Wessex Community Assets

Wessex Community Assets, a social enterprise specialising in community ownership, has hosted the Wessex Community Land Trust Project (WCLTP) since 2010. 

  • Covering mainly rural communities in Somerset, Devon and Dorset, it has supported the development of nearly 40 community land trusts, providing mainly affordable homes for rent and some for shared ownership in partnership with housing associations. Further schemes are currently in the pipeline.
  • Small, community-led development organisations usually need support, particularly in their early stages. Without it, many potentially good projects never get off the ground or can spend many years struggling to reach their objective. Dedicated support agencies, or umbrellas, are an important way of providing this. 

“WCLTP began life in 2010 and since then the interest in community land trusts across Wessex has grown steadily, with strong support from local authorities and housing associations.

It was not an easy process in the early days; newly emerged Community Land Trusts found it very difficult to go it alone so we developed a partnership approach with housing associations to take the heavy lifting off them. It has proved to be an attractive option, with most of the CLTs we support going down this route. 

  As an umbrella organisation supporting CLTs we have needed to cover a large geographical area to be financially viable. Working across three counties is just about right for us. We have been keen to see other CLT umbrellas develop elsewhere. We have helped set one up in Lincolnshire and have close links with others that are now up and running in Cumbria, East Anglia and in Cornwall, which was the first”.

Steve Watson, Wessex Community Land Trust Project

  • CLT umbrellas like Wessex needed to be supported by grant in their early days. At Wessex CLT this came initially from central Government funding (via Carnegie UK) and then, for a year, from a number of local authorities and a national charity (the Tudor Trust). After three years, however, the service became self-financing through costs recovered on the successful CLT developments themselves.
  • The approach to community land trust development in Wessex is deliberately low-risk. Although each CLT finds the land, agrees the number of homes, designs the scheme, advocates it the wider community, agrees the allocation criteria and acquires the freehold, the responsibility for developing, financing and managing the scheme lies with a housing association partner. The CLT has an option to buy the housing association out of its 125 year lease in the future, assuming it can raise the funding.
  • WCLTP’s role is to help the CLT with set up, identifying a suitable site, negotiating with the landowner, tendering and appointing professional advisers, attracting revenue grant, drafting the allocation criteria, matching the CLT to an appropriate housing association partner, and overall project management. The role also includes providing business planning, legal framework and governance advice and training for CLTs. The umbrella’s costs are recouped from the housing association partner if the scheme goes ahead – most do.

More information about Wessex Community Land Trust can be found here, or by contacting steve.watson@wessexca.com


Published in March 2018