Work has begun on a £900,000 housing development in Northumberland, providing seven affordable homes for local people on two brownfield sites.
The project is the first of its kind in the country to be led by a community group, with SCATA - Stocksfield Community Association Trading Arm - working with social housing provider Isos to deliver it through a so-called Community Land Trust.
The scheme will see two bungalows and four flats being built on the site next to the Scout hut in Guessburn, while one bungalow will replace the disused public toilet on New Ridley Road.
The work represents the first major project for SCATA, which was set up in 2012.
Assisted by £364,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), it has also received enthusiastic support from Broomley and Stocksfield Parish Council.
Vince Walsh, development and regeneration manager at Isos, said: “This is an important development both for Stocksfield and the wider area.
“The community here has taken a positive approach, recognising the need for more affordable homes, and demonstrating how building those homes can have wider benefits too.
“We look forward to supporting SCATA in delivering a project which will provide affordable homes here for generations to come.”
Average house prices in Stocksfield currently stand at just over £300,000 so demand for affordable homes to rent is well established.
Plans for the new scheme were drawn up after a detailed housing needs survey and wide-ranging public consultation.
Under the arrangement, the homes will remain the property of SCATA, with Isos managing them on a long lease and funding the construction work alongside the HCA.
Money generated from the sale of the Guessburn site is also being recycled to provide a major enhancement of Stocksfield Cricket Club’s premises, ensuring wider community benefits.
The project, for which the main contractor is NB Clark of Morpeth, should be completed by March 2015.
The properties, which will be subject to a local lettings policy, will then become available for rent via the Northumberland Homefinder service.
Chairman of SCATA Pete Duncan said: “As a not for profit community business, our role is to help meet local needs and plough back as much as we can into projects and programmes which directly benefit the local community.
“Our first development project is doing just that – providing much needed homes for rent for local people and re-investing £100,000 in sports facilities in the village.
“At a time when it seems most of our countryside is fair game for developers we are building homes on previously developed sites – not in the green belt.
“It really is a ‘win-win’ project for the whole village.”
The North East has been a pioneer in supporting the creation of Community Land Trusts to help bring affordable housing to rural areas.
CLTs already exist on Holy Island and in Wooler, Northumberland, but Stocksfield’s is the first of its kind in the Tyne valley.
Karen Anderson, area manager at the HCA, said: “It is great to see the Guessburn and Branch End projects start on site to provide much needed affordable homes for people wanting to live in Stocksfield.
“Isos have worked brilliantly with SCATA to deliver the ambitions of the community for homes people can afford right in the heart of the village.
“This is a great example of partnership working, where the Homes and Communities Agency’s £364,000 of funding has been able to support development shaped by the community in the area.”