[C]HRIS MANN: Let’s talk about the community land trust, for the first homes in Cambridgeshire to be built by one have been given outline planning permission. The Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust will mix thirty five privately owned houses with fifteen homes for rental to people from the villages. It will also include a doctor’s surgery and some business units. What is a community land trust, or CLT as we shall refer to it from now on? Debbie Wildridge joins me now. Hello Debbie.
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And you’re the Community Land Trust Manager from CLT East, is that right?
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Yes that’s right. We are actually an umbrella organisation that helps anyone who wants to set up a community land trust to do so, anywhere in the East of England.
CHRIS MANN: So what is it exactly? Who owns it, who runs it and who’s it for?
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Right. Well it’s owned by the community and it’s run by the community, for the community. And it helps anyone to acquire some assets that can be locked in for the benefit of the community for ever. So some of the examples are land or buildings such as affordable houses, pubs, shops or recreation facilities. It’s growing around the country. There’s a hundred and seventy of them set up now, and Stretham and Wilburton is the first one in East Cambridgeshire.
CHRIS MANN: How do people identify a site, and buy it and so on? Who finances it and who organises it?
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Well, the community land trust sets itself up as a legal entity, and they have rules by which they’re set up. It’s a not-for-profit organisation, open and democratic and run by volunteers. And they can call for land, and we’re finding that perhaps land owners who’ve got a bit of land on the edge of a village are interested in talking to the community, if they can see that that’s going to be for the benefit of the people of that village, or town, in perpetuity. And so we’ve got landowners coming forward in some cases. In some cases it’s public land that’s made available for community land trusts. So there’s a variety of ways.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And this will also include a doctor’s surgery and business units and so on. So it’s almost like setting up a new community, a new village.
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Well it’s very much to be integrated with the existing village, and we didn’t know until we started talking to the people of Stretham that they were actually concerned about keeping the doctor’s surgery in the village. And so we incorporated it. But it’s also to have a lot of open space, something like a village green, and there’s going to be a ride and lots of planted trees and shrubs. So It’s going to be a really nice place to live.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well let’s talk to somebody who’s involved in this new proposed one in Soham. Stay with us Debbie, by the way. Rosemary Aitchison joins me now. Hello Rosemary.
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Hello.
CHRIS MANN: So tell us about Soham and the new CLT that you’re planning there.
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: We’re a bit more than planning. We’re now officially the Thrift Trust for Soham.
CHRIS MANN: Thrift Trust.
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Yes.
CHRIS MANN: Right.
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: And we are hoping to do some affordable housing in Soham and perhaps some small business units. We’re very fortunate because there is an area around the outside of the town which has been designated for development, and part of the land in that area is owned by the Town Council. And the Town Council agreed to allow the Thrift Trust to use some of their land for the Trust’s business.
CHRIS MANN: Hmm. I imagine that’s in the area of East Cambs, is it?
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Yes it is.
CHRIS MANN: And so do you have to then get planning permission from them as well?
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Yes of course. We’re only just literally at the stage of thinking that we might be able to do this. It’s very early yet. (LAUGHS)
CHRIS MANN: OK. And just explain to us .. obviously Debbie’s told us a little bit about the background to it all, but how did your specific .. where did the germ come from Rosemary? Where was the bud sown?
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Well I’m a member of the Town Council. And we had a talk by somebody from East Cambs about CLTs, and it occurred to me that because we have this possible development with the land owned by the Town Council, it might be something that we could think about doing. So we called a public meeting, and various people were interested, and since then there’s been a small group of us who’ve been meeting together to try and bring this all together. And with help from Debbie and her colleagues and some money from the East Cambs and from the Town Council, we’ve managed to set it up. So now we’re looking at talking to the general public in Soham, to find out what sort of houses they think they would like to have, what size, how many rooms they need to have, how much space will be round about them. And any other things they might like, like small business units and that sort of thing.
CHRIS MANN: So it would tend to be smaller homes perhaps, affordable homes?
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: Yes, they will be affordable homes, the ones that we are dealing with. But we need to find out from people what sized homes they will be. Will they need a lot of perhaps one bedroomed houses for people.
CHRIS MANN: It sound great and well done to you, but why isn’t somebody else doing this? Why is it not done actually by the councils?
ROSEMARY ATCHISON: I think it’s because this .. it’s a very much .. it’s a community event, organisation. So it is going to be run by volunteers from the community. And they may be anyone. We’re going to be calling for members from the community to become part of the trust, and they will then elect the trustees, who will actually manage the trust. And that’s how it will work.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well we try to explain it all to people. And Debbie, if folk want to find out more, and perhaps set up a CLT in their area, what’s the first step? What should people do?
DEBBIE WILDRIDGE: Well I think they should look on the website, which is http://clteast. org. There’s a lot of information on there, and there’s all my details and my telephone number. And I’m always delighted to talk to people if they have, as you say, a germ of an idea. Let’s talk and see if we can turn it into something really tangible.
CHRIS MANN: And Rosemary, what’s the next step as far as you’re concerned?
ROSEMARY AITCHISON: We want to consult with as many people in Soham as possible, so if there’s any local groups who would be interested, we’ll come and talk to them, tell them all about it, and thenw e can find out more about what people in Soham really want.
CHRIS MANN: Rosemary Aitchison, thank you for joining me from the CLT in Soham, Thrift Trust they’re calling it. And Debbie Wildridge too, from the Community Land Trust Manager of CLT East.