Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Evidence of Devon County Council: Case Studies


  Devon County Council initiated dialogue with the local community regarding potential use of two small holdings on the edge of the village which were becoming vacant. As a result, in November 2000, a community-based group, Project 2000 was set up to identify the needs of the parish and develop proposals for its regeneration over the next 20 years. Following extensive community engagement to develop ideas, High Bickington Community Property Trust [CPT] Ltd was formed to assume responsibility for land, buildings and facilities being developed at Little Bickington Farm. 20 acres (8.25 ha) of this former County Smallholding are the subject of a planning application to develop affordable housing, workspace, community facilities and woodland, which will be managed by the CPT. In addition, a new primary school (closely integrated with the above development) will be the responsibility of the County Council, and it is proposed that a new playing field, pavilion and changing facilities will be run by the High Bickington Playing Field Association, involving a "land swap" with the existing playing field.

  High Bickington CPT Ltd is registered under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act 1965, in July 2004, by the Financial Services Authority, based on National Housing Federation model rules. Its membership is open to any person or body connected with the parish, through purchase of £1 shares. Devon County Council and High Bickington Parish Council are shareholders. The objectives of the CPT include the provision of:

    —  houses for people in need, on terms appropriate to their means;

    —  workspace to meet training and employment needs;

    —  health facilities and child care;

    —  facilities for recreation;

    —  woodland and other environmental improvements.

  The proposals for Little Bickington Farm are the culmination of over four years of planning and consultation with residents of High Bickington and have been widely praised by both local and national groups as a model for community led planning and rural regeneration. The scheme was presented to a conference, organized on behalf of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, as one of 11 "Best Practice" models for dealing with the national shortage of affordable housing. Alun Michael visited the village in March 2003 and said "This is an ambitious project, and I applaud the initiative and vision of the villagers of High Bickington. They are thinking now about how to tackle the issues which affect them in the future, recognising the role they can play in shaping the success of their own community, and demonstrating the value of local knowledge in local decision making. There is much in their approach to inspire others and I wish them every success with the Parish Plans."

  A planning application for the proposals was submitted at the end of 2003. The planning application was a departure from planning policy, and referred to the Government Office. It took a year for the decision to call in the application to be made, and a further year before a date for a public inquiry [January 2006]. As a result of the two year delay funding opportunities from the Objective 2 programme have been lost and there will be a need for a complete re-appraisal of the scheme. The full history of the High Bickington proposal and the progress to date can be viewed on the following link


  Since June 2003 a group representing the interests of the Town Council, the District Council, the County Council and The Kings School have been examining the potential use of land at Higher Thorne Farm to provide a range of community and educational facilities. Such facilities include all weather sports pitches, running tracks, swimming pool, skate board park, tennis courts, 6th form block/community education centre, other school buildings and affordable housing. The attached plan depicts the current level of thinking for a master-plan, which it is acknowledged might involve a development period extending through to 2024.

  The work of the group has been influenced greatly by the High Bickington Community project which is establishing a totally new approach to asset-based community planning. In common with that pilot project the aspirations of the Ottery Group have been:

    —  The development of the new, integrated approach;

    —  A future model of community development;

    —  A new regeneration option;

    —  New forms of building construction with highly sustainable characteristics;

    —  A means of optimising the use of public/private property assets.

  Key features to the approach are that it will be:

    —  Community led and partner supported;

    —  Provide a totally integrated, master planned and mixed use solution;

    —  Generate and share financial value and social value;

    —  Liquidate existing community assets for reinvestment;

    —  Create a community property trust;

    —  Mutualise property assets in perpetuity for the community;

    —  Create new social enterprise, skills development etc,;

    —  Provide a new local affordable social housing solution;

    —  Build community spirit and identity;

    —  Create a unique joint venture development vehicle between the community, land owners, investors/funders and developers.

  Holsworthy, in one of the remotest parts of rural Devon, exhibits many of the features of small market towns. The availability of affordable housing was a key issue to emerge from the recent Community Planning exercise for the town and its hinterland. Consequently, a Community Property Trust has been established to provide a suitable organisational structure to help facilitate identification of potential sites for development of affordable homes, to attract local developers and to hold the land in community ownership in perpetuity. The latter point is vital, of course, both to minimise the initial land cost and also to reduce the inflationary growth in future. Over 20 possible sites for small scale developments of up to six homes currently are being assessed in the locality. This scoping exercise is proving useful for the additional purpose of drawing out links with related service provision and efficient use of property resources, for example primary schools.

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