Community share issue for affordable flats launches

Land Trust secures investment from the community

Somerset Co-op Community Land Trust’s recent share offer has closed with huge success.

The trust has managed to reach its ‘optimum target’ with £245,000 pledged from over a hundred supporters, many of them living locally.

The appeal was for an investment in development land on East Reach which the Community Land Trust believes can be used for new affordable housing and community enterprises.

At the same time, the national Community Land Trust Fund managed by CAF Venturesome has awarded £45,000 as a combination of grant and loan.

Alan Debenham, Chair of Somerset Cooperative Land Trust, said “This is a great expression of support for what we are trying to do. We now have the responsbility to deliver high quality housing at the same time as protecting the value of these investments. This will make a real difference to the lives of people facing poverty, housing need and insecurity.”

The investment is the result of months of work by the members of the Community Land Trust and the social enterprises supporting it, including Somerset Co-operative Services CIC, Clarity CIC, The National CLT Network, Third Sector Accountancy and Co-operative Assistance Network.

Local partners include Somerset Community Credit Union, which has been working with the CLT to extend access to finance for people on low incomes; Transition Town Taunton, who helped form the CLT in 2011; and Taunton Urban Farmers who are developing horticultural projects on land owned by the CLT.

Somerset Co-op CLT must now bring forward a planning application in the coming months. These will include a community meeting room, flats for single people in the gardens behind the distinctive 18th century terrace on East Reach. This will be an important opportunity to trial the use of sustainable building methods to create low-cost, unsubsidised housing, and the CLT is actively pursuing other sites on which the most successful techniques can be reproduced on a larger scale.

Members of the Community Land Trust will soon be consulted on the plans, and any Taunton resident is very welcome to join for as little as £1.

Alex Lawrie, the secretary of the CLT, said “This means we are now undertaking our most challenging project to date, and we will need help. I’d like to appeal to any local people wanting to develop their skills in community organising and project management to think about whether they could volunteer regularly – we are looking for a deputy treasurer, help with communications and social media, and anyone who could help with site clearance and building maintenance.”

Somerset Co-op CLT is one of several CLTs in Somerset, which together are part of the Wessex CLT Hub. It is in some ways unusual: it retains all its properties as affordable rentals rather than offering them for sale, it works in urban settings in market towns rather than villages or green field sites, and it seeks to enables the tenants themselves to take on leadership roles in the society (this self-help element is the reason for the word ‘co-op’ in their name).

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