Parracombe Community Trust – Members Update January 2019

Dear Parracombe Community Trust Member,

Firstly, a big thank-you to everyone who attended the Special General Meeting on January 16th to elect a new Trust Board. We should also welcome the many new members who signed up on the evening – we now have a membership of 63 which is a fantastic result just six months into this new venture. A number of members couldn’t make the meeting and sent their apologies; this brief report will hopefully keep everyone appraised.

One of the key messages from the meeting was that, while the Board will be limited to eight people, any Trust member can be co-opted onto the committees steering its three main projects (shop, hall and affordable housing).

This means all members can play a key role in shaping these vital parts of our community. If you’d like more information about how to join a committee please email our membership secretary Alison Smith at or call on 01598 763679. Find out more about membership.

The newly elected Board:

  • Dave Austin (chair)
  • Nick Backhouse
  • Nick Constable (secretary)
  • Keith Denby
  • Jeremy Holtom
  • Sue Rawle
  • Alison Smith (membership secretary)
  • Tom Wilde (treasurer)

The Village Shop

The village shop is currently the Trust’s main focus. Initial drawings for conversion of the playing field pavilion are in process and consultation is ongoing with Exmoor National Park as the planning authority. The Board’s Shop Committee met this week and considered next steps, including applications for grant funding and more detailed designs for a formal planning application. Parking and footpaths may well form part of an overall master plan. The target opening for the shop is spring 2020 and, while this is ambitious, it is felt a deadline is essential to ensure the project doesn’t stall. Many of you have shown your support by pledging money towards start-up costs while others have promised to volunteer their time. Please do keep those offers coming – these are investments in our community and, ultimately, our quality of life.

The village hall

Parracombe Parish Council is now proud owner of the village hall. It is hoped a lease will be drawn up with the Community Trust Board who, as tenants, will be responsible for day-to-day management. A meeting of the Board’s Hall Committee was held on January 21st when various short-term improvements were discussed, e.g. better access to hot water, the need for a new lock on the disabled toilet and alteration of its window, proper flushing of the men’s loos and the installation of an electricity smart meter (to name but a few). Looking longer term moves will soon get underway to explore grants and funding streams.

At present the Village Hall Charity is being maintained as a separate and independent organisation and it has agreed – at least for the time being – to continue overseeing fundraising, paying essential bills and supervising hire. The Charity’s funds will be held separately although one trustee is also a member of the Hall Committee and can provide regular financial updates. Steps are underway to appoint at least one other trustee. Looking ahead, both the Charity and the PCT Board will seek legal advice to establish how closely they can co-operate while still complying with governance rules.

Affordable Housing

Good progress has been made in terms of identifying three potential sites in the village. The Board is in discussion with one of the landowners concerned but unless and until a formal agreement is made to acquire land it has been agreed that details should not be made public. The maximum price for purchasing affordable housing land is £7,000 per unit which is clearly below the amount a commercial developer would have to pay. The Board’s working assumption is that there will be a development of six affordable homes, allocated according to criteria which define an occupier’s local link and need. The precise criteria has not yet been drawn up but it is important to understand that it must at least conform to that already laid down by Exmoor National Park. It may also become necessary to allow one or two open-market homes (alongside the affordable ones) to attract a trusted developer and ensure good quality designs. That will be a matter of negotiation but whatever the final agreement Parracombe Community Trust will seek to benefit from ground rent income. And all the homes – affordable or not – will require any occupier or owner to have a local link and permanent occupancy. They cannot become second homes!

During the question-and-answer session following the Special General Meeting one member raised concerns that we may be taking on too much in one go. This is a fair point, but your Board feels it is quite possible to run the three key projects in tandem. Hall management will continue pretty much as usual and plans for major improvement work there will in any case need time for consideration and consultation. In the case of affordable housing the Board is effectively acting as fixer. Our role will be to ensure land ownership, contractual agreements and outline planning permission are all in place before appointing a developer – such as a housing association – to see the project through. Be assured, none of us are looking to pick up a hard hat, high-vis jacket and shovel!

So while we’ve taken on a lot we also have a clear idea of priorities. The shop has to be the main one because this is a service the community has actually lost. It will be a challenge but, given the superb support you have all shown, it is certainly achievable.

Once again, sincere thanks to all our members and supporters. While we do not intend to bombard you with updates, we will share any significant news with you as soon as we possibly can.

Best wishes,

Dave Austin
Chair

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