofed scaffolding.

This is just the first planning application to get the building watertight. Further work and applications will be required to repair the rooms inside. Doubtless this will cost several hundred thousand pounds to complete – all because routine maintanance hadn’t been undertaken.

Hopefully this is the beginning of getting our wonderful Market House back into shape, and bringing the eastern half back into use. We are on the path to helping Penzance be proud of it once more.

Something strange on the beach

I was cycling along the cycle path to the Longrock area of Penzance on Sunday, when I noticed something distinctly unusual happening on the beach.

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When I got a little closer, it turned out to be a very long row of people.

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The person on the right hand side of this photo was standing at a tripod, so I assume that this was part of an art project, rather than a spontaneous “line mob” on a showery Sunday afternoon.

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If anyone knows anything about this, I’d love to hear about it, and see the end result. Please leave a comment if you can.

[Update] Simon Reed suggests that this was one of artist Hamish Fulton’s Communal Walks, and I reckon he’s right. Mystery solved. Thanks, Simon!

The Pasties of Penzance

Pasty from Ian Lentern butchers, Penzance
Pasty from Ian Lentern butchers, Penzance
Pasty from Ian Lentern butchers, Penzance

Does Penzance have more pasty shops than anywhere else in Cornwall? The total number of establishments selling fresh hot pasties is now at 20.

When I moved to Penzance one of the first things I had to eat was, of course, a pasty. It was huge. Bigger than my head, and I couldn’t finish it. It was from Lavenders, and made here in the town. After that, I noticed the sheer number of establishments which sold pasties. And there began a most important piece of research. Is Penzance the pasty capital of Cornwall?

Here is a list of establishments that sell fresh, hot (as hot as the Pasty Tax allows, anyway) pasties, baked daily. In the town centre there are 18 19 20 such places. If you know of anywhere that isn’t on the list, tell me. If you know of any other town in Cornwall that has more pasty outlets, I want to know!

Takeaway Pasties

  • Lavenders (Alverton St)
  • Cindy’s (Alverton St)
  • Warrens (Alverton St)
  • AJ’s Eats and Treats (Causewayhead)
  • Rowes (Causewayhead)
  • Mounts Bay Pasty Company (Market Jew St)
  • Warrens (upper Market Jew St)
  • Pellows (Market Jew St)
  • Rowes (Market Jew St)
  • Warrens (lower Market Jew St)
  • Lavenders (Market Jew St)
  • Dreckleys Steakhouse (Wharf Rd)
  • Steamers (Penzance Station)
  • Chy an Clare News (St Clare St, allegedly baked by Lavenders)
  • Costcutters (Market Jew St, sells hot Rowes pasties)
  • Ian Lentern butchers (Chapel St)
  • Cornish Hen deli (Market Place)
  • All Day Takeaway & Ice Cream shop (Barbican & Coinagehall St junction)
  • Barbican Coffee Shop (Barbican Lane)

(19)

Pasties for Eat-in Only

  • Tremenheere Wetherspoons (Market Jew St)

(1)

Pasty and SwanThe best pasties in Penzance?

I’ve had a pasty for my croust (Cornish term for lunch, or just a time when you’re starving) from most of the places listed above. My personal preference is for a large pasty from the Mounts Bay Pasty Company. They’ve got plenty of sweetness and gravy, and the pastry is just right, and nice and buttery, with soft delicious meat. I do like a Lavenders pasty on occasion, but lately they’ve been a bit too salty for me. Warrens is probably the best “mass produced” baker’s pasty in Penzance. They’re actually made in St Just, so it’s still pretty local.

I need your help

Is Penzance truly the pasty capital of Cornwall? Have I missed somewhere? Probably! Leave a comment below and I’ll publish it and add to the list. Does your town have more pasty outlets? Prove it!

Open Shed – a new hackspace in Penzance

Open Shed

[Update May 2014] Sadly Open Shed closed in May 2014 due to the inability to grow membership enough to meet costs.  

For the last six weeks I have been doing something a little bit different. From a friend, I heard that a small group of people were setting up a hackspace to provide a place for people interested in and working with technology to get together to work on projects. It would include a hot-desking (coworking) area for people working at home to escape and work in a more sociable way, whilst sharing skills and knowledge, a room for events and courses. There would be an electronics lab, a workshop, and a small café, and the chance to meet with like minds. I was excited at the prospect.

The hackspace was to be called Open Shed, and I signed up to the email list as soon as I could. A scout through the list archives revealed the prospective premises, the ground floor of Champions Yard in central Penzance, so I popped round the next day to have a peer through the window. The space looked huge, but two thirds full of junk and old machines from its former days as an amusement arcade, and one third full of the remains of a video library. But what a space. Loads of potential. Whilst looking through the murky glass, David, a member of the core group setting up Open Shed, cycled up behind me and asked me if I would like to look around – he was just about to get the keys. Well, the premises were spacious, but divided up with stud walls and absolutely full of junk. Potential and challenge in equal measure! I asked to help out there and then – this had to be made a reality.

Fast forward six weeks, and Open Shed opened for its members. As a social enterprise it also provides premises, equipment and training to help people take control of the technology that surrounds us, and helps to recycle unwanted equipment. There’s still a lot to do, and equipment to acquire, but the team of hackspace volunteers have done vast amounts of work. Stud walls have been ripped down, opening the space up again, wood and abandoned equipment has been recycled, and we have equipped a comfy café made up from reused furniture. The major hacking done so far has been to fix a professional coffee machine (using parts taken from a broken fruit machine), some welding, some bike fixing, building a café countertop, rewiring, and making a website. We’ve got four Raspberry Pi computers, lots of donated broken computers which we’re fixing, and our first event coming up.

I now volunteer on a regular basis, and when the coworking space is ready, I intend to work here most days on my own projects and treat it as my workplace, as well as helping to run it as a cooperative member. Not bad for £50 a year – the price to join Open Shed as a member.

Rather than repeat all of the information about Open Shed, visit the website and find out more. We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to buy equipment to further fit out the space, so if you can help (and you’re reading this before October 2012) please watch our video and read our pitch, and donate if you can.

If you’re a self-styled geek, nerd, or are just enthusiastic about technology, and you find yourself in Penzance, Cornwall, drop by our hackspace in Champions Yard (to the right of the cinema on Causewayhead – see Google for a map) for a cup of coffee, some wifi, or join us!