Community Land Trust Research 2015
The Wessex CLT Project was originally formed to research and promote the role of CLTs and, in that spirit of learning, Wessex Community Assets has looked more closely at the nature of local activism.
- What motivates people to become involved in CLTs and what are their aspirations?
- What does this tells us about why these projects are so successful and about the capacity of communities to not only resist decline, but to develop and thrive?
Views were canvassed from six CLTs and a range of other parties who have been involved in these projects and these have been incorporated within the final report.
The research was carried out by Dr Tom Moore, an academic who has published extensively on the emergence of CLTs in this country.
The CLTs in this study mobilised people with deep-seated emotional attachments to place. Whereas such bonds might normally express themselves as fear of change or opposition to development, through the CLTs they were channelled into leadership and advocacy. Such determined support for new homes rarely characterises other forms of housing development – quite the opposite. Counter-intuitively, it was sometimes even the neighbours of selected sites who were the most enthusiastic and active members of the CLTs; the very people who might otherwise be cast as ‘NIMBYs’.
CLTs were seen as trusted vehicles for the disposal of land by local landowners. These landowners shared the CLTs’ concerns over local housing issues and wished to ensure their land would expressly benefit the local community. The community-led nature and local focus of CLTs meant that sites for housing development could be acquired that would have otherwise been unavailable; sometimes on better terms than could be obtained by a housing association or developer.
Often, the most valuable communication between a CLT and the wider community is informal. Day-to-day conversations immeasurably enrich the set-piece consultations that take place in halls and newsletters, serving both to explain and take soundings, to discuss and debate. In this way CLTs address local sensitivities around issues such as aesthetics, environmental impact and eligibility for the homes; gradually refining the ‘fit’ of new homes to the communities which might otherwise oppose them.
Technical support was integral to the success of all schemes. Continuation of this support from the Wessex Community Land Trust Project (WCLTP) will be fundamental to increases in the scale, activities, and number of CLTs in Somerset, Devon and Dorset. The involvement of housing associations was fundamental to the efficient and successful delivery of CLT housing, absorbing and defraying the development risks to which the CLTs would otherwise have been exposed.
Volunteers contributed a huge amount of time, energy and expertise to the initial housing scheme – all without any personal financial reward. Nonetheless, volunteers were keen to build on their success. Two of the CLTs in this study have completed shop or post office projects and all are exploring the acquisition or development of additional community assets and/or devising ways to distribute their ground rent for local benefit. A CLT may also inspire new and overlapping interest groups to pursue new activities, promoting further volunteerism in their local communities and providing broader community benefit beyond the individual occupants of their homes.