Stretham sets pace for community-led development
Affordable homes for local people are a step closer thanks to a new scheme that is giving communities a chance to plan, own and manage their own housing associations in ways that will be locally accountable, keep rents down and bring wider benefits to their neighbourhoods.
Like many villages, Stretham near Ely is facing tough challenges over access to affordable homes, shared amenities and local jobs that are vital to a sustainable community. So residents have taken matters into their own hands and are planning the first new housing development in Cambridgeshire that will be built on the Community Land Trust (CLT) model.
Assisted by Foundation East, the regional CLT support organisation, residents formed the Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust (SWCLT) – a not-for-profit Trust run by local volunteers that anyone living in Stretham can join. The group has earmarked its first site at Manor Farm and has invited everyone in Stretham to say how it should be developed for maximum community benefit.
Foundation East helped secure Design Council funding so that the SWCLT can fully research how best to develop Manor Farm as a mixed-use site that, as well as homes, could include work units for local jobs, community buildings and recreation facilities. Questionnaires were circulated, open meetings held and workshops run with children, teenagers, businesses and older residents to ask what would be on their ‘shopping list’ for the new site.
Based on the responses, the SWCLT is defining strict criteria so that the development fulfils local expectations, is commercially viable and embodies good design that complements the village. Key requirements will include a suitable range of house types and sizes; a balance between the new development and capacity of existing local facilities; better cycle and walking routes; improved traffic management; and construction contracts for local suppliers and apprentices.
At each stage the development plans will be presented to local people, giving them the chance to comment. The preferred option will be exhibited for final feedback before submission of a formal planning application, which is expected in late spring 2013.
Local County Councillor Bill Hunt said: “The Community Land Trust approach has been very well-received. Local people have really welcomed having a genuine chance to get involved and have their say about the kind of place they want to live. Talking to everyone from schoolchildren to our senior citizens has helped tease out the priorities and concerns. From the outset, the professional expertise provided by Foundation East has been invaluable. We’re all hoping that the outcome will be a high quality development that benefits to our whole community both in the short term and for generations to come.”
Debbie Wildridge, Community Land Trust Manager of Foundation East, said: “Across the UK Community Land Trusts are proving an effective way for local people to develop affordable housing, work space and shared assets that their communities need to thrive. In contrast to conventional developments, the model is cleverly structured to give people ownership over how local land is developed. Profits are reinvested back into the community to make improvements that benefit everyone. Where Stretham is leading, Foundation East can help other communities anywhere in the East of England to follow.”
Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust has the support of East Cambridgeshire District Council plus the parish councils in Stretham and Wilburton. In addition to Foundation East, partners include Design Council Cabe, a charity that funds neighbourhood design for public benefit; Community Spirit Partnership which is helping to shape the development brief; and Cambridge-based architects Haysom Ward Miller.
For more information about setting up a Community Land Trust anywhere in Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, please contact Debbie Wildridge, Community Land Trust Manager at Foundation East on 01284 757777 / 07703 814581 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org / web: www.clteast.org