Housing in a Spin

Revolving door leaves housing in a spin

Even people connected to the sector are hard put to answer the question: who is this week’s housing minister? The answer, since 20 September 2022, is Lee Rowley, the Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire, but before he gets too many business cards printed he might remember that he is, incredibly, the 23rd housing minister since 1997. They don’t last long, especially recently (more than one a year for the last 12).  And we may hear about next week’s any time soon – and that is a problem.

Continuity matters in all aspects of public policy and for relationships with such key figures to be effective, they need to be forged and nurtured over time. Housing, we have noticed, takes time to happen, plans can easily stall – and appointing a new minister every few months or so is not easing the pathway to achievement.

It is inevitable that political volatility results in mixed messaging – and in the sphere of housing this leads to prolonged difficulties for the already disadvantaged.

Rowley, 42, a former management consultant, describes his new role as “a big job to help raise standards and service across the sector, to improve how planning works for local communities and, vitally, to empower more people to achieve their dream of home ownership”.

We look forward to hearing in detail his progress with planning “improvements” for local communities and how his intention to promote greater home ownership is going, against a background of financial instability and an affordability gap that is seemingly unbridgeable for so many.

We wish him luck – and who knows if his tenure will last long enough to do some good, as his hapless predecessor only lasted 61 days.


Rolling R’s in Haslemere?

Rolling Rs, mouth vowels and scribs – can you still tell our born and bred? 

As Haslemere CLT continues its search for sites, and Londoners snap up more prime property, Martin James listens out for the authentic voice of the true locals – but does a local accent still exist?

You get some funny looks when asking High Street passers-by to repeat this sentence: “I work 14 hours Saturdays for a far older farmer.” But doing so carries less risk than a question such as “Excuse me, madam, do you roll your Rs?” which is likely to get your face slapped. 

After recently writing a Herald article about an influx of Londoners pushing up house prices and edging out our young people and workers, I was now wondering if it’s actually possible to tell a born-and-bred local from an incomer – and perhaps one way is to listen for the local accent.

“What local accent?” many would say, believing that any such speech pattern there might once have been across the area is now diluted beyond recognition by the swamp of Estuary English. This flat, classless, all-purpose accent has washed in strongly here since the war, also gradually merging with the often heard Received Pronunciation (sometimes called BBC English, or described as “well spoken” and “posh”).  

But, in amongst it, this local accent does survive – you pick it up here and there in village shop or country pub, whispers from our rural and less mobile past slowly fading as years, and people, go on their way. It’s a Surrey-Hampshire-West Sussex border accent, with a kind of “burr” and sort of phonetic quirks that sound… Well, maybe trying to describe it is best left to an expert, and there are none better placed than Jonnie Robinson, Curator of Spoken English at the British Library.

(see the links below to hear recordings curated by the British Library)

“There are clearly identifiable markers in the speech of older and more rural-dwelling members of your community,” says Robinson, “and the farther west you travel within it, the more the accent sounds rather West Country. Key things to listen out for around Haslemere and Farnham are ‘rhotic’ speech (rolling of the R sound in words such as ‘farm’) and what is called the ‘mouth vowel’ that turns ‘house’ into more like ‘hewse’. Also notable is what is known as the ‘price vowel’ that bends ‘price’ towards ‘proice’.”

Hopefully, readers will have got some idea from that and it will have rung a bell or two. Certainly it did with Charles Beckerson, headteacher of St Bart’s Primary in Haslemere. “That sounds right to me,” he says. “I’ve grown up here to the age of 43 now and, while my speech passes unremarked around the area, when I travel away people often say that I sound a bit West Country.” 

But while the local accent is more discernible in older residents, children everywhere have at least one “giveaway” in their speech – and Robinson points to the school playground for clues. “Children always have a word for calling a kind of time-out, pause or surrender in a game of chase or a tussle,” he says, “and this ‘truce word’ varies from place to place. Round your way I think you’ll find it is ‘scribs’.”  

After the tricky encounter with the “rolling Rs” woman in the High Street, I wasn’t going to risk further and deeper trouble by entering school playgrounds asking kids what they would say if chased into a corner. Robinson’s theory therefore remains untested – but no doubt readers and their children will confirm or deny the possibly controversial “scribs” hypothesis.

Our aim as the Haslemere Community Land Trust is to help local young people and key workers who are struggling to afford a home to be able to stay in the area and put down the kind of roots that keep such accents and idioms alive. But to do that we need sites suitable for affordable housing. Please give it some thought and see if you can help with the suggestion of a plot or patch of ground for us to build homes for our own. 

Local voices come alive via the following links, kindly provided by Jonnie Robinson, which take you to recordings held by the British Library.

Recorded in Thursley in 1959


Courtesy of British Library © BBC

Recorded in Milland, West Sussex, in 1998


Courtesy of British Library © BBC

Recorded in Elstead in 1998 


Courtesy of British Library © University of Leeds

Haslemere Herald

The content of this news post was published in the Haslemere Herald today (5th August 2021)

Local Plan Part 2 – Consultation

The Haslemere Community Land Trust has responded to Waverly Borough Council’s consultation on Part 2 of the Local Plan.  The HCLT has emphasised that it believes that sites proposed for allocation in rural areas should be developed for genuinely affordable housing only. 

Part 2  covers site allocations and development management policies.  Read the full text here. HCLT submission LPP2

Guide to Alternative Housing

 This guide has been written by Martin James and those local to Haslemere that read the Haslemere Herald may be familiar with his informative letters to the paper.  see for example Know your AGLV from your SSI, CLT and Green Belt?

Alternative Housing – A Simple Guide

While everyone is familiar with properties being advertised for sale in an estate agent’s window, or the traditional council housing as supplied by a local authority, fewer know of and understand the wide range of other housing provision available today. Here is a sector breakdown in summary.

Community-led housing. Meaningful community engagement and consent takes place throughout the process as small-scale developments are set up and run by local people. The local group or organisation owns, manages or stewards the homes and in a manner of their choosing. The benefits to the locality or particular community have to be clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity, for example, through an asset lock. Community-led housing meets long-term need, is not-for-profit and supplies genuinely affordable dwellings for rent, sale or shared ownership. An umbrella term for much of what follows. 

Community land trust. Also known as a CLT, these are set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets important to that community. For example, a local pub or shop that is at risk of closure, or the provision of local workspaces. CLTs act as long-term stewards of those assets and in the case of housing, ensure that it remains genuinely affordable not just for now but in perpetuity.

Housing co-operative. Formed of groups of people who provide and collectively manage, on a democratic membership basis, affordable homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners.

Cohousing. Communities that are created and run by the people who live in them come into this category. Each household has their own home as well as shared community space. The residents collaborate on managing their community, share activities and regularly eat together. Cohousing is seen as a way of tackling isolation and creating neighbourly support. 

Collaborative self and custom build. This entails groups building their own homes together. Custom build homes are self build homes facilitated in some way by a developer. 

Take-up is low in Britain compared with most other countries, but councils are required to deliver self-build and custom build homes under the Self and Custom Build Housing Act of 2015.

Housing association. Officially classified as “registered social landlords”, and often large and regional rather than hyper-local, HAs are not-for-profit organisation that own, let and manage rental housing. Revenue raised from rents is ploughed back into the acquisition and maintenance of property.

Tenant management organisation. These provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association landlord.

Over 3,500 community led homes at risk

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Over 3,500 community led homes at risk if Government doesn’t put things right.

Late last year the National CLT Network submitted a Freedom of Information request to Homes England. This revealed that there are over 3,500 community led homes in the Community Housing Fund pipeline. This is an exciting prospect considering it’s been less than nine months since the fund was opened. But many could be scuppered unless the Community Housing Fund is extended.

The Community Housing Fund, outside of London, is due to close for bids in December 2019. Most of the groups bringing forward those 3,500 homes will need access to capital funding for their affordable homes into next year and beyond, if they’re to get those homes completed.

The number might seem small in the scheme of things. But these are homes being developed to meet very particular needs communities. They matter, and the people behind them will be devastated if the Government pulls the rug from under them.

Groups building standard types of affordable housing like affordable rent and shared ownership will still be able to bid for the mainstream affordable homes funding. But innovative approaches won’t qualify, and new groups will lose access to unique revenue funding to develop their plans. Frankly, ending the Fund so quickly will be a farce!

The National CLT Network lobbied for and secured this fund in 2016. After a rocky start, it helped the Government design the current programme, and persuade them to aim not just to build some homes but to grow the community led housing movement. The network is steadily building the expertise and capacity in communities and the wider housing industry for this to be much more mainstream.

It was always envisioned that this would be a five-year fund. That would give groups the time to develop their projects, and the sector time to grow, But delays have meant this part of the Fund will only be open to bids for 18 months. A turnaround time like this would be tricky for seasoned housing developers never mind CLTs, which are mostly powered by volunteers. This isn’t taking into consideration the quite lengthy process to register as a social housing provider, which some CLTs may decide to go through.

Last week, London’s Community Housing Fund was announced. The GLA operates separate systems to Homes England, and they’ve done a fantastic job adapting the fund to the capital. The news was all the sweeter because in London the Fund stays open until 2023. Great news for Londoners, but not very fair for groups in the rest of England.

The Haslemere CLT has written to our local Member of Parliament, Jeremy Hunt.