Minutes of an Open Meeting to Launch the Upper Culm Community Land Trust held on 22nd June 2012.
Upper Culm Community Land Trust
An Open Meeting to launch the Upper Culm Community Land Trust
held at the Parish Hall, Hemyock on Friday 22nd June at 7.30 p.m.
Present: Heather Stallard (Chair), Richard Kallaway (Vice Chair), Neil Punnett (Secretary), Neil Carter (Treasurer), Roy Brooks, Simon Clist, Steve Major, Lance Povah, Bob Pike plus over one hundred members of the public.
1. Welcome and Introductions
Heather Stallard introduced the speakers and apologised for the absence of Dr Bob Paterson who was unable to attend.
2. Steve Watson (Lead Advisor) on the Somerset, Devon and Dorset CLT Project
Steve provided a PowerPoint presentation which showed that the SDDCLT Project now supports 15 projects on land owned by CLTs. It is hoped that these affordable housing will attract £6 million of government grant – four projects have already received grant allocations. The model advocated by SDDCLTP is for the CLT and a Housing Association to work in partnership on the affordable housing project – the CLT owns the land, the Housing Association takes on the risk, finances, builds and manages the project leasing the land from the CLT for 125 years and paying a ground rent to the CLT. The ground rent should be enough to cover the running costs of the CLT and provide a small surplus to help plan other projects. There is also an option for the CLT to take over from the Housing Association as the landlord in the future, should it wish to.
As the landowner the CLT is a joint signatory to the Section 106 Planning Agreement which stipulates that, as a condition of planning permission being granted on what would otherwise be agricultural land, local people must receive priority for the housing.
Steve said that, in SDDCLTP’s experience, partnerships between CLTs and HAs are becoming more popular because they provide the community with influence over important things like the design and occupancy of the homes without having to take on onerous risks and responsibilities
There is a legal definition of what constitutes a Community Land Trust:
· It holds land and property for the community in perpetuity
· It is community-owned
· It is for the benefit of a specific community
· It is not for private profit.
One of the purposes of a Community Land Trust is to provide access to land and housing that would be otherwise unaffordable due to the speculative value of land. Other typical purposes include running village shops and pubs where these might otherwise be lost.
Heather Stallard then provided the background to the development of the Upper Culm CLT. (The following is the correct sequence of events):
· A Local Housing Needs Survey was conducted in March 2011 by the Community Council of Devon on behalf of the Devon Rural Housing Partnership, using a standard methodology approved by local planning authorities. The survey, which had a 39.5% response rate, found 37 respondents in housing need who could not afford to buy or rent in the open market.
· Steve Watson spoke to a public meeting in Hemyock on 15 June 2011. The meeting was attended by over thirty people. An initial steering group was formed.
· At the Hemyock Parish Council Meeting on 5 October 2012 Heather updated the Council on meeting led by Steve Watson and Alison Ward on 4 October. There was a fund of around £25 million to help land trusts get affordable housing proposals off the ground. Expressions of interest were being considered at a meeting on 9 November and a condition of any grant funding would be that homes would need to be completed by March 2015. It was proposed to endorse the CLT concept and for the Parish Council to support the project and this was then proposed, seconded and passed unanimously. Clayhidon Parish Council also endorsed the CLT project.
· Following this meeting the CLT was established in embryo form within the steering group consisting of seven local persons as initial directors. Because of the urgent need to apply for the government grant, a proposal for an affordable housing project was prepared, working with Hastoe Housing Association. A one acre site on the Culmstock Road adjacent to Logan Way was available without a current option to develop – many of the fields adjacent to the village are already subject to option purchases by private developers.
· A meeting of the directors held on 18 January 2012 agreed to seek registration as a Community Benefit Society.
· Following extensive advice from Wessex Community Assets (and even more extensive paperwork), on 31st March 2012 the Upper Culm CLT came into official existence when it was registered as a Community Benefit Society Limited with the Financial Services Agency.
· On 16 April 2012 Neil Punnett accepted an invitation to become Company Secretary.
· On 25 April 2012 a presentation on the CLT by Steve Watson and Heather Stallard was given at the Hemyock Annual Open Parish Meeting, attended by over forty parishioners.
· On 1 May 2012 Hastoe Housing Association held an open viewing in the Forbes Lounge of their proposed affordable housing development. Over forty people attended.
· On 10 June 2012 Neil Carter accepted an invitation to become Company Treasurer.
· On 22 June 2012 an Open Meeting was held to launch the CLT and invite local people to apply for membership.
· On 22 September 2012 a Special General Meeting will be held at which the initial directors of the Trust will stand down and members will elect the new board of directors. Members wishing to stand for election as directors must inform the Secretary by 14 days in advance of the meeting.
· An application for grant is being prepared and will need to be submitted as soon as possible before the special fund for these sorts of projects is used up. (The overall budget for affordable homes has already been halved as part of the general cost-cutting undertaken by the Government and there is no indication that any grant will be available in future, once the £25m for this type of project is gone. The village therefore has a very short window of opportunity to secure public subsidy for affordable rented homes, prioritised for local people.)
3. Sean Wheeldon from Wessex Community Assets
Sean confirmed that the CLT has an asset lock i.e. a mechanism to ensure that any land and property it holds must be for the benefit of the village in perpetuity. These assets cannot be sold off and the proceeds distributed to individuals. If the CLT ever decides to sell its land or property, the proceeds must be reinvested for the benefit of the community.
4. The Housing Needs Survey and the Culmstock Road Affordable Housing Project
Heather outlined the Housing Needs Survey and its result, identifying 37 respondents in housing need who could not afford to buy or rent in the open market. She then accepted questions from the floor, amongst which were the following:
Q: Do other CLTs have the same person chairing them as the Parish Council?
A: Of the 15 CLTs known to Steve Watson, one other has this situation.
Q: Is that ethical?
A: Steve considered this situation neither ethical nor unethical but pragmatic. Members of a Parish Council will quite often take the lead in establishing a CLT but, in SDDCLTP’s experience, volunteers from the wider community always become involved as well.
Q: The CLT may have been officially formed in March 2012, but it has actually been operating since last summer. CLTs should engage the local community as soon as possible. Is this the case here?
A: There have now been three open meetings concerning the CLT, all attended by Steve, of which this is the third.
Q: I do not feel that the CLT has the trust of the community. There is a need for transparency in all matters, especially in housing. Transparency avoids rumours and the choice of site must be justified. We can vote on matters without paying this £5 as we are villagers on the electoral roll.
A: The complicating factor has been the need to move the housing project forwards at the same time as the CLT has been evolving. The planning application for the Culmstock Road development has not yet been made. If and when it is made it will have to follow existing planning legislation. Opposition to the plans can be expressed in the usual way to Mid Devon District Council.
Q: I would like the Board of Directors to undertake not to proceed to take any major decisions until the Board has been democratically elected in September.
A: That is a matter for the Board as a whole, not the Chair alone.
Q: Where does the money come from?
A: There is £25 million available from the government to support community led affordable housing projects. In order for the bid to be taken seriously the site must be identified, the owner must be willing to sell, and Mid Devon District Council must provide broad approval of the plan. The window of opportunity to secure this funding is quite small.
Q: The CLT has spoken of just one acre, but the whole field covers seven acres. How many affordable homes and how many executive homes are going to be built on that site?
A: There will be no executive homes on the one acre site, just twelve affordable homes.
Q: Hasn’t the CLT project opened the door for a private developer to buy the rest of the land and build private homes on it?
A: Mid Devon District Councillor Frank Rosamund said that the field is an ‘exception site’ which can only be used for affordable homes for people with a local connection. The MDDC Local Development Plan precludes any private housing developments outside the village until 2026.
Q: Is just 12 affordable homes going to be enough to keep the private developers away?
A: More homes could be proposed but 12 was felt to be reasonable number at this stage. A private developer can put forward a scheme for affordable housing on exception sites. Mixed housing schemes such as those already in the village at Longmead and East Mead, may be the way forward. However, a private-developer-led scheme is unlikely to provide the benefits to the village offered by a CLT/Housing Association partnership.
Q: What will be the sustainable quality standard to which the homes are built?
A: The houses will be of an energy efficient design. Hastoe will try to achieve the ‘Passivhaus’ standard, or at least Sustainable Code for Housing Level 4. Passivhaus is built using a step-by-step approach with efficient components and a whole house ventilation system to achieve exceptionally low running costs to create something which is comfortable, healthy and sustainable. Hastoe has built one of the first affordable rural Passivhaus schemes in the county.
Q: Can you not achieve economies of scale by designing sustainability on a block basis for the whole 12 homes?
A: No, it will be done on an individual home basis. Twelve homes is not enough to generate economies of scale on schemes such as area heating.
Q: I have heard that Hemyock is one of six villages that Devon County Council wants to see become towns. Is this true?
A: It’s the first we have heard of this and it sounds most unlikely. Councillor Rosamund agreed.
Q: Can you guarantee that the homes will be 100% for local people?
A: Yes, because of the Section 106 Agreement.
Q: Won’t they be taken up by people on the priority housing list across Mid Devon?
A: No. But that does happen now for existing affordable housing schemes in the village – in fact it is county-wide, not just Mid Devon. But the CLT scheme will be limited to local people, who will need to register with Devon Home Choice to qualify to apply for one of the twelve homes.
Q: How affordable will these affordable homes really be? I’ve heard the rent will be 80% of the open market rent.
A: In the past – before the recession - affordable homes had rents set at 50% - 60% of local open market rents. The coalition government has introduced a change to 80%, partly to save money in these recessionary times and partly so that the extra income will help housing associations finance the building of more new homes. This is obviously disappointing; it is possible to argue for rents to be set at below 80% of market value and the CLT is looking into this. That said, a rent that is 20% below the local open market rent is the best that can be provided in today’s financial climate.
5. Recruitment of Members to the CLT: How to Apply to Join the CLT
Heather outlined the process for recruiting membership of the CLT:
· Applicants must agree to the Rules of the Trust; Rules 2.1 and 2.2 are included on the application form.
· Prospective members apply for membership on the CLT Membership Form and Application for Share Certificate.
· Completed forms are sent to the Secretary, preferably scanned via e-mail.
· The Directors consider the applications, taking reasonable steps to verify the identification of members.
· Appointed members will then collect a minimum of five £1 shares, receiving a formal Share Certificate containing the company seal. Members can hold up to a maximum of £20,000 worth of £1 shares.
Following the conclusion of the meeting, 56 application forms were taken.
6. Date of Next CLT Meeting: Saturday 22nd September 7.30 p.m.
Special General Meeting for CLT Members and Directors: Appointment of New Directors to the Board of the Trust
Note: The directors on the Trust’s board are appointed by Trust members at this meeting.
All candidates for a board position must find members to act as a proposer and seconder
and then declare their intention to stand for the board 14 days before the meeting, in
writing or e-mail to the Secretary.
Upper Culm Community Land Trust