Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust
Links to publications / newsletters:
SWCLT Newsletter April 2015 – Potential Development in Wilburton and update on Manor Farm Stretham
Manor Farm – Interim Development brief Manor Farm Abridged Interim Development Brief 14.05.2013 Manor Farm SWCLT.pdf
A long history of community-ownership
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are not new. CLTs form part of a long British tradition of seeking ways to protect the asset value of land for the benefit of the community. Community owned, managed and controlled, CLTs are uniquely placed to build on existing community strengths (physical assets, skills and capabilities) and respond to the social, economic and environmental needs of a local community by engaging in genuine community-led development that is ‘right for their place’. They can own, develop and /or manage land and property that will transform the nature of their communities and reduce their reliance on scarce central or local government resources.
Background to Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust
Over the past 10 years, existing planning policies have meant that Stretham has experienced a restrictive housing supply particularly in affordable housing that has caused the following issues:
- Only 65 homes built in past 10 years. Only 6–7 per year (less than 1% growth per year);
- Most of these homes have been for private ownership as small infill sites generally have not contributed to affordable housing stock (only required on sites of 5 units or more);
- House prices and rents are now unaffordable for many who are on local wages;
- Young people and families can no longer afford to live locally and are having to move away;
- Local employers find staff having to travel further because they can’t afford to live nearby.
Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust has been established to address this problem. The not-for-profit Trust will be run by local volunteers from the two villages who want to make more affordable homes available for occupation by local people and provide space for employment uses and energy generation, as well as leisure. The CLT aims to promote and support economic and social life in the two Parishes by developing property assets that generate income to be re-invested back into the local community.The assets are protected by a legal ‘asset-lock’ that means they will remain for-ever in the ownership of the local community. The Trust has the support of the District Council, the Parish Councils in both villages and Foundation East, the regional support organisation for Community Land Trusts in the East of England. Over the past 6 months, Foundation East has been working with the Trust to identify the best site for the new homes. Now you, the local community, are being invited to have your say on how the site should be developed. ‘In particular the Trust wishes to make it possible for people to live close to their place of work so that job vacancies can be filled, the community can function effectively and local people who have been, or might be, an asset to the community can be given a chance to remain in the area should they wish to do so.’ The new Trust is a locally accountable organisation as membership is open to all who live or work in either of the two parishes. By becoming a member, local residents and employers will be demonstrating their support for the project and will be able to have a say in how the Trust is run and what it does. Day-to-day management of the Trust will be carried out by a board of volunteer Directors that will be elected by the members. Ultimately, the management board will consist of local people that already live or work in the two Parishes, along with representatives from local employers, churches and schools. When they move in, residents and occupiers of the new homes will also be encouraged to get involved.
An alternative business model for community-led development that works
In planning terms, for many years East Cambridgeshire District Council has considered Stretham as an ‘infill only’ village, with a tightly drawn planning envelope that has not permitted any extensions to the village boundaries. However, some rural housing ‘exception’ sites have come forward in that time. These have allowed development outside the boundary provided they are wholly for affordable housing. However these developments are poorly related to the village and contribute little to the life of the village. Foundation East has been working since September 2011 with East Cambridgeshire District Council and residents of Stretham and Wilburton parishes to develop a different way of doing things. In the emerging ECDC Local Plan, a new Local Plan policy has been included that facilitate community-led development. The new planning policy is based on a CLT, bringing forward new development proposals comprising a mix of affordable and market-sale/market-rent homes, workplaces or community facilities. The development proposals need to have demonstrable support in the local community and sites need to be located on land lying outside the planning envelope. This land would not normally be considered for development under existing planning policies, but with evidence of support of the local community, an exception to the normally restrictive planning policies can be made. The success of the business model adopted by SWCLT is based on the CLT being able to take advantage of its position as ‘sole purchaser’ in negotiations with local landowners. If a landowner chooses not to work with SWCLT, then their land will remain undeveloped for a very long time. The CLT has therefore been able to choose from a number of sites and landowners who are keen for the CLT to promote their land, and has been able to bargain one off against another to structure the most favourable joint-venture agreement for the CLT. The joint-venture agreement ensures that on grant of planning permission, the land for CLT owned affordable homes and workspaces will be transferred by the landowner to the CLT at no cost. The landowner will retain, or sell the balance of the site (the land for development of the market sale/market rent homes) and transfer to the CLT a significant payment that will subsidise the costs of construction of the CLT homes. Strict parameters for financial negotiation have been established by the model based on local land/property market values and site suitability. These parameters are sufficiently flexible to:
- Incentivise landowners to bring forward their sites without making them rich
- Allow the CLT to deliver the affordable homes and other community benefits without reliance on uncertain government grants;
- Ensure that the number of market homes in the scheme is determined by the level of financial cross subsidy required to deliver the CLT property and community benefits, and not by developer/landowner preference.
In real-life negotiations with a number of landowners in Stretham and Wiburton the model has been proven to work. SWCLT has now successfully managed to secure sites for development that can produce exciting new projects that are commercially viable and will bring considerable community benefit. The first of these is at Manor Farm in Stretham.
The model is not exclusive to CLTs and other types of community-based organisations could potentially bring forward a proposal provided they are incorporated, are able to demonstrate wide community support and have an appropriate legal asset lock.  The new Local Plan for East Cambridgeshire will be for the period to 2031