Skip to main content

Community Land Trusts

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

The Government are committed to community-led development. In October last year, we launched a consultation on how a sustainable community land trust sector could be developed. The consultation closed on 31 December. We have received 63 responses from a wide variety of stakeholders, which we are currently analysing. We will publish the results in the near future.

I hear what my right hon. Friend says, and I am pleased that progress has been made with community land trusts, but will she have a word with the Homes and Communities Agency, whose representatives I shall be meeting in my constituency on Friday, to ensure that development of the Cashes Green site—which, as she knows better than I do, is a pioneer site—is accelerated as a matter of urgency? I hope that the whole site will be available because otherwise there will be piecemeal development, which does not help the concept, let alone the practice, of community land trusts.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s determination and tenacity. This is an innovative policy that requires forward-thinking people to push it forward, and that is exactly what we are doing. A master plan has been developed for the Cashes Green site, which was presented to the public on 8 January, and the matter will proceed.

The concept of community land trusts is important, and not just for housing development. The whole point of such trusts is to secure community ownership and give communities a sense of being able to influence local services and assets. This is new territory, involving co-operatives, mutuals and, of course, community ownership, which is why it is so important for us to get it absolutely right.

Will the Secretary of State examine the role of community land trusts, and the possibility of genuinely community-led development, in relation to the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites? In my constituency it is private developers who are currently submitting applications for development on those sites, and, although such development is entirely contrary to the wishes of the community and local people, it seems likely that the applications will be imposed on them by virtue of the regional assemblies that we thought we had got rid of in the referendum.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in drawing those issues together.

The sites proposed for Gypsy and Traveller provision were proposed by the local authorities. It is not a case of imposition; there has been consultation on the proposals. Provision of this kind is always a matter of controversy, but I think all Members will recognise that unless provision is adequate, we shall continue to experience the problems of people moving from site to site that have caused difficulties to many communities in this country.

My right hon. Friend referred to community land trusts in the context of a co-operative and mutual approach to housing. She will know of the Commission on Mutual and Co-operative Housing, which was launched at last year’s Co-operative Congress. Will she examine the findings of the commission’s report when it is published, with a view to establishing what further support the Government can give the co-operative and mutual sector in the provision of affordable housing?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. There is now a call for evidence and an inquiry into the roles that co-operatives can play in this respect. It is interesting that when people become involved in housing co-operatives, they often go on to set up social and business enterprises in other areas. I am told that in one co-operative in Redditch, around 15 per cent. of the tenants who have been involved in managing their properties are now school governors, and are trying to improve the education system in their area. There are many spin-offs and benefits to mutual ownership.