A Right To Build Community-led Housing?

Photo by Brian Marks - http://www.flickr.com/photos/beanmunster/4267158620/
‘View over the Glastonbury Festival’ Permission details CC-BY-SA

All eyes seem to be on Glastonbury this week!  A week when thousands of people from all over the country celebrate our flair for the unusual, for the unconventional, for the unorthodox!

It’s a week when those visiting the extraordinary Glastonbury Festival find themselves re-imagining – even for a short time – what it is to have a home…  many living in a tent, or a yurt, or a tipi for the week; others arriving in the multitude of live-in vehicles, converted buses, campervans, gypsy vardos, and – this year – possibly a house boat or two!

Photo by Paul Townsend - https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/18528387403 ‘Glastonbury Festival 2015’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Paul Townsend – https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/18528387403
‘Glastonbury Festival 2015’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s a week when a mass of modern-day pilgrims converge upon our Green and Pleasant Land ;  many of them purveying off-grid life-styles – especially those in The Green Fields – generating energy with solar panels, wind-turbines, vegetable oil, and even pedal-power!  It’s certainly a week when we can consider ‘the alternative’…

Photo by Lewis Clarke - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4619983 ‘Glastonbury Town Scenery’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Lewis Clarke – http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4619983
‘Glastonbury Town Scenery’ Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Having a home is a big issue in Glastonbury; there seems to be more people wishing to live in our town than houses available!   It’s an issue compounded by the physical constraints of the landscape… We are, after all, an island – a fact highlighted by the regular flooding of the levels and moors that surround us!

Housing is not only a big issue; it’s also an emotive subject!  I have listened to many residents who feel there is a genuine social housing need in Glastonbury.  Anecdotal evidence would suggest that there are a lot of people – not just incomers, but those born-and-bred – who struggle with high rents in this town; who need affordable homes (and by that, I mean truly affordable) – not just houses for sale, but decent homes to rent (for an unarguable fair rent!).

‘Housing Estate Glastonbury’ Photo by Derek Harper Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
‘Housing Estate Glastonbury’ Photo by Derek Harper Permission details CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The perceived problem is that many of the new builds don’t seem to address our local housing need.  Rather, they’re commercial developments, primarily for sale; to maximise profit for the developer.  Many appear to be sold to new people who want to come and live in the town, or to those who buy-to-let… and we’ve all witnessed the worst-case scenario of private landlords in the local press – headlines such as: ‘Glastonbury woman left homeless after being forced to choose between eviction or electrocution’…

Of course, Glastonbury needs new homes; new people to bring fresh ideas and energy into our community… but – surely – our new developments must address Glastonbury’s actual housing need, not just compound it!  To this end, one of the first things Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan hopes to undertake is a Housing Needs Assessment, to verify any previous primary research and establish a methodological survey of the situation.

That being said, there’s already a number of Glastonbury residents interested in ‘the alternative’; in addressing the lack of affordable/social housing in imaginative and creative ways.  People willing to explore and consider the potential of small scale community-led housing developments in the town – perhaps through the creation of a Community Land Trust or Housing Co-operative; perhaps by using the evidence collected during the Neighbourhood Planning process to prepare a Community Right to Build order.

towards the future CCF 1Hot on the heels of the Festival, on Thursday 30th June – between 1 pm and 3 pm – Somerset Co-operative Services (SCS) are hosting an event called ‘Co-operative housing: a better way of living’ at Glastonbury Town Hall.

SCS’s Alex Lawrie spoke about the event recently saying:  “Imagine a form of housing with no mortgage hanging over you, and no landlord ripping you off. Whether you want to live in the town or country, as a family or single occupants, co-operatives can offer a good deal. Together, create new homes by extending existing properties or building from scratch. Find the mix of rent and investment that suits your members.  Come along to find out more!

If you’re interested in the unusual, the unconventional, the unorthodox – in truly imaginative and creative housing solutions – in ‘the alternative’, then why not join us?


Somerset Co-operative Services’ housing info-sheets:
What’s a Housing Co-operative?
What’s a Community Land Trust?

Further support for Community-led Housing:
Locality’s Early Stage Support programme – funded by the Nationwide Foundation – offers expert mentoring and small grants to help affordable community-led housing projects get started.  Find out more HERE

Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Begins!

My Community Neighbourhood Plan

Glastonbury’s community-led Neighbourhood Plan – to guide the future development and conservation of our local area – formally gets underway this month, with Mendip District Council holding a consultation on the physical area that the plan will cover.

On 26th May 2016, Glastonbury Town Council formally applied to Mendip District Council to designate the Neighbourhood Plan area – which is to be the existing parish boundary of the Town Council’s four wards.

The proposed Glastonbury Neighbourhood Plan area
The proposed Glastonbury Neighbourhood Plan area

Mendip District Council are now undertaking a public consultation on Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan application – from Tuesday 7th June to Tuesday 19th July 2016 – notifying ‘potentially affected parties’ on the area the plan will cover and inviting comments; “to seek views from people who live and work in the community as to whether the area identified is considered to be appropriate.”

Mendip’s website states: “At this stage, views on the content of the Neighbourhood Plan are not being sought, as these will be gathered in consultation exercises organised by the town council during production of the plan…  We would urge local residents to respond to the consultation if they think the boundaries being used should be different from what is being proposed.”

If you wish to make a comment on whether the proposed neighbourhood plan area (which follows the parish boundary) is appropriate you can do so either:

  • By emailing planningpolicy@mendip.gov.uk
  • Or by writing to: Planning Policy Team, Mendip District Council, Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, BA4 5BT

Please submit your comments by 5 pm on Tuesday 19th July 2016.

Please note that at Mendip district Council are not asking for comments on the potential content of Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan, only whether the proposed area it will have an effect on is appropriate.

For more information on neighbourhood planning please visit National Planning Policy Framework for England’s Planning Practice Guidance.

If you have any questions regarding the area designation process then please contact Natasha Durham by email: natasha.durham@mendip.gov.uk or telephone: 01749 341 316.

“Where are we now?” – an update on Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood-Planning 2

One thing I have learnt over the past six months or so is that Neighbourhood Planning is not a quick process – but perhaps that’s only to be expected when undertaking something that truly needs to involve as many people as possible; that will – eventually – become part of the statutory policies for the future development of our area; something with real legal force!

So – as David Bowie might say – “where are we now?

I couldn’t start this blog without mentioning the amazing Paul Sander-Jackson, who has been a major force-for-good on Glastonbury Town Council in support of the Neighbourhood Plan.  Elected in May 2015, Paul became Chair of Glastonbury’s Planning Committee and oversaw the initial Neighbourhood Planning steering group meetings – which researched the process and recommended that the council proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan.

Sadly, Paul had to stand down from the council at the end of March due to ill health. His expertise, mindfulness, and congenial nature will be sorely missed; his time as an elected member may have been short, but it leaves our community the opportunity to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan as its legacy.

As part of that legacy, I am delighted to report that in February, Glastonbury Town Council advertised the post of Neighbourhood Planning Officer – a post ‘responsible for all aspects of the neighbourhood planning process’ – and in March, recruited Gerard Tucker!

Gerard began working for Glastonbury on 3rd May, and has already begun developing Glastonbury’s very own Neighbourhood Plan ‘road map’ – to help our community set out a positive vision for how we want Glastonbury to flourish and develop over the next twenty years!

The Neighbourhood Plan process [from Locality]
The Neighbourhood Plan process [from Locality]
The first item on the agenda is the town’s official application to Mendip District Council to designate Glastonbury as a ‘Neighbourhood Area’, which will be followed by a period of publicity and consultation by the Planning Authority.

As the ‘Qualifying Body’, the Town Council has already begun to gather baseline information and evidence which will help determine the scope and complexity of the plan – such as housing need data, development viability considerations, environmental designations, and flood risk assessments.

In addition, I have provided Gerard with a whole host of Neighbourhood Planning material and information provided through the COM fund, and the considerable amount of data arising from my work on the Local Plan Part II consultation – which contains the main strategic policies for the district in general and Glastonbury in particular.

Great-British-High-Street1

Once the Neighbourhood Area has been approved by Mendip – and the scope agreed – then it’s full steam ahead into the real purpose of the plan: to engage and consult with you; the people living and working in Glastonbury!

This will involve a whole host of activities, ranging from formal consultation events to questionnaires to the stalwart of all good community organising – knocking on doors and listening…

Let’s get planning !

Consultation

‘Crazy Horse’ funeral as last bank closes

Lloyds Bank is committed to the industry wide Access to Banking Protocol introduced by the British Bankers’ Association in May 2015. Before we made the decision to close the Glastonbury branch we carried out a thorough review to assess the impact of the closure on customers and the wider community.

On Tuesday 5th April, despite a huge effort by the local community to keep it open, Glastonbury last bank – Lloyds – closed for the final time…

Chief Mourners, ‘Undertaker’, Deputy, and Mayor Michell photographed by Tor Webster – at the ‘Wild South West’ funeral of ‘Crazy Horse’.
Chief Mourners, ‘Undertaker’, Deputy, and Mayor Michell photographed by Tor Webster – at the ‘Wild South West’ funeral of ‘Crazy Horse’.

Marking the event in Glastonbury’s own inimitable way, the Last Bank Standing community group organised a fourth ‘Flash Mob’ – A ‘Wild South West’ funeral procession to mourn the demise of ‘Crazy Horse’!

A hand drawn funeral-bier, carrying the Black Horse’s coffin (its legs sticking out the top!), was pulled through the packed streets by the town’s Deputy, ‘Undertaker’, and chief mourners.

Crazy Horse’s coffin arrives at Lloyds Bank - photograph by Laura Zaky
Crazy Horse’s coffin arrives at Lloyds Bank – photograph by Laura Zaky

The procession was met outside Lloyds Bank (in the High Street) by the Town Crier, the town’s Mayor, the Member of Parliament, and many of the 6,000 residents who had signed the petition to keep the bank open!

Last Bank Standing Chair, Paul Manning told reporters: “I fully agree that people are banking online, but [Lloyds] are not thinking of their customers, because 30% of them don’t. Particularly the elderly and the more socially-disadvantaged who won’t, or can’t use the internet.

Lloyds Bank published this statement: “Following our review and period of contact with local customers and key members of the local community, we have decided to proceed with the closure of the Glastonbury branch on 5 April 2016.

Glastonbury’s community replies: “WATCH THIS SPACE !

Last bank standing is set to cash up for good - Central Somerset Gazette, 31st March 2016
Last bank standing is set to cash up for good – Central Somerset Gazette, 31st March 2016
A black day as the Black Horse is laid to rest - Front Page, Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
A black day as the Black Horse is laid to rest – Front Page, Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
‘Dead horse’ wheeled to doors of last bank in protest at its closure - Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
‘Dead horse’ wheeled to doors of last bank in protest at its closure – Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016

OTHER MEDIA COVERAGE:

ITV NEWS: Protestors replace bank sign with horse leaving town [30th March 2016]

Protestors replace bank sign with horse leaving town

WESTERN DAILY PRESS: Last bank in Glastonbury to shut next week [31st March 2016]

glastonbury_banks_campaign_logo2_0

BBC ONE: Glastonbury Lloyds to shut despite 6,000 signature petition [5th April 2016]

BBC 6000 petition

ITV WEST: Glastonbury’s last remaining bank closes its doors [5th April 2016]

ITV Last bank closes doors

Central Somerset Gazette: Last bank closes in Glastonbury as ‘dead horse’ led to its door in mock funeral protest [7th April 2016]

CSG Mock funeral photographs by Jason Bryant

This bird has flown…

ITV Barclays' closure

Glastonbury’s branch of Barclays Bank closed its doors for the last time on Friday 4th March 2016.  Glastonbury’s community turned out en masse to demonstrate how they felt about it; cameras from ITV and BBC were there to capture the town’s third Flash Mob protest organised by the Last Bank Standing.

Glastonbury’s response to the expected closure of all the town’s banks has been hailed as an inspiration by other communities facing the same fate; has caught the attention of the national press – and even prompted acknowledgment at Prime Minister’s Questions, when the MP for Glastonbury, James Heappey, asked David Cameron if he would encourage the banks “to think again”.

The Barclays’ Flash Mob follows hot on the heals of the hugely successful ‘Crazy Horse’ – developed into a spoof ‘Spaghetti Western’, which has received over 2,000 views on YouTube!

Crazy Horse still Blog 6

More community action is planned for 5th April – the date when Lloyds Bank threaten to close Glastonbury’s last bank for good…  It could very well end with a ‘show down’ between the Deputy and the Black Horse !!!

Last Bank Standing’s Paul Manning told ITV: “There’s still a chance Lloyds could change their minds, but I think it’s also sending a message out there, to the banks, that they’ve really got to live up to the promises that they’re making to their customers!

The campaign continues…

Protests rise as last banks in town get ready to close - Central Somerset Gazette, 25th February 2016
Protests rise as last banks in town get ready to close – Central Somerset Gazette, 25th February 2016
Fight to keep town’s last bank open - Central Somerset Gazette, 10th March 2016
Fight to keep town’s last bank open – Central Somerset Gazette, 10th March 2016

ITV WEST: Protesters march on Glastonbury over bank closure [4th March 2016]

ITV Barclays' closure 2

Growing Community by Sharing the Harvest

Transition Glastonbury emerged “in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring”.   I recall a number of different people coming to see me, over a week or two in the summer of 2006, all excited about “what’s going on in Totnes!

TGLOGOhighres-In 2006, Glastonbury’s community was a receptive and fertile place for the new ‘Transition Town’ concept, which was founded on the principles of Permaculture, with the key aim of addressing two issues:
1) what response – if any – can we as communities make to tackle climate change?
2) how do we prepare for a future where the world’s finite fossil fuels become exhausted… ?

There was already a ‘Climate Action Now’ group, and my own organising work had led to the development of the ‘Glastonbury United’ campaign, which was about getting more people registered to vote and more engagement with local politics.

Transition Towns: From oil dependency to local resilience
Transition Towns: ‘From oil dependency to local resilience’

Key to Transition was the idea of ‘local resilience’ – the ability of a community to cope with ‘shock’; the shock of increasingly unpredictable, more extreme weather conditions; the inevitable shock of living through the depletion of oil, and the unavoidable ‘energy descent’ that would follow.

By 2007, two prominent Transitioners, community activist Linda Hull and straw-bale house pioneer Caroline Barry, had been elected onto the Town Council under the ‘Glastonbury United’ banner, and a vibrant Transition Glastonbury was engrossed in an attempt to fathom a fundamental, Maslowian question: “could Glastonbury feed itself?

Volunteers were mapping local food production in a 30 mile radius of the town – to establish just how resilient Glastonbury could be if the oil supply was turned off; if transport systems broke down; if we had to rely solely on local producers to feed 9,000 local people…

At the same time, all the local food suppliers, cafés, and retailers were asked where they sourced their products…

‘A Celebration of Local Food’ - Transition Glastonbury 2008
‘A Celebration of Local Food’ – Transition Glastonbury 2008

The results were analysed, collated, and Glastonbury’s local food directory ‘A Celebration of Local Food’ was published.

The answer to the question, “could Glastonbury feed itself?” was a bit of a shock for all concerned; for – although there were certainly a good number of meat and dairy producers in the vicinity of the town, and Sharpham Park could provide enough grains – the local farms were not producing anywhere near enough vegetables to meet the needs of the town…  Indeed, the nearest vegetable producer of any size was over 20 miles away!

It became very clear that Glastonbury needed to begin to ‘grow its own’, and people started to set up food initiatives in earnest, with one of the first being ‘Torganics’, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at Paddington Farm, just north-east of the Tor.

Over the years, other great initiatives have grown, including Healing Gardens Co-operative, Incredible Edible Somerset, Feed Avalon, and Glastonbury’s annual Harvest Show!

The latest is Plotgate Community Supported Agriculture (Plotgate CSA) – a new co-operative aiming to “grow local food for local people, and sharing the fun of farming.”

L-R: Corganiser Jon Cousins, Alex Lawrie of SCS CIC, with Amy Willoughby and Dan Britton from Plotgate CSA
L-R: Corganiser Jon Cousins, Alex Lawrie of SCS CIC, with Amy Willoughby and Dan Britton from Plotgate CSA

On Saturday, 12th March, Plotgate will be formally launching its business with an evening of “informing and enthusing about fresh, local and seasonal vegetables that are sustainably produced and ecologically enhancing” – to be held at Barton St David Village Hall, just outside Glastonbury.

Supported by the Just Growth Programme, Plotgate CSA will be using Community Shares to raise finance for their venture.  Their pioneer share offer opens on the evening of the launch; providing an opportunity for local people to join the CSA and invest in the project.

To find out more, please visit Plotgate’s website, or e-mail: plotgate.csa@gmail.com

Do you like your spaghetti (South) Western?

Crazy Horse titles

Listening to hundreds of local people during the past few months, the over-riding concern for many in Glastonbury is the closure of all the town’s banks.  By April – when Lloyds close their door for the last time – Glastonbury will no longer have a High Street Bank…

Glastonbury is not unique; towns up and down the country are facing the same situation! Traders who will struggle to get enough coins and notes for change, or to deal with cash at the end of the day; people being excluded – especially older members of our communities, who do not use the internet or who feel uncomfortable dealing with banks over the phone…

Do the banks care? ” – a question raised at one of the packed public meetings; “we can’t boycott them! Everyone needs a bank!
Yes! ” came a reply, “they care about their reputations…
Publicity is important,” someone else suggested: “People know about Glastonbury – haven’t we got a big enough profile to do something?

Absolutely

Last Bank Standing Oracle February 2016
The Last Bank Standing in the Glastonbury Oracle magazine, February 2016

The first Flashmob – Jerusalem – attracted a great deal of attention. It caused a stir at Lloyds HQ, when the 23 head directors each received a memory stick containing the video.
We’re reliably informed “They did not like it!
It caused a stir in Westminster too – resulting in a mention at Prime Minister’s Questions that our “World famous town will lose all three of its remaining banks within 12 weeks of each other! ”  The Prime Minister agreed that the “physical presence” of banks on the High Street was important…

More bank closures ahead as the Co-op plans to pull out of Street CSG 4th February 2016
More bank closures ahead – from the Central Somerset Gazette, 4th February 2016

Our petition has attracted over 5,000 signatures – and it was handed to County Councillor Terry Napper on 11th February.
It reads: “In view of the severe difficulties businesses and people, who don’t bank online, will face when all banking provision is withdrawn from a community; we call upon our County Council to actively engage with the Banks to ensure their adherence to the Access to Banking Protocol.”
This now means that Somerset County Council will have to debate the issue of the bank closures at their next meeting.

Petition handed to County Cllr Terry Napper
Last Bank Standing campaigner Gabriel Avalon hands over the 5,000 strong petition to County Councillor Terry Napper at Glastonbury Town Hall

You can still sign our Last Bank Standing petition to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP by clicking HERE.

At their January meeting, Glastonbury Town Council – prompted by Last Bank Standing – decided to support the campaign by adding the remaining banks to the District Council’s Assets of Community Value list – which provides “land or property of importance to a local community” additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.

Councillors vote to protect threatened bank buildings CSG 28th January 2016
from the Central Somerset Gazette, 28th January 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks - Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks – Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016

WANTED Black Horse 1What next? A Spaghetti Western (of course)…

Crazy Horse!

The call went out: “Flashmob 11.45 am, Saturday 20th February – outside St. John’s!

The nod was given – the Black Horse had been spotted.

Time to get the Deputy…