Q&A

 

THE affordable homes issue raises many questions. We have endeavoured to answer those that are most often asked here. If you have any specific questions please send us a message through our Contact & Join page.

1: General

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

o 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.
o Wanting to achieve agreement within the community about the nature of development (since development can often be contentious and split communities)
o 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)

Community Land Trusts (or CLTs) are community-led organisations set up to own assets (such as housing, land, pubs and 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.

2: Membership & responsibilities

A: It was Colyton Parish Council who originally suggested that the need for affordable homes might be addressed by an independent Community Land Trust and should be explored. The CLT makes its own decisions with professional guidance from The Wessex Community Land Trust Project. We will continue to work in the interest of the community of Colyton and Colyford alongside Colyton Parish Council, East Devon District Council and the Devon Rural Housing Project.

We benefit greatly from the professional advice we receive from the Wessex Community Land Trust Project. We additionally receive advice from housing experts at East Devon District Council, and we are a member of the National Community Land Trust Network.

We are incorporated as a Community Benefit Society, registered with the Financial Conduct Authority under No 7794 and are accountable to our members. We came together as volunteers and initially elected a Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary who along with our other members were the founding Board who began the work of setting up the CLT. On 12th December 2018 at a Special General Meeting of our members and as required under our rules of governance the founding board stood down. The founding Board with two new members were elected by the membership and details of the Board can be found on our website.

Any member of the community who supports our objectives is very welcome to become a member. You can become a member by buying one or more £1 shares. As a shareholder, you will then be entitled to one vote and to stand for election to the Board of Management.

3: Finance

East Devon District Council have available Community Housing Fund grant which can be used to support community led initiatives by providing start-up funding to CLTs to get underway and to cover things like legal costs, incorporation fees and technical and support costs. There are then grants available from East Devon District Council and from Homes England who manage the Community Housing Fund to cover feasibility studies and costs involved in the preparation of a planning application. The CLT acquires the freehold interest in land and the affordable homes are delivered by its selected Housing Association partner under a 125-year lease. The Housing Association pays a small ground rent on the completed project to the CLT which can then be used for other local projects.

A CLT is a not-for-private-profit operation. All income must be used to further benefit the community.

4: Building & allocating homes

A CLT can itself commission the building out of affordable homes using different types of contract, or work in various partnership models with housing associations and developers to build out a scheme. In the case of the CeramTec site it is envisaged that we would work in partnership with Homes England’s selected developer partner and its chosen Housing Association to deliver the affordable element.

It is very difficult to give a reliable answer at this early stage because much depends upon planning issues. But we would certainly like to be able to have our first homes available within two to three years.

If the CLT builds on an exception site (ie 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 Housing Association 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, ie the minimum length of time they should have lived or worked in the village, or had family connections here.

In common with affordable homes elsewhere in Devon, you must first register with Devon Home Choice, who will assess your eligibility for affordable housing. As part of the overall agreement around affordable housing delivery both on the CeramTec site and within the Parish the CLT would want to prioritise such homes for those who are eligible and have a local connection to Colyton and Colyford by reason of residence, work or other commitment. The CLT in conjunction with the Housing Association Partner and Local Authority will look to draft an Allocations Plan setting out these ‘local’ connection criteria. Once agreed this will be embedded in the S106 agreement.

5: CeramTec site

A: There is as yet no guarantee of affordable homes on the site. Homes England is entitled to apply what is known as Vacant Building Credit on this development. This applies where a building/s is demolished and replaced by a new building/s. In either case, the gross floorspace of the relevant vacant building/s can be used as a ‘credit’ when the Local Planning Authority calculates any affordable housing contribution. Vacant floorspace can potentially offset the affordable housing requirements for any given site by a proportion relating to the quantum of existing floorspace compared to that proposed. However, Homes England have chosen to include a percentage of affordable housing in their proposals in order to create a balanced scheme overall. The percentage of affordable housing proposed is less than would be prescribed by policy, were policy to apply in this case. There is no guarantee that the proposed number of affordable homes will be ultimately be provided as this will depend upon the outcome of the planning application process and requirements for other contributions to make the scheme acceptable in planning terms. In addition much of the site proposed for development is outside the current built up area boundary and as such the current proposals may be considered non policy compliant, in which case the current scheme would need to be redesigned excluding this area. Homes England proposes to dispose of this site via a tender process to select a developer partner. In doing so, Homes England will retain a freehold interest through the life of the development, and will use that to control the number of affordable homes finally built.

6: Other sites

We will explore any viable opportunities to satisfy the need for affordable homes in the parish and will welcome suggestions. Priorities will obviously need to be set if more than one site emerges.

Whilst the CeramTec site is our immediate priority, we are considering what other sites might be available in the parish to deliver affordable homes and would be interested to hear from any landowners with an interest in exploring this with us.

Experience elsewhere is that once a CLT is formed and begins to look at sites and talk to local land owners, sites often come forward that were previously 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.

7: Wider planning issues

Our role is not to make planning judgements – that responsibility rests with the Parish and District Councils. We will assess any site that comes to us on its merits for affordable homes, but the planning decision is not for us.

The planning authority (in this case East Devon District Council) considers infrastructure issues in determining the planning application. In doing so it takes advice from the relevant authorities responsible for highways, water, sewage, education etc.

8: Other CLTs

Yes indeed, there are many. We have several local ones on our website here. And wider examples can be found here.

According to the National Community Land Trust Network, there are now almost 290 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales, and the sector has grown six-fold in the last six years. Community Land Trusts have developed 826 permanently affordable homes to date and are working to develop an additional 5,800 homes in the next few years.

Load More