Charles Ainger and a small group of local people were inspired to set up the Lune Valley Community Land Trust (LVCLT), as a community benefit society, in early 2018, after seeing that three local commercial developments were only providing affordable homes that were too few, too small and too expensive to heat, leading to fuel poverty. The aim was to create affordable, sustainable homes, prioritised for local people. They are currently developing 20 affordable Passivhaus homes, in partnership with South Lakes Housing and supported by Lancaster City Council, on a site in Halton, Lancashire.
The homes will be a mix of shared ownership and affordable rent and priority access will be given to local people. Both tenures will remain affordable in perpetuity as Community Land Trusts are able to avoid the right to buy legislation that affects housing associations and local authorities.
The brownfield site was acquired from a local developer with financial support from Lancaster City Council, and the pre-development costs have been covered by funding from the Community Housing Fund, of which Lancaster City Council received just over £700k. South Lakes Housing was chosen by the CLT group to partner with, as they felt they shared their aspirations to offer high quality, low carbon homes. The partnership also deliberately involves an established housing association, to help show that this housing standard can be provided by everyone.
The CLTs trustees are all Halton residents and bring a range of experiences to the group from architect to mechanical engineer. Throughout the development and build stage the local community has played a key role, participating in feedback sessions and voting on design options, the group were even able to continue this engagement online through the pandemic lockdowns through a web-based public consultation. This grassroots approach has led to the scheme being well supported by the local community; no objections were raised against the planning application.
The design of the homes includes a pedestrian central street and car parking on either end of the development so that the community have a safe, car free place to mix in the centre where kids can play safely and garden areas can be enjoyed together. All homes will exceed recommended national space standards by 5% and each resident can ultimately have access to EV charging points. Being built to Passivhaus standard means that each home uses perhaps only 20% as much energy compared to a standard new build home, significantly reducing the risk of fuel poverty. Once built, the homes will be close to zero carbon. They will also help provide better health, offering clean air, and no moisture condensation, that supports healthy lungs and reduces the risk of respiratory disease.
The expected date for people to start living in the homes is early autumn 2022; so the whole journey from first idea to site occupation will have taken 4.5 years.
LVCLT’s confidence to think ‘we can do this’ drew partly on some of their trustees’ experience in developing Lancaster Cohousing, another Passivhaus scheme in the area. Inspired by groups such as Keswick Community Housing Trust, they connected with a local community-led housing advisor. They received early funding support from the CLT Network and Coop UK for incorporation and capacity building. Following several local public meetings and with a local needs survey, the group were in a strong position to represent the needs and aspirations of the local community.
A suitable local site was available, very close to where most of the group lived, so it was easier to visualise it's potential. Because the trustees knew they did not have the time and energy to manage project delivery themselves, a key early decision was to partner with a Housing Association – South Lakes Housing. This was not only to manage design, construction and long term occupation, but also, to provide them with ‘ownership’ through a 150 year lease, to access their lower cost loan funding of construction cost that the HA’s size and larger asset base could provide.
The CLT was able to access ‘pre-development’ grant funding from the council's Community Housing Fund which helped to ‘de-risk’ the up-front cost of partnership. Using the HA’s established experience and contacts for organising planning, design and construction considerably sped up the delivery process. The combined team, including the CLT, went straight to work together, thus learning that they could trust each other’s commitment to the project and its innovative high standards. Along the way, the impact of the Covid19 pandemic was mitigated by early adoption of online working. The group were still able to engage with the local community pre-planning via a web-based consultation. The mutual trust built up then helped both parties to successfully negotiate the hardest part; the detailed legal compromises needed in the lease. This combines legal commitment to the community led housing principles and low energy use standards, with ‘worst case scenario’ text which satisfies the HA’s lenders, making the lease a ‘lendable against’ financial asset.
LVCLT believe that all new homes should be built to the high space and low energy use standards that they are applying here. They focused on setting early high standards for the homes that are the end product; and would encourage others to copy the "what" of what they have achieved: building carbon zero homes which exceed national space standards and encourage a low carbon lifestyle. They and the council see the project as a case study example of what could be achieved by everyone.
But it was their local circumstances – a site, strong council support and a compatible HA partner – that framed their decisions on how to deliver it. So they would advise others to find their own "how"; each group needs to find a method for delivery that suits them and their circumstances.
- Number of people benefitting (about 65, in 20 households).
- Amount of space to live in.
- Energy use per m2: designed in, to Passivhaus standard, max.15 kWh/year/m2.
- Amount of renewable energy used: aspiration to be 100% but no target because of legal 'right to change supplier' rules.
- EV charging capacity provided.