We’ve been working hard over recent months to support existing and emerging community-led housing groups across Wiltshire and Swindon. The team have successfully adjusted to the new ways of working and we are continuing to work remotely using online resources and video conferencing software.
We hope you enjoy the information and updates in this issue about community-led housing, the proposed planning reforms, updates from our partners and information for community groups to help them to work effectively.
We’ve been looking at how community-led housing can help to respond to the Covid-19 challenges faced by communities.
Community led housing allows a local people to have a tangible impact in the health and wellbeing of individuals in their community. Community led housing involves meaningful community engagement and widespread community support, with the community being empowered with a common vision and shared values.
If you would like to read more about how community led housing can enable keyworkers, volunteers and others in your community to access decent, stable, affordable homes please follow this link to the latest Homes of Our Own blog: Community Led Housing – A Response to the Covid-19 challenges faced by communities?
Key Sector Updates
The Government has published a White Paper Planning for the Future which proposes radical changes to the English planning system. The existing development plan framework, based largely on the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, would be replaced by a new Zoning system, dividing the country into three basic zones: Growth, Renewal and Protection. Local Plans (which are currently separate for Wiltshire and Swindon) would continue to exist, but the development policy details would be undertaken at national level. Considerable emphasis would be given to design.
Public consultation would be undertaken during the zoning process, albeit with limited access to final Hearings, but there would be no opportunity to make representations at the application stage – planning permission would be deemed to be given if the application conforms to the requirements of the Zone in which it is located.
Infrastructure would be funded by a single Development Tax on completion of schemes, replacing current Section 106 and CIL arrangements.
Neighbourhood Plans would lose their development plan function, and probably be limited to design advice (aka former Village Design Statements) or possibly a mustering point for representations on Zoning plans.
These are far-reaching proposals with important implications for rural planning and housing. Leaving aside some of the fundamental criticisms – for example the unsubstantiated claims that planning blocks progress, and the limited focus on delivering more houses rather than addressing wider concerns about planning for a sustainable future in terms of the environment, health, and social issues – there are some immediate concerns for meeting local housing needs, including via Community Land Trusts:-
- A threat to the availability of Exception Sites for community-led housing in 70% of villages with less than 3000 population (not currently ‘designated’ as rural under the 1985 Housing Act, S157), by raising the threshold over which developers are required to provide affordable homes from 10 to 40-50, and giving priority to developers ‘First Homes’, which are likely to command higher land prices;
- Limited opportunity and capacity to influence Zoning plans that impact directly on individual villages, or the impact of specific planning applications;
- Abolishing the role of Neighbourhood Plans to provide a local planning framework for meeting future housing needs.
These proposed reforms are comprehensive and the implications are far-reaching and complicated. Representations are being made by, amongst many others – the Town and Country Planning Association, Action with Communities in Rural England, the Rural Services Network, the Rural Housing Alliance, and the Plunkett Foundation.
The aim is to introduce the legislation in 2021 with a view to implementing the new system before the next election.
Details of the plan and how you can respond to the consultation can be found here. The closing date for representations is October 29th.
Please do let us know of you have any specific comments or questions that you would like to discuss with us.
Trevor Cherrett, Chair of Wiltshire Community Land Trust
A community led housing project steering group exists to achieve housing on behalf of that community. The whole community cannot practically be involved, and most would not wish to. They will, however, want to know what is being done in their name and on their behalf. The Steering Group can provide regular articles in local newsletters where they exist. These may be produced by the Parish Council, the Parochial Church Council or a local volunteer or community group providing a community newsletter. In the small town where I live, a 20-page newsletter is delivered to 2500 homes 10 times a year, supported by advertising and produced and delivered by volunteers. It was, and remains, invaluable for enabling regular reporting to the local community on what the local community land trust was/is doing.
This is valuable but not sufficient. Agendas and minutes should be produced for all Steering Group meetings and be archived so that a record of decision making is established and available for reference. Similarly, formal notes should be produced for all meetings with agencies, local authorities and other organisations with whom the Steering Group is seeking to work.
Such agendas, minutes and meeting notes should be widely available and open to scrutiny. Any confidential matters, usually related to land or building acquisition can be dealt with through a separate but related confidential note or minute whose existence is referred to, but only accessible to the signed-up members of the Steering Group. Availability may initially be through the website of the Parish Council, prior to the Steering Group setting up its own website. Using the Parish Council’s notice board(s) and/or a general community notice board, is also important.
Accurate and consistent administration ensures the continuing credibility of the Steering Group in the community it seeks to serve and assists continuity, as members change. Examples of agendas and minutes for community led housing groups and further advice on good administration is available from the Homes of Our Own team.
Ian Crawley, CLT Technical Advisor
Community Organising helps to identify and find solutions to local issues that matter. Community Organisers reach out, listen, connect and motivate communities to come together around their common concerns.
Learn about the importance of effective listening to encourage discussion, motivate and build relationships.
- Discover and explore the concept of power dynamics in local communities and how to built it!
- Explore how to motivate and help organise people to take action together, to address common concerns
- Plan your next steps, actions and goals in community organising
We are looking into working with Community First to offer future events and training to help you understand your community and empower people to take action.
If you’re interested in taking part in future events, or know someone who is, please get in touch.
They are excited to welcome Danny Kruger MP to the event, who has previously expressed an interest in and support for community-led housing.
Details on how to register will be shortly available on the Wiltshire Community Land Trust website.
If you are interested in attending, please RSVP here.
The National charity, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) have published updated information to help village halls reopen in light of new government guidance. Since 4 July, England’s village halls have been allowed to reopen. But government rules on social distancing, as well as the activities that are permitted to take place in these community buildings are complicated and frequently changing.
Many village halls are run by local volunteers, most of whom are not familiar with interpreting complex legal guidance. Thankfully, Helen Akiyama has been on hand as Wiltshire’s Village Halls and Community Buildings adviser to explain the new rules using information sheets prepared by ACRE. Please see the links for written and visual guides on how to re-open community spaces safely or contact Helen directly for further assistance (firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel 07770 490 907).
Of course, it would also be wonderful to welcome new members to the WVHA (Wiltshire Village Halls Association) for the coming year.
Helen will be involved in the upcoming Acre initiative of Village Halls Safeguarding Week (5-11th Oct) where the aim is to ensure that every village and community hall across rural England has the knowledge and confidence to provide a safe environment for all. The project aspires to improve the awareness of safeguarding, extend the reach of resources, provide an insight into the impact and embed good practice. There will be more information and discussion across Community First’s social media so please get involved.
As you may be aware, Community First (Wiltshire and Swindon) are a key partner of Homes of Our Own and their work has been invaluable during the Coronavirus pandemic. They are aware that community-led housing groups have key volunteers that are working hard to bring forward housing across the County and have asked whether there is further support that can be provided to assist in a slightly different way across Wiltshire and Swindon.
Community First work in supporting the 43 Link Schemes in Wiltshire.
Link Schemes are voluntary groups which offer a transport and good neighbour service to local people who are in need, perhaps because they are elderly, disabled, single parents, or they may be temporarily in need because of illness.
These essential services provide a safety net for those unable to access services in other ways. Link Schemes aim to complement other services; statutory and voluntary.
Link Schemes operate as small, independent charitable organisations and are all volunteers using their own private vehicles. (Insurance and DBS checks are carried out and mileage paid).
To give you an idea of the level of support The Link Schemes offer, last year they made 31,351 health related journeys and completed 48,027 good neighbour tasks which incorporate collecting prescription’s and shopping.
Due to Covid 19, the Link schemes have found themselves suffering from a high level of inactive volunteers because of age and/or vulnerability.
The Link Schemes desperately need to find new volunteers across Wiltshire to keep this service going in these times.
If you think you would like to volunteer or find out more about what’s involved, please do contact Samantha Lloyd at email@example.com or on 07769557583.
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Key Sector Updates
- Planning for the future: Planning reform
- Keeping accurate records
- Community Organising
- Wiltshire Community Land Trust – AGM
- Village halls update
- Your local Link Scheme needs you
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