People power builds new homes in Powerstock
Powerstock has a vibrant community with a highly-rated primary school, thriving village hall and popular pub.
Yet property prices in the village near Bridport – like in many parts of Dorset – mean that some local people cannot afford to live here.
However, a group of residents has found a way to bring forward a development of new houses for people with a strong local connection to the area.
With its chosen site at the ‘Forge’ falling within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Powerstock’s Conversation Area, close to the village’s Grade I listed church and near a Scheduled Monument, construction of new homes has been less than straightforward, but they are due for completion in early 2019.
The site will comprise eight new houses for affordable rent: five with two bedrooms, two with one bedroom and one with three bedrooms.
Equivalent properties for sale on the open market could cost up to half a million pounds.
Hastoe will manage the properties but the CLT will retain the freehold in perpetuity for the village.
Vanessa White, chair of the Powerstock CLT, said: “One of the reasons we chose the site for the CLT is that it is tucked away in an unobtrusive position which won’t change the look of the village.
“That has made it more difficult but after nearly six years we are looking forward to its completion.
“We have noticed how difficult it has become for local people to find housing. There has already been a great deal of interest and we expect the properties to be oversubscribed, which proves that the need is there.”
The scheme has been designed in a ‘farm courtyard’ setting to satisfy various planning and conservation requirements with a barn style building at one end complemented by ‘converted stables’ and a coach house.
Local ham stone has been used for the lower floors with red cedar boarding above and slate roofs.
Vanessa, who has lived in the village for 35 years, said: “Under the CLT process, the community has the power to choose a site and lead the scheme with support from the council.
“WDDC, Steve Watson from the Wessex CLT Project, Hastoe and Classic Builders have all been superb.
“Choosing the right site has also meant that the local community has been supportive too.”
WDDC has £1.2m of funding available through the council’s innovative Opening Doors programme to help community land trusts. The area is one of the most active districts for CLTs nationwide.
Cllr Tim Yarker, who is West Dorset District Council (WDDC) housing portfolio holder, said: “CLTs have proven successful in providing affordable homes for people in their own communities where development may not have been otherwise possible.
“Opening Doors aims to encourage the development of more good quality homes of a mixed tenure and there is no doubt that some of the strongest need is in our rural areas.
“It is encouraging to see the Powerstock CLT progressing so well and we would like to see more communities come forward to take advantage of the funding and support available.”
Steve Watson, from the Wessex CLT project, said it would have been difficult for a housing association to development the site without the involvement of Powerstock CLT.
“The same group of people within the CLT have shown incredible patience, and devoted vast amounts of time and energy because they really care about the village.
“They have met every month for five years and deserve tremendous credit for their work.”
Hastoe, which is a specialist rural housing association, has already held a meeting in the village for prospective tenants to find out more details.
Peter Friend, development project manager at Hastoe Housing Association, said: “Hastoe has been partnering with community land trusts, like Powerstock CLT, to assist them in the provision of affordable housing in their communities.
“We can benefit from a CLT’s access to grant money, which can be used for site investigations, design and pre-planning work.
“This means that we can focus our energy and resources towards ensuring the homes are built to the highest standards of quality and sustainability.
“Partnering with the Powerstock CLT has allowed Hastoe to find, acquire and develop a site that would probably have not been made available for affordable housing in any other way.
“As an alternative to our traditional rural development model, CLT partnering has become a valuable addition to our ongoing development programme.”
The scheme is not just aimed at young families. It may be older people seeking to downsize or unable to afford their rent who want to stay in the area.
Vanessa added: “A mix of different ages and types of people will bring stability and a sense of community; it will be lovely to see young people walking to school once it is all finished and everyone has moved in.”
Contact housing enabling team leader Paul Derrien at WDDC for more about community land trusts.