What are CLTs and what can they do?

Our Community Land Trust (CLT) has been incorporated with these objects:
  • To maintain or improve the physical, social, and economic infrastructure within the Parish of Norton sub  Hamdon and its environs
  • To advance education (particularly concerning asset based community development and enterprises with a community or environmental focus)
  • To provide an opportunity for public-spirited people and organisations to contribute financially to the community, with the expectation of a social dividend, rather than personal financial reward.  
Anyone living in Norton sub Hamdon or its environs, who supports these objects, may apply to be a member – or  shareholder – of the Community Land Trust.  

There are ways in which the Trust can carry out its objects. These include such things as:
  • Providing housing for those in need and helping improve housing standards; 
  • Creating training and employment opportunities by the provision of workspace, buildings or land;  
  • Developing new or existing services to the local community that contribute to the local economy. 
In our case, Norton sub Hamdon Community Land Trust was set up with one initial project – that of providing ten new affordable homes on the land adjoining Minchingtons Close.  

As part of the Government’s “Localism” legislation, certain grants towards the cost of affordable housing are only available through CLT’s. Therefore the local community becomes more involved and empowered in the process.  

Essentially The CLT will own the freehold of the land on which the homes adjoining Minchingtons Close will be built. The CLT will  lease the land, through a 125 year agreement, to a Registered Housing Provider (Yarlington Housing Group) who will  pay a ground rent to the CLT. This ground rent (expected to be in the region of £2,000 per annum) will be the basis of a Community Fund, which can then be used to fund other projects.  

As the landowner, the CLT will have a say in the allocation of the homes, through a legally binding agreement which is part of the planning process. This agreement determines that the houses will always, in perpetuity, be available for people with a substantial local connection.

The Community Land Trust is completely separate from the Parish Council. Obviously it is and always will be sensible that there should be a good working relationship between the two bodies – after all they are both trying to serve our local community. Therefore a Parish Councillor has been co-opted, as a non-voting Member, to the Board  of Directors. Together the two bodies should be able to achieve a great deal towards keeping our village alive and vibrant – to use the jargon – to keep it “sustainable”.  

We hear a great deal these days about rural communities not being “sustainable”. What this means, in practice, is that villages can too easily lose the things they need to keep them going. Things like their School or their Shop, their  Pub, even their local bus service. And who will, in the future, as we get older, run the Village Hall or mow the churchyard and many other things that volunteers do in Norton. All of these assets can be seen to be important to the social and economic infrastructure of our village, and, therefore, to fit within the definition of the objects of the CLT.  

Villages need to be able to attract young people to live  in them. So they need to have houses that young families can afford and, therefore, if, as here, house prices in the private market are too expensive, affordable houses to rent are needed. We need to think about employment  opportunities, play and youth facilities. Young families are the future for any village – people to carry on all those community minded roles, people to support the school, pub, shop, well into the future. Of course, we also need to meet the needs and aspirations of the not quite so young members of the community.  To be sustainable, a community must welcome and support all its members. Everyone has their part to play. Without that eclectic mix no village can survive as a “community”.    

To get back to why the Government’s Localism legislation is supporting the creation of Community Land Trusts: Parish Councils can, and do, achieve tremendous things for their communities. They have many powers vested in them, by law, to help their communities through the provision of services, financially supported by the raising of a  Precept, administered as part of the local taxation system.

Community Land Trusts can own and administer assets. They can raise funds, through share issues or loan management to support local aspirations – the provision of affordable housing; running a village shop or pub, a  community farm or transport service; perhaps providing local workshops or supporting renewable energy projects. CLT’s are all about giving power to local people – us – to enable us to have a say in our own future. They are about  “sustainability”, about supporting rural communities and a traditional way of life, about “empowering” people who live and work in rural communities, away from and very different from the big cities, to feel that they can govern and  control their lives.