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Community Groups

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

8. What progress has been made on proposals for the transfer of assets to community groups; and whether the proposals in the empowerment White Paper will affect this process. (206428)

Since May last year, community groups have been assisted on asset transfer projects in 20 areas, the Cabinet Office has allocated £30 million in refurbishment grants, and there is new guidance for local authorities. The White Paper will build on that, and in particular propose a new right for citizens which will ensure that councils consider proposals to transfer underused properties or land to community ownership.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and I particularly welcome the emphasis she placed on the transfer of land. Does she agree that community land trusts have a particularly important role to play in achieving a permanently affordable stock of intermediate housing, and will she encourage the transfer of assets to such trusts?

My hon. Friend has an extremely good record of being imaginative and innovative and of supporting such projects in her area. We now have 14 community land trust pilots—overseen by Salford university—in both rural and urban areas. In some of the rural areas, we already have people occupying the homes that have been built in this way. This is a very imaginative way of ensuring that affordable housing remains for the long term. I understand that the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) will meet my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) later today to consider how we can press on further with this agenda.

I hear what my right hon. Friend says, and I thank her for seeing me about the Cashes Green site—and I also look forward to hosting the Under-Secretary when he comes to Stroud. What progress is being made on the pilots, and when will the full report eventually be produced by Bob Paterson and others?

My hon. Friend is also extremely supportive on these issues, and I know he has been imaginative in taking them forward in his own area. I can promise him that there will be a report on the pilots. He will know that there are still some technical issues to be explored, particularly in relation to the urban pilots, which are on a broader scale and therefore require more work to be done. I will make sure that we come forward with our proposals as soon as we can, as I understand that there is a pressing need to get a proper framework for this way of working. Not only community land trusts but community ownership in general can ensure that organisations are sustainable for the long term, with an income stream that means they are less dependent on grants from local authorities. That is why such trusts are such an important part of the Government’s business.