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Community Land Trusts for Gypsies and Travellers

A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a community organisation which benefits a local community by acquiring land and holding it in perpetuity. CLTs can take various forms such as a community garden, a shop, or affordable housing. As far as Gypsies and Travellers go, different people are currently looking at whether this CLT model can be used as a form of Traveller site provision.

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In Mendip, there is a project which is looking at using the CLT model to provide sites. Mendip Council, together with Wessex Community Assets and Wessex Home Improvement Loans are working alongside Travellers to explore the possibility of establishing CLT Traveller sites in the area.

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Bristol City Council is looking into the idea, and there is also a group of Travellers in Sussex who have formed their own Community Land Trust. Simply put, the idea is that if you were to form a CLT group you could look to acquire land as a community group in order to provide somewhere to live – a site! Once land is acquired the CLT group, which would be constituted and will be a legal entity, would make democratic decisions about what happens on the land and how it is managed. The key principles are that it provides affordable accommodation and the land can never be sold on for a profit – the value of the land will be locked and always used for the purpose which the CLT proposed “ in these cases Traveller sites. The site is also likely to be self-built so as to keep the costs down.

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Not everybody can afford to buy their own land and go through the expensive planning process so CLTs offer the opportunity for Travellers to group together and form as a trust and acquire land to live together. This means you can choose to form a CLT group with the people you want to live with and the site will be self-managed, which is different to living on a council site. The idea is that the design and building of the site and the decisions about a site will be made by the people who live here. You don’t have to have stacks of money to be involved in a project like this – the CLT will loan money and rent the plots out to the people living on the land and that rent money will be used to pay off the loan. It helps if there’s a little bit of money between the group because if you already have some money it’s easier to borrow more. Because CLTs are community spirited not for – profit groups it is possible to access ethical loans (rather than approaching the high street banks).

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Acquiring the land is, as ever, the tricky bit. Brownfield sites can be expensive and greenbelt and other protected land is difficult to get planning on. There’s no set model as to how to get a piece of land to establish a CLT, you could for example, approach your local council and ask them if they’re willing to work with you on the issue and if they can identify land which they can give to the project (in order to be contributing to site provision) or to sell to the CLT group at an affordable price. You could approach other statutory agencies to see if they have any surplus land, and the Homes and Communities Agency may be able to help you with this. The other approach is with private landowners where an agreement could be drawn up to hold the land and sell it to you once you’ve been through the planning process  but this would have to be a very socially minded and generous landowner! There are various CLTs in Great Britain but the idea of using it to provide Traveller sites is all very new so there’s a lot to be learnt along the way.
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Community Land Trust Seminar 2011

FFT organized a Community Land Trust Seminar on 13th January 2011, to begin promoting the idea and for people to network. The speakers at the seminar were:

  • Rosemary Seagrief (Gloucestershire Land for People) (see presentation below)
  • Ian Holding (Bristol City Council Gypsy and Traveller Team) (see presentation below)
  • Rowena Clements (Homes and Communities Agency), and Kate Wiltshire (Wessex Home Improvement Loans) (see presentation below).

The event was well attended by members of the travelling communities and various council officers, with lots of good feedback.

Quotes from the event:
“Gypsies and Travellers do not have the same equality of opportunity as other citizens” (Ian Holding, BCC)

If you’d be interested in attending a Community Land Trust Seminar then let us know and we might just organise another!

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Resources from the Seminar:

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Further Resources

Key Organisations supporting CLTs:

Last modified: July 12, 2016
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