What is life like on Penzance's Treneere estate?

By Johanna Carr
BBC News

media captionThe Coram family say low wages make daily life a struggle in Penzance

The Treneere estate in Penzance is one of the most deprived areas of England. It has suffered a slow decline since it was built in the 1930s to provide social housing and a better life for many. Four members of the same family describe what life is like on an estate where such labels are rejected by many who live there.


image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image captionAmanda Coram says the deprivation label makes her angry - "we're just normal people"

Amanda Coram has lived on the Treneere estate for 32 years. When she arrived, she was 18 and pregnant.

"I've been accepted the whole way through," she says. "[One of my previous relationships] was quite violent and people on the estate would come through my door if they heard any noises and come and save me.

"Your family is what makes your life down here."

The 49-year-old has four children and 12 grandchildren, all living on the estate. She and husband Mike, two of her daughters and one of her granddaughters live in a housing association property, which she says they are lucky to have.

Amanda previously worked as a chef but is now unemployed. Mike works, but their low incomes means they rarely go out.

"We're a middle-aged couple, we should be out having a meal. We can't do that, we can't afford to do that."

image captionFigures show income deprivation on the estate affects 52% of children there

Amanda has PTSD as a result of the domestic violence. She believes a lot of the problems in the area are down to poor mental health and there should be better care.

"I was offered two different types of therapy at least two years ago, I have never seen anyone," she says.

"Some people are just really vulnerable and even if they are taking drugs, why? Why are they drinking, why are they taking drugs? When is the mental health system going to stand up and take responsibility for people?"

Amanda says the majority of children on the estate will work jobs in the town but they lack confidence and "don't dream as big" as they could.

image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image captionAmanda hopes her granddaughter won't "worry that she is not good enough to go to university - that is how my kids felt, that is how I felt"

"The parents get stuck - you just have to go to work and survive, so [you're] not pushing the children. I would absolutely love to be able to hand my children the money and say 'there you go' but you can't do that, you're not going to earn the wages down here.

"So they have to have a work ethic, but the work ethic is being smashed because they just aren't getting the wages. So they feel, I don't know, just let down I suppose."

The mother of four worries about the opportunities available to her children.

"My kids - I think - are quite happy. Two of them will stay here until Doomsday and two of them want to go. [One] could really do well for herself. She's a really good chef and she's been offered some work in Australia and if she's got any sense she will take it and go."


image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image captionLucy says her apprenticeship is her way out of Treneere

Lucy Coram is Amanda's youngest child. She's described as "different" from the rest of her family.

"I'm the only one out of all of us that's not had children," says the 19-year-old. "I want to experience my life because I want to get up and I want to go out, I want to say I did something with my life."

Lucy struggled in school and dropped out of college but then took an apprenticeship working as a chef in a local restaurant. She sees it as her way out.

"Some people just didn't choose to work and chose to do other things, whereas some of us actually wanted to get up and do something, go to work and do something with our lives instead of just sitting around taking drugs and drinking."

Lucy says Penzance is a "very beautiful place, but Treneere has a reputation".

"You go anywhere and mention Treneere and no-one quite likes it - everybody has heard about Treneere. I'm a bit different. I keep myself to myself. I go to work, I come home, stay in my bedroom, don't do anything."

image captionLucy said Treneere was "not somewhere you'd want to be, but it's home I guess"

Lucy wants to travel and one of her tutors has offered to put her in touch with job opportunities in Australia. But she has concerns about leaving her close-knit family.

"I love my mum, I love my dad and I love my whole family but if I want to do something, they will always be supportive of me. If there is ever a down day where I say 'no, I don't want to do it, no I don't want to leave' they are always like, 'you have got to do it'."

Lucy wants to make sure she is ready "in herself" before taking the Australia opportunity or travelling elsewhere.

"I'm going to take what I can right now in Penzance and then go."


  • Treneere is a council estate situated just over a mile from Penzance's seafront. It was built in the 1930s as part of a programme of national slum clearance
  • The scheme attracted controversy when the council sought a compulsory purchase order for 18 acres of land, then known as Treneere fields. Opponents labelled the cost of the 500-house development - about £140,000 - as "extravagant"
  • The estate, which is bordered by open fields on one side and Penzance town on the other, ranks very low on the government's deprivation index which assesses factors such as income, employment and health
  • According to the latest index, published last month, Treneere is within the 3% most deprived areas in England. Income on the estate is even lower - in the bottom 1%, with income deprivation affecting 52% of children
  • However, Treneere - with its green spaces, parks, nearby school and college - scores above average on living environment


image captionNicholas's life spiralled when his baby son died

Amanda's son Nicholas Metcalfe went to the local secondary school then a pupil referral unit in Year 8. He moved out of the family home at 16 and left college with qualifications in hairdressing, construction, gardening and media studies but struggled to find a job.

Nicholas worked at KFC before working at a nearby hotel but left when his premature son died.

"That was pretty destroying, so I lost myself for a bit in that," he said. "I ended up quitting my job, throwing it all in and ended up going to the drug side of things. I was hanging around with the wrong people. Lost really."

Nicholas started smoking cannabis when he was 11, before progressing to taking cocaine, then smoking crack after the loss of his son. He says the drug problem in Penzance is "huge".

"I ended up falling into a bit of a hole, it's been quite hard to pull myself out of all of it. I'm not going to say that I've passed it yet because there are relapses, but these are rhythms I need to get out of."

image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image caption"There isn't very much here unfortunately. It's horrible to say that because it is a lovely place," says Nicholas

Nicholas is working with drug charity Addaction, going in for drug tests every three days, and also with the employment charity, Who Dares Works. He is hoping to be able to take up an opportunity to work at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant.

"I've got friends who aren't even looking to work that still live with their old dears but most of that is because their opportunities for work are very, very slim. Every time they have tried they have had no success and that obviously [dents] their confidence.

"The only thing that is helping now is Who Dares Works. They are doing really well at the minute, they are pulling in people from all over, building up confidence and stuff like that to help prepare them for when they get back into work."

You might also be interested in:


image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image captionMike loves living on Treneere: "I wouldn't move, I absolutely love it - it is a lovely place to live"

Amanda's husband Mike Coram works nights as a security dog handler. At 56, he has been doing the job, which pays minimum wage, for 20 years.

"It is what it is," he says. "There are no jobs down here that are perfect with the perfect wage. It's hard because I'd rather be at home getting into bed with the wife."

He says he gets stuck in a cycle of rarely making ends meet.

"If it's Monday and I'm already £92 overdrawn in the bank with a £100 overdraft and I have got the rest of the week to go, you scrimp and you borrow and you take a bit from here, borrow from a friend or borrow from a daughter.

"[Then you] pay it back on Friday and then start the next week back where you started."

Mike says they managed a holiday to Greece this year because he took some of his pension, not realising it would impact his tax credits.

"We might, if we are really lucky, be able to get three cappuccinos during the week from McDonald's. We don't go out. We don't go anywhere."

image copyrightBBC/Patrick Clahane
image captionThe estate is bordered by open fields on one side and Penzance town on the other

Mike, who met Amanda 13 years ago on a blind date, is proud of providing for his family and says despite their low income, he is happy.

"You have a family and that is your job in life. That was my dad's job in life and his dad's before that. It is our job to supply for our family. As long as there's food in the cupboard, there's a roof over their heads, then I have done my job.

"It's not going to make it any different by me moping around, if I wanted to better myself then yeah, I could pack my stuff I could leave the family. I could go up the country, live by myself and I could probably better myself, but I have got everything I want.

"I've got my family, I've got my kids, I've got my grandchildren just down the road. I'm still breathing, I'm still walking, just. What more do you want? I don't need anymore."

This article is part of a special series from Penzance, Cornwall. BBC News is exploring the challenges and the opportunities for communities in Coastal Britain.

More on this story