Be part of the solution

Right now, we’re not building enough homes in the UK of the right kind, in the right place, at the right price, to meet our housing needs. As think tank New Local makes clear in its recent report Housing Beyond Markets and State, that’s because our current planning system is broken.

Local planning authorities, urges New Local, “should be given the chance to let communities say ‘Yes’. Communities should be involved in street-level planning and consensus decision-making.”

One way that communities can have genuine influence on local development is through Community Review Panels (CRP). “This approach is an alternative to the standard models of developer engagement and local consultation which are often adversarial,” says the report. One such CRP is the Southwark Review Panel, set up to bring together people who know Old Kent Road well and who want to contribute to its 20-year regeneration programme. This new development will create 20,000 new homes, schools, parks and community facilities, and should generate 10,000 new jobs.

Cohousing is another approach where people to come together to build a neighbourhood. While cohousing has a big focus on living communally, it’s not a commune! Cohousing residents have their own homes which surround shared spaces where people can meet, eat together and share resources when they choose. For example, Lancaster Cohousing was originally a modest cohousing idea shared between friends and Green Party activists, which blossomed into an £8 million development of 41 ‘Passivhaus’ eco-homes and communal facilities.

Communities can also create affordable, sustainable homes by setting up a Community Land Trust (CLT) – a non-profit organisation that owns and develops land for the benefit of the community. An inspiring example is the Lune Valley CLT, in Halton, Lancashire, set up in early 2018 and currently developing a community of 20 affordable Passivhaus homes, in partnership with South Lakes Housing and supported by Lancaster City Council. The high quality, low-carbon buildings will provide a mix of shared ownership and affordable rent, and priority access will be given to local people.

What can you do, given our broken planning system? Communities can still have real influence on local developments by taking some of the alternative pathways described.

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