The concept of a community land trust dates back to the 1920’s. They were originally a feature of the Garden City Towns, for example in Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth. Whilst the concept transferred to the United States and has continued there as a strong movement for delivery of community owned housing, it fell out of favour in the UK until recently. Over the last decade the concept has re-emerged in the UK as a way of establishing community led housing schemes that are owned and controlled by local communities. They are supported by Government Policy as one strand of the response to the wider housing crisis across the Country. There are now over 290 community land trusts in the UK and most were formed in the last 2 or 3 years.
The idea of creating a community land trust for Westbourne dates back to March 2017. At that point Chichester District Council (CDC) received Government funding and decided on a strategy of encouraging community land trusts across the District mainly by working through the network of Parish Councils. A brief history of the emergence of Westbourne Community Trust as a community land trust is provided below.
- March 2017; Chichester District Council received almost £1.4M of government funds to encourage and support community led housing across the District and commenced a programme of engagement with Parish Councils to encourage formation of community land trusts.
- March to June 2017; Westbourne Parish Councillors began to research and consider this idea as a solution to providing affordable housing and other community projects within Westbourne.
- April 2017; At the Annual Parish Assembly the concept of community land trusts is discussed with background papers distributed.
- July 2017; Chichester District Council continued to provide advice on how to take the concept forward.
- July 2017; Westbourne Parish Council considered a report at the Council meeting entitled “A Community Land Trust for Westbourne”. This report with its detailed findings was discussed and agreed by the Parish Council and Cllr Mason was confirmed as the lead in considering the feasibility of forming a Trust and establishing a Steering Group of local residents. It was also agreed to fund the cost (£50) of joining the National Community Land Trust Network, which is the national association providing guidance and support.
- August 2017; The Parish Council joined the National Community Land Trust Network.
- October 2017; The Government agency known as Locality, confirmed that they would support Westbourne by appointing a mentor to support the work of forming a Westbourne community land trust.
- October 2017 to April 2018; The Parish Council incorporated the concept of establishing a community land trust into their Business Plan for 2018 to 2021.
- November 2017; Chichester District Council formally approved support for the establishment of a Community Land Trust in Westbourne with an indication of the potential funding streams that could be provided for delivery of affordable housing.
- November 2017; The Autumn edition of the Parish Council Newsletter publicised the ongoing work of forming a community land trust, explaining the concept and inviting residents to come forward and support the work.
- December 2017 to March 2018; Recruitment of interested residents and community organisations commenced and individuals are invited to come forward, support the concept and join the Steering Group.
- April to October 2018; The Westbourne Community Land Trust Steering Group is established and meets monthly to progress the formal establishment of a trust.
- October 2018; The Parish Council Newsletter announced the commissioning of a Housing Needs Survey to be undertaken by Chichester District Council to provide information on Housing Need for both the Parish Council and the newly emerging Westbourne Community Trust (the agreed name for the community land trust).
- November 2018; The Westbourne Community Trust is formally incorporated as a Community Benefit Society to operate as a community land trust with a registered number of 7872.
- December 2018; The Westbourne Community Land Trust website and Facebook page went live and the Trust commenced consultation with local residents about its ideas for development.
- January 2019; Chichester District Council officers take a report to cabinet to request authority to act on their behalf in relation to land negotiation on some council owned sites in Westbourne.