Wessex CLT Project

Wessex CLT Project logo

Community Led Housing: The Wessex CLT Project

In 2010 WCA was commissioned by Carnegie UK Trust to carry out action research into the establishment of a CLT support project in Somerset and Dorset.

In 2011 the CLT Project was funded by Devon County Council to include Devon within its remit. This became the Wessex CLT Project which now provides comprehensive support to CLTs at various stages of development throughout the three counties – see map on projects page. The Wessex CLT Project is now financially self-sustaining.

The Wessex CLT Project provides end-to-end technical advice to community led housing projects. Wessex-supported CLTs have led the development of over 100 homes across Somerset, Devon and Dorset with over 250 more in the pipeline; almost all built by the CLTs’ housing association partners on community-owned land.

In 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 CLTs supported by WCLTP received Devon Rural Housing Awards: Christow, Corry Valley, Appledore, Upton Pyne, Bradworthy, Chagford, Upper Culm and Cheriton Bishop. In 2015, Toller Porcorum CLT was awarded Volunteer Group of the Year in Dorset and, in 2018, Liz Maunder of Norton sub Hamdon CLT and Lyme Regis CLT won the National CLT Network’s ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ and ‘People Powered Homes’ awards respectively.

The BBC has featured three projects supported by the Wessex CLT Project – Christow, Toller Porcorum and Lyme Regis – together with the North Devon village of Croyde which, like many coastal communities, is planning to set up its own CLT. See the clips on this page.

Films

Christow CLT’s project with Teign Housing in Teignbridge. The first CLT project on Dartmoor. 5 minutes.

Lyme Regis CLT’s project with Yarlington Housing Group in West Dorset. Just over 1 minute with subtitles.

Croyde is planning to set up its own CLT to help local families with affordable housing.
Toller Porcorum CLT’s project with Aster Group in West Dorset. 3 minutes.
Lyme Regis CLT’s project with Yarlington Housing Group in West Dorset. 1.5 minutes.

Twitter

Stunning views and hefty retaining walls for Appledore CLT’s ‘almost impossible’ project with @AsterGroupUK. Supported by @torridgedc @HomesEngland @DevComsTogether @WessexCLT @mhclg

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Overheard after last week’s Frome Area CLT public meeting and SGM. “It’s so inspirational and makes me love Frome even more.”

Frome Area CLT’s SGM. Upbeat atmosphere, board elected, loads more members, revenue grant on its way, and Vanessa’s inspiring ‘Powerstock story’.

CLT/RP partnerships - ‘what could possibly go wrong’? Many thanks Paul, Karl and Vanessa of @DorsetCouncilUK @AsterGroupUK and https://t.co/YIvYAEGMmJ for your contributions today. Great to see old friends and meet new colleagues in Frome for our second experience-sharing event.

Steve and Alison travelled to Wales this week, communities all different but themes we see everywhere - wanting volunteer effort to benefit their own community; feeling the loss of vital amenities; disappointment in externally imposed developments; passion for place. https://t.co/RId4KSUFv4

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Our track record

  • CLTs incorporated: 41
  • Housing schemes completed: 16
  • Housing schemes in progress: 32
  • Homes completed and in progress: c.500
  • Income to communities from projects completed or in progress (index linked): c. £17m over 125 years
  • Asset value of homes completed or in progress (at cost): c. £100m
  • 6 consecutive years of Devon Rural Housing Partnership awards plus, in 2018, 2 inaugural National CLT Network awards
  • Regular coverage on the BBC, in the regional press, and in community housing sector publications
  • The engagement of 17 local authorities and 9 housing associations in supporting CLTs

Our services

Detailed below is the range of services provided by WCLTP to CLTs working in partnership with a Housing Association.

Social Enterprise Development Support for Community Housing Groups

Providing information on, and examples of, possible models for community housing projects and facilitating contact with other community housing groups.

Business planning

Facilitating the community housing group’s vision for the project, considering an appropriate model of community housing, exploring the implications for capital and revenue funding etc.

Legal formats and documentation

Considering of appropriate legal entities such as a Community Interest Company, Community Benefit Society, Company Limited by Guarantee (with exempt charity status) etc. Help will be provided to draft the objectives of, and to incorporate, the new organisation.

Communication

Supporting the community group in its communications with the wider community as and when required, including as many public meetings as necessary.

Training

Organising training sessions in response to the community group’s emerging needs. These include sessions on a) accounting, b) governance, and c) allocations. Arranging peer-learning visits to other communities.

Strategic advice

Researching ways of improving the social and financial return to community groups and advising on the implications of emerging initiatives such as the Government’s Community Housing Fund.

Lobbying

Working with others in the Community Housing sector to maximise resources and policy support for community-led projects, including relationships with MPs, civil servants and special advisers.


Affordable Housing Support for Community Housing Groups

Site identification and land acquisition

Advising on the site selection process and on the heads of terms between the community group and the landowner. Advising on the content and structure of a public meeting designed to win the support of the wider community for a recommended site. Recommending solicitors based on our experience of other projects. Providing template forms of option agreement and lease as necessary.

Planning issues

Supporting the community group in deciding the number, type, tenure and design principles of the proposed housing and to play a full part in promulgation of the planning application. Facilitating discussions between the community, HA (if involved) and LA about the wording of the Section 106 agreement (where applicable) and ensuring that the community’s preferences are incorporated as fully as possible.

Development risks

Ensuring that the party taking the development risk understands the implications should any such risks materialise. Advising on the tendering and commission of professional advisers: architects, surveys, engineers and so on.

Project Management

Administering project team meetings; drafting agendas, chairing and taking minutes as required until the community group feels confident enough to take these on. Maintaining an up to date project plan which forecasts when all elements of a project will take place.
Problem Solving – Helping to keep the project on track by problem solving as and when snags arise; ranging from the withdrawal of grant for rented housing (e.g. in the CSR November 2015) to occasional reductions in the capacity of volunteers.

Access to Funds

Advising community-led housing groups regarding possible sources of funding at each stage of the project; assisting with drafting funding bids and developing supporting documentation.

Promotion

Communicating the availability of the Community Housing Fund to community groups.


Frequently Asked Questions

Community Land Trusts (or CLTs) are community led organisations set up to own assets (such as housing, land, pubs, shops) for the benefit of that community. CLTs are run by local people and everyone living and working in the community should have the opportunity to join. The first project of a CLT is usually developing affordable homes for local people.

Please do contact us for an informal conversation about setting up a CLT if your community is based in Somerset, Dorset or Devon. If your community is based elsewhere in England or Wales please contact the National CLT Network (www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk) for information on setting up a CLT and support services local to you.

All communities are different but some of the motivations we have identified are:

Local people can be very passionate about where they live and want to keep it as sustainable and thriving a community as possible – CLTs help to make communities more sustainable by enabling appropriate development and stewarding important local assets.
Wanting to achieve agreement within the community about the nature of development (since development can often be contentious and split communities)
Wanting influence of the nature of any development (over such things as where homes will be built, what they will look like, and the criteria for those selected to live in the homes)

Our experience is that once a CLT is formed and begins to look at sites and talk to local land owners, sites often come forward that previously were unavailable. One reason for this is that land owners can be attracted to the community benefit of selling land to a CLT for community led homes.

Our experience is that people are attracted to volunteering for a CLT who might not have volunteered for other community activities. This could be because CLTs are very focused on one issue (at a time!)

The CLT’s housing association partner pays for the land by entering into a long-term lease with the landowner; the landowner then transfers the freehold to the CLT for £1.

This means that, without having to fund-raise, the CLT becomes the freeholder; in other words the ‘landlord’ to the housing association’s ‘tenant’. These transactions are formalised in an Option Agreement which is signed by the CLT, HA and landowner before a planning application is submitted.

Some HAs are interested and experienced in working with CLTs; others aren’t. The Wessex CLT Project has worked with 4 HAs on over 30 CLT projects since 2010 and more HAs are thought to be interested. There is a formal selection process involving an objective evaluation and the HA is selected which best suits the objectives of the CLT.

If the CLT builds on an exception site (i.e. a site adjacent to the settlement boundary where housing development would not normally be permitted), then a legally binding planning agreement (known as a Section 106 Agreement) is that the homes must be prioritised for local people. It is only on this condition that planning permission would be granted and of course this accords completely with the CLT’s ethos.

As the freeholder, the CLT would be party to this legal binding planning agreement and this means that it could not be changed without the CLT’s consent. If the homes are built within the settlement boundary, the CLT would require a similarly binding planning agreement to be put in place.

The CLT also works with its HA-partner and District Council to put an allocations plan in place which details the criteria by which people are deemed to have a local connection i.e. the minimum length of time they should have lived or worked in the village, or had family connections here.

No.

This is because tenants cannot buy their homes under the Government’s new Voluntary Right to Buy where there are legal barriers to prevent it. For CLTs, the legally binding planning agreement (known as a Section 106 Agreement) requires the homes to be affordable in perpetuity. In addition, a clause in the CLT’s 125-year lease with its HA-partner will prevent the HA from ever selling homes under the Voluntary Right to Buy without the CLT’s permission.

As a community-led organisation, CLTs can apply for grants to carry out feasibility work and make planning applications. This grant is used by CLTs to appoint architects, surveyors, engineers, ecologists etc and to meet planning fees; all helping to ensure that the design of the homes has the community’s support.