A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a not for profit community-based organisation run by volunteers that delivers housing and other community facilities at permanently affordable levels for local people. This is not limited to housing, and can include community gardens, workspaces, civic buildings, commercial spaces and other community assets.
In principle, CLTs are made up of local people including residents and businesses who - voluntarily - work together to make improvements within a specific chosen area of their community. Acting like a charity, they can apply for an access funding from a variety of sources with which they can purchase land and property, invest in carrying out repairs and refurbishment, and then either sell the property or rent it out to people who need either affordable homes to live in, or premises to trade from or use for community purposes. The emphasis will always be on making the acquired premises accessible to people who would otherwise struggle to afford to buy or rent such properties. All the money raised through sale or rent is reinvested back into the CLT to buy more properties to regenerate.
There are a number of benefits to setting up and running a CLT. Usually, the stimulus is a desire to create affordable homes that are available to local people who cannot afford open market housing. However, often local people might take on another challenge facing their community, such as setting up a community shop, or purchasing the local pub when it is about to close.
CLTs are locally driven, controlled and democratically accountable. They have a membership that is open to all who live or work in the defined community, including occupiers of the properties that the Trust owns. The members elect a volunteer board to run the trust on their behalf on a day to day basis. Usually, the board comprises a balanced mix of supportive local residents, tenants and employers; people from the wider area with useful skills to offer; and additional representatives from, for example, the local authority, housing associations and community organisations.
CLTs are currently favoured by the government as locally-based regeneration vehicles whereby local people take control in improving their own community; and as such, the government is encouraging funding organisations to help CLTs wherever they become established.
New Ferry had been suffering as a district centre even before the explosion in March 2017. Some of its shops had been closed for several years, with some falling into disrepair and dereliction which the explosion only served to escalate. Anchor stores such as the Co-op, Ethel Austin, Rightway DIY and even its last bank, Lloyds, had all left - these often having been the reason why many people came into New Ferry to shop.
A significant problem had also been that owners - particularly those not local - had not been prepared to review the rents they were asking for vacant units, with - for example - 2 and 3 year terms not being worth the risk to new and young firms who might not survive six months but who would not want to be legally locked into such contracts forcing them to pay even if and long after their business failed.
Following the explosion, several sites will now be redeveloped as a matter of course. The Council has announced a strategy and funding package to assemble sites affected by the explosion and bring them into a single ownership which will serve to hasten their redevelopment. In addition, the Council will be using this opportunity to deal with the long-term derelict properties on New Chester Road and create a larger development site using some land on the Woodhead Street Car Park which is already in their ownership. All these new developments will see a mixture of residential, retail and leisure, and community uses.
However, there remain some significant parts of the district centre - mostly concentrated within Bebington Road (the precinct) and along parts of New Chester Road - which will not see any of this redevelopment and, without any immediate action, will continue to sit empty and act as detractors to the new spirit of regeneration which New Ferry is going to see in the coming months and years.
The vision is to bring buildings that are currently empty back into use. In our district centre, this would ideally see ground floors in use as retail, leisure, community or exhibition spaces. Upper floors would also be used, with the ideal solution being affordable housing for people who cannot currently find homes.
Part of the CLT's vision is be to encourage young business entrepreneurs to consider buying or renting a building that provides them with a base to trade from, but also live above - thus saving them the cost of a mortgage/renting both a retail premises and a home separately.
Even despite the changes in retail patterns over the last two decades, there still remains a desire for shops in an attractive, safe and convenient environment. New Ferry is "convenient" - but currently suffers from being regarded as "unsafe" and - despite being so close to Port Sunlight Village and its tourists - is far from attractive in its current state. The aim of the CLT will be to work with the Council, the New Ferry Town Team, Port Sunlight Village Trust and other agencies including the Wirral Chamber of Commerce to make positive changes to these aspects. This will include working with local community police and other services, but also by encouraging business owners and residents to take more pride in and ownership of the district centre buildings and its spaces. Our monthly community tidy -up scheme, established since October 2018, is already having a positive impact in keeping the precinct cleaner and tidier, whilst we are working with the Council to bring forward more improvements such as hanging baskets with flowers.
In addition, the CLT have anecdotal evidence based on comments we have seen (including on our Facebook page) that some people WOULD consider opening a business in New Ferry if suitably refurbished premises were made available.
The CLT cannot do this on their own. The CLT needs a board of volunteers who have some experience, or just enthusiasm and some time to get involved. The CLT encourages EVERYONE within the community to get involved by becoming a member of the New Ferry CLT. If you have experience (of organising, building, renovation work, fund raising, accounting, lobbying, minute taking, legal experience, housing management, etc) you can also join their board.
If you would like to contact the Community Land Trust, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to them at their registered address: New Ferry Community Land Trust, 78 New Chester Road, New Ferry, Wirral CH62 5AD asking for an application form to join.
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