Haslemere Community Land Trust (a non-profit, volunteer-run organisation) was incorporated in 2017 to help the community enhance the social and economic vibrancy of the area. Housing for local workers had been identified as a critical element in achieving the community’s vision, as had facilities to support more diverse local interests and employment. To that end HCLT is on the lookout for land of all different shapes and sizes and we appeal to anyone with an asset that could be used for community benefit to contact us.
- What we want to create
- Who we do it for
- Genuinely Affordable
- Housing Mix
- Where we focus
- How much will we pay for land?
- Design process
- How to start
What we want to create
What a piece of land might be suitable for depends a lot on the location but our primary focus is on genuinely affordable housing and community facilities in centrally located areas. Core to our values is to create assets that the community can be proud of, leaving a legacy for generations to come. The challenges brought by disused and unloved areas do not therefore dismay us. Transforming an ‘eyesore’ provides a lift for the whole community, and as we are not profit focused, smaller projects do not put us off. We are set up to take on larger projects as well, though these would be via partnerships with developers and/or Housing Associations as appropriate.
Who we do it for
Exceptionally high property prices in and around Haslemere are excluding young people and modestly paid local workers from having a home they can call their own and preventing growing families and older residents from moving to houses that meet their needs more fully. We want to redress these threats to the balance of our community by:
Creating affordable homes for people with local connections: Being within easy reach of London has economic and employment advantages and keeps our population profile younger, but it also has disadvantages. With circa 50% of house purchases (historic & current) going to London buyers, many local people move away from the area in which they work or have grown up in. This usually occurs when they start families and is largely due to a lack of suitable accommodation within their budget.
Market forces will exert their pressure, however without affordable housing the area has to import a work force, creating staff recruitment and retention issues for local business. This in turn makes our amenities and facilities less viable. To enhance the vibrancy of our towns and villages, we must retain people who work in, or have historic connections to, the area.
Centrally located homes suitable for downsizers: The area has a high proportion of elderly residents, an extraordinary proportion of whom live on their own in large properties. Whilst many stay for sentimental reasons, the area also lacks good options to move to; a central location being a significant factor for those considering a future without a car. Centrally located apartments can currently command a price tag of £900K+ due to their rarity value. This is a serious land supply issue and it will require community efforts to solve it. Centrally located property is difficult to build and without community pressure and consensus for regeneration it will not happen.
It is important to note that when we refer to housing that is ‘genuinely affordable’, we mean by reference to actual local salaries, rather than the usual model of a subsidy (usually of 20%) off market sale or rent values. An average 3-bed starter family home in the area is circa £550K, which is still out of reach of double-income key worker salaries, even with 20% off.
HCLT provides cost free resources (via its volunteers) and can access grant funding to ensure homes delivered are accessible for those who, despite working hard, cannot afford to live in this area. It is also key to note that building costs are relatively fixed, so acquiring land below market rates is a key part of being able to provide genuinely affordable housing.
Given the priorities laid out above, HCLT’s focus is on 3-bed style family starter homes and spacious downsizer apartments, though we will always aim to include a good mix of housing types. Developments with near identical houses, with the same type of people inside is not the way to create a vibrant and mixed community.
Where we focus
Our primary focus is within Haslemere and the surrounding villages of Beacon Hill, Camelsdale, Critchmere, Hammer, Hindhead, Grayswood and Shottermill, though we will work with communities further away if demand and opportunities arise. In our immediate area, we seek sites within the settlement boundaries set out in the Neighbourhood Plan, in line with the community’s expressed desire not to build out into surrounding green spaces.
Building on brownfield (previously developed land) will be considered outside the settlement boundaries, though impacts on both the setting and on surrounding wildlife networks would need to be carefully considered.
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Depending on where it is and what’s being built, the cost of land potentially comprises the majority of development cost. In the Haslemere area land values are particularly high, due in part to the beauty and desirability of our location and in part due to topography and the resulting scarcity of building land available. As a not-for-profit community benefit society therefore, we rely on people coming forward with more altruistic motives. We want to work with people who are interested in doing something for their community and who understand that we cannot compromise on delivering homes and facilities that deliver community benefit. In the case of affordable homes, that means price points within reach of actual local salaries (see Genuinely Affordable Housing).
HCLT is passionate about good design that works well within its neighbourhood. In working with developers therefore, we expect full involvement in the design process, right through from the housing mix to car parking.
We believe the best way to design something special is to do it collaboratively, bringing site owners, neighbours and local interest groups together with architects in a new style design process. At workshops held locally, residents’ shape the design and the architects draw up visuals for the room to work with as we go. Having expertise in the room expands the vision of what is possible and keeps feet on the ground on what is practical. At the end of the day you have a community critiqued outcome to take forward.
Involving the community from the start in what is being built in their neighbourhood builds critical project support. It also flags up issues important locally such as access, footpath connectivity, appropriate wildlife mitigation, desired architectural features and much more.
We appeal to local landowners and, indeed, anyone else – if you have an idea, however tentative, bring it to us. HCLT volunteers are an approachable bunch, open to new ideas and suggestions. If the terrain proves unsuitable for housing or community facilities, re-wilding projects or planting community orchards may also prove, well, fruitful. Whatever your asset and whatever you think it might be used for, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start a conversation. Similarly, if you’d like to talk to us about projects we’re working on or you have skills or time you are willing to donate, please do get in touch.