Stretham and Wilburton Community Trust 50-home Manor Farm project, which includes doctors surgery, under way

Manor Farm development in Stretham.

Manor Farm development in Stretham. - Credit: Archant

Work has started on a first of its kind 50-home development, where residents have been heavily involved in planning, in Stretham.

Councillor Charles Roberts.

Councillor Charles Roberts. - Credit: Archant

The Manor Farm project involves 50 homes - 15 of these will be affordable - as well as a doctors surgery, business space and a children’s play area.

It has come about through the work of the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust, the first community land trust set up in Cambridgeshire, and it saw about 250 people involved in the design process.

The East Cambridgeshire District Council planning policy allows the developer, landowner and the community to work together to bring forward an application.

A proportion of the homes are sold on the open market, and a share of the profit from those homes is given to the community, together with some land to build homes for the community.

Breaking new ground at Manor Farm, Stretham. Pictured l-r are Development Manager of Laragh Homes, P

Breaking new ground at Manor Farm, Stretham. Pictured l-r are Development Manager of Laragh Homes, Phil Rose; MD of Laragh Homes Simon Somerville-Large; Mary Allan; Cllr Michael Allan, Chairman of East Cambridgeshire DC; CLT Chairman Charles Roberts; Cllr Bill Hunt. - Credit: Archant

A planning application has also been submitted for phase two of the site - which will see 25 more homes built (eight of them affordable).

Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, community land trust chairman and deputy leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council Charles Roberts said: “It’s about providing homes for local people. But it’s also making sure that people are involved in the design process, and the communities actually want the development for their own people. It’s appropriate to their community.”

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The community land trust policy is a way of confronting the “housing crisis” and creating “strong, diverse communities”, Councillor Roberts says.

He said: “We have a housing crisis as we all know, and particularly locally with the pressures from Cambridge and London it’s increasingly difficult for people on local wages to actually stay in the communities where they’ve been brought up.

“So it’s something at East Cambs that we feel very strongly about, that we need good strong diverse communities.

“And that means providing for everyone in the community, including those that are working on local wages, who at the moment are being displaced from the villages closer to Cambridge, and are pushed further away where they can afford to live.

“We don’t think that’s right, and we’re encouraging all communities in East Cambridgeshire to come forward and talk to us at the council at Ely, talk to our land trust team, with a view to having land trusts across the district.

“It is, but we mustn’t forget of course the 35 private houses that are being provided as well. And there’s tremendous demand for private housing too in the village.

“And if we had 15 in every community that would be good. We’ve just in fact submitted the planning application for phase two on the site, which is a further 25 homes.

“So the community in Stretham is going to end up with 23 houses available for local people on affordable rents or shared ownership arrangements.”

Phil Rose, of developer Laragh Homes, said the housing development will be something the community “can be really proud of”.

He said: “Obviously there were some challenges as a private company working with the community. But it did create new opportunities for us.

“This land otherwise wouldn’t have obtained planning permission. But by working in partnership with the local residents and helping, we’ve managed to create some appealing energy efficient housing designs that will really be in keeping with the village.

“We are still going to be creating our normal development profit from the scheme, but what it does is it has allowed us to bring forward new housing in an area where perhaps it wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

“Certainly it’s something which not all development companies would want to take on, because it has certain challenges. “We have to be careful to balance the aspirations of the residents with commercial realities. But we’ve established a really good relationship with the Stretham and Wilburton Land Trust.

“We’ve always recognised and understood each other’s objectives in this exercise, and between us we’ve found ways that we can ensure that we’re still achieving them. We’re making our development profit. We’re creating great products.

“Charles is getting his houses for his local people, and the new GP surgery and small business units.

“And the community has been so heavily involved in the design that we think that what they’ll come to see in a few years time is a housing development that they can be really proud of.”