Affordable housing: striking the right balance

16 December 2019: THE Colyton & Colyford Community Land Trust has promised that it will do all it can to ensure that the need for affordable homes for local people can be met while still making a positive contribution to the environment.

A survey in 2017 revealed a need for some 36 affordable homes in the parish and triggered the setting up of the Colyton & Colyford Community Land Trust. The Trust’s Directors are all volunteers and give their time freely.

Its initial focus has been on the affordable element of the homes planned on the former CeramTec site, but the development there is likely to generate no more than 15 affordable units, necessitating consideration of at least one further site to meet the local need. A public appeal was therefore made for suitable land and an assessment made of some 20 potential sites in and around the town. The prospects were subsequently narrowed to three sites for detailed analysis and discussions with landowners. Factors considered included access, availability of utilities, proximity to neighbours, and the number of homes that might be feasible.

The Trust was grateful to the owners of sites for their input and after much discussion short-listed land known as Lewis Haye, which adjoins the Seaway Head development, where it believes up to 20 affordable homes may be possible. The Trust has followed best practice in keeping the locations of the other sites confidential.

The details of the preferred site were explained at a recent public meeting which was attended by over 70 people. A show of hands indicated approximately 30 in favour and 11 against proceeding with a feasibility study. A decision on the feasibility study and application for funding will be made at the next board meeting in the second half of January 2020.

Community Land Trust Chairman Dr Charles Hill leads a team of nine Directors who are working with professional support from the Wessex Community Land Trust Project. We have yet to find and be offered a suitable ‘brownfield’ site within the Built-Up Area Boundary, probably because of its development value or other factors,” he says. “Therefore our main focus has to be on ‘exception’ sites, which exist outside the current BUAB. Greenfield exception sites can be brought forward if it can be shown that there is a proven, unmet need for affordable housing.

The fact that the site in question is part-owned by a former Director did not influence its selection, as she declared her interest from the outset, played no part in the discussions and resigned when it became a favoured solution. All proper processes were followed and minuted records of decisions kept. Minutes and other documents can be found at  https://candcclt.co.uk/useful-stuff

The Trust is keen to stress that what it is currently considering is not a planning application but a feasibility study that will involve independent expert analysis of factors such as visual impact, highways and effects on the environment and ecology. The brief would also seek suggestions for mitigating and offsetting impacts and for positive improvements.

Dr Hill explained at the public meeting that only a part of the available site at Lewis Haye would be developed and that agreement had been received from the owner for the Trust to secure the remainder to use for the long term benefit of the community and for nature.

The results of the proposed feasibility study would, he said, be shared with the community before a decision was taken on whether to make a planning application. On any site that it progresses, the Trust will work with a selected Housing Association to ensure that high construction standards, attractive external appearance and environment friendly features are a priority.

Dr Hill added: “We very much welcome a local debate about affordable housing as one of the most pressing local issues and will continue to keep the community informed.” Comments in relation to the Lewis Haye site and the wider issue of affordable housing can be sent to candcclt@gmail.com.

The Colyton and Colyford Community Land Trust is registered as a Community Benefit Society, which means it has clear social objectives and is run and managed by its members. Such Trusts act as longterm stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable for local people, not just now but for future generations. More information is available at https://candcclt.co.uk/

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