The Trust’s project to build six affordable homes for local needs on the northern edge of Parracombe made good progress up until Christmas 2019. Unfortunately, since then, things have stalled – hopefully only temporarily.
Having identified a site, won the approval of the landowner, agreed a price and general terms and submitted grant funding bids to local and national government we had hoped that by now we could begin environmental and landscape assessments.
We’d also hoped to start conversations with housing associations and architects as to how the homes might look, together with possible building specifications. That in turn should have led to further consultation with planners, our members and the community generally ahead of preparations to submit a formal planning application.
Two of our bids – to North Devon Council for £1,620 and the Community-Led Homes ‘Seedcorn’ fund for £1,170 – were quickly successful. But this money was earmarked for initial start-up costs (legal fees etc). The key to really getting things moving was held by Homes England, to whom we’d applied for £65,000.
Indeed, Homes England’s response to our application was very encouraging and we had reasonable expectations of getting full approval. But then suddenly, in December, the whole process ground to a halt.
Homes England told us that, while our application was still very much ‘live’, the pot of money available to community land trusts and similar organisations across the country had been allocated. The fact that there had been an underspend on Homes England’s ‘capital budget’ (a different pot of the Community Housing Fund) seemed to make no difference.
Homes England assured us that they were asking the government to review and extend funding but that no decision was likely before the budget on March 11th.
And so for the time being we can only sit and wait for news. The government re-shuffle on February 13th, in which the Chancellor resigned and the housing minister was sacked, have unfortunately only added to the uncertainty. However the government made a clear manifesto pledge during the 2019 election to support community-led housing projects such as ours. We expect them to deliver on that promise.
Following the re-shuffle your Trust has lobbied the new housing minister, Christopher Pincher and North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, requesting that they support an urgent extension to the Community Housing Fund. We have sought further support from Parracombe Parish Council, Exmoor National Park Authority, North Devon Council and the Exmoor Rural Housing Network. We will continue to get our voice heard, as best we can, to move our local needs housing plans forward.
Should you wish to add your own voice in support you can email Mr Pincher here https://forms.communities.gov.uk/
Or write to him here:
Christopher Pincher, MP
Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street
The Trust’s Housing Committee will update you further as soon as possible.