Report of the Directors of Norton sub Hamdon CLT
    for the 2014 Annual General Meeting

    It is sometimes difficult to remember that this is only our second AGM – that we were only registered in July 2012.  In this short two years we have seen our first project virtually completed.  Our 10 affordable homes are finished and the handover of the site from the developers to the CLT and Yarlington Housing Group will take place this coming Friday 19th September. The following Friday 26th September will see the tenants move in and on Friday 3rd october will be the Official Opening Ceremony.  On Thursday 18th September the CLT Directors will have the opportunity to look round the houses.

    Throughout the construction phase we have had a representative attend every site meeting and have been able to influence the internal design and finishes of the houses, the external appearance, the landscaping and the street scene and to encourage a feeling among all those concerned of empathy to our village.  The Project Manager has been quoted as saying that the experience of working with a CLT has made him realise that he is building homes not houses, that the enthusiasm generated by the CLT has made the project far more personal and interesting and that the local knowledge brought to the project has been of great benefit.

    As you all know, to qualify to live in the homes you must belong here – to have a local connection.  We are very pleased that every house will be occupied by local people, most of them from Norton itself, with a few going to people with connections to the other ‘doughnut’ parishes.  We have been consulted about every prospective tenancy and have been asked to verify all the local connections.  We wish them all a happy life in their new homes.

    In the meantime, of course, we have now embarked on a second project – the Community Shop.  A very different project, bringing very different challenges.  We have been enormously encouraged by the enthusiasm and support, both financial and in volunteering time, of so many local residents, not just in Norton but also Chiselborough and West Chinnock.  Without that the project could not have got off the ground.  Your financial contribution has enabled us to apply for grants and we can announce that we have been awarded very generous grants from the Parish Councils of Norton sub Hamdon, Chiselborough and West and Middle Chinnock.  We have also been successful with application to Awards for All and to South Somerset District Council, each of which has awarded just under £10,000.

    We developed a Business Plan and that incorporates an Action Plan – what we have to do, by when, by whom, why, and in what order.  So far we seem to be keeping on track – but perhaps that is because those who wrote the plan are those who are carrying it out.  We have yet to discover what has been forgotten!  What’s more it keeps getting longer with every Board Meeting!

    Your commitment to help in the shop has been wondrous and we are very grateful to you all.  Without enough volunteers, it would have been impossible to consider the project.  As you know we are deeply engrossed in training:  We have been instructed on manual handling; we are learning how to operate the posh new state of the art till, learning where everything is kept; all there is to know about ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’; age related sales; shelf arrangement; and a plethora of other essential knowledge.  We owe an enormous thank you to Mike Orchard and Josie Hannam for giving up so many evenings to lead the training in the shop.  We are also very happy – and relieved – that Josie has agreed to be our Manager.

    We are sorting out the rota for volunteers’ time in the shop – a bit like a 5,000 piece jigsaw – we are very excited about our ‘branding’ (with huge thanks to Ian and Sarah Murray); we are sorting out new suppliers (and very grateful to Mike for dealing with the inevitable problems of the change-over); making financial, legal and insurance arrangements  and much more. There are still plenty of jobs on the Action Plan yet to be achieved so let’s all hope that not too much is missing from it and that on Wednesday October 29th we shall all be able to celebrate the opening of Norton Shop as a really well organised supported community project.

    Community Benefit Societies, such as Land Trusts, are not a new concept but their resurgence as a way to help rural communities remain sustainable and to involve a community in its own future has taken on new significance in an era of economic uncertainty.  It can often seem that the aspirations and needs of rural communities are sacrificed to the urgency of urban regeneration, let alone international affairs and world finance.  But  a Community Land Trust, such as ours, can be of real benefit to the community it serves, helping, through projects such as provision of affordable housing, preservation of local amenities like village shops and post offices and many other schemes, to sustain the economic and social structure of our community, to keep it vibrant for future generations and to help ensure Norton and its neighbours remain the lovely villages we all cherish.