Home / News / Shipping container housing company moved factory to Kent because Cornwall Council 'not interested'

Shipping container housing company moved factory to Kent because Cornwall Council 'not interested'

Nov 10, 2023Nov 10, 2023

Truro-based ISO Spaces provides temporary accommodation for many authorities but Cornwall Council isn't one of them

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The owner of a Cornish company which recycles shipping containers used to house the homeless has moved its factory with up to 60 jobs to Kent because it said Cornwall Council wasn't interested in its services.

Based in Truro, ISO Spaces has been finding new uses for shipping containers since it was founded by former stockbrokers Ben Treleaven and Gregg Curtis in 2013.

The company, recently named as one of the fastest-growing firms in the UK, converts containers into trendy office spaces, pop-up bars, open air cinemas.

But right now providing temporary accommodation for desperate councils across the country is proving to be big business.

After converting 1,000 metal units into living spaces in 2018 alone, this year the company is looking to transform more lives by converting a further 1,000 units, rising to 2,000 in 2020.

ISO Spaces now has contracts with several local authorities to social housing units for homeless families, delivering units to councils in Ealing, Cardiff, Milton Keynes and even Dublin.

Despite the growing homeless problem in the county, so far Cornwall Council has not called upon the services of ISO Spaces.

ISO Spaces co-founder and managing director Mr Treleaven said the company's manufacturing factory was recently moved from Par to Kent, because it couldn't get any orders from Cornwall Council.

"We ended up creating 50 to 60 jobs up in Kent, which would have stayed here if the council had put in an order with us," he said. "The council has just approved £39m in funding (for temporary accommodation), so, yes, this could and should work in Cornwall. The homelessness problem down here is massive.

"I first met Kate Kennally (Cornwall Council chief executive) three years ago, and she said ‘this is brilliant’, and keeps introducing me to various people, saying, ‘why don't we give you this site?’ but they just don't do anything about it.

"Over the past four or five years we schemed up 50 sites for Cornwall Council, all funded on leases, including at the Aerohub at Newquay airport.

"It's proved to be tricky working with Cornwall Council, compared with other local authorities. I just lost my will with them in the end. I feel like they kept kicking the can down the road with this.

"We employ five graduates from Falmouth University. We could have housing designed and built by Cornish people, for Cornish people in Cornwall."

Mr Treleaven said he was continuing to meet with Cornwall Council, while a spokesman for the authority confirmed that the container scheme was one of "a number of options" being considered.

"The council has recently agreed to spend £39.3m to provide 250 homes that will offer good quality, affordable, temporary accommodation in locations where it is needed to ensure people have somewhere safe to stay, and to provide stability and give people a better chance to find or keep work," Cornwall Council said.

"We are looking at a number of options including the potential of ‘container’ schemes and have met with suppliers to discuss how we can potentially bring forward this option.

"These schemes would require planning permission and we are looking at small scale sites as well as drawing on the experiences of other local authorities who have gone down this route."

ISO Spaces was recently named as having the tenth fastest-growing sales of all private companies in Britain, in a list compiled by Fast Track and published in The Sunday Times in December.

Last year, the young company grew sales to £5.6 million.

"We should be a flagship business for Cornwall and get some support," Mr Treleaven added. "We have paid 70% of our revenue back into Cornwall."