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Somerset Co-operative Community Land Trust

What they do

Somerset Co-operative Community Land Trust (SCCLT) is a community benefit society looking to raise finance to progress the development of a community-led approach to creating more affordable housing in Somerset.

The project

This share offer is raising finance for 2 major development projects.  Firstly, with planning secured for development of 8 affordable units to the rear of the Society's existing properties at 10 & 11A East Reach in Taunton, the group can now begin construction.  They also have the option to buy the former Exmoor Ales site in Wiveliscombe, and plan to build 20 affordable residential units and work spaces.

The minimum target will require them to proceed more slowly, borrow more from banks and social lenders (2020 borrowing will be approved in principle before drawing down new share capital), and they will also need to plan to sell some of the new housing in Wiveliscombe at near to market prices in order to reduce borrowing requirements.

The optimum target requires that a larger amount of share capital has been raised - £445,000 – in addition to having offers of finance for any loans needed in 2020. This enables them to proceed more quickly, release more capital for share withdrawals, and sell fewer units in Wiveliscombe.

The maximum is similar, but may not require any property sales – in which case everything built may be available as affordable rental.

About Somerset Co-operative CLT

Somerset Co-operative CLT was set up in 2009, but became active in 2011 when Somerset Co-operative Services CIC began working closely with Taunton Transition Town to develop a co-housing project.  The purchase of their first site, 10 East Reach, was concluded in October 2013, and SCCLT immediately sought planning permission for conversion of the building into flats. That was wholly successful, and construction began in 2014, with the first tenants moving in a year later in 2015.

The first years of operation provided a steep learning curve, allowing SCCLT to improve their processes through revised tenancy agreements, specialist advice and training sought for the board. The result has been a steady improvement in effectiveness, and in 2018 they have met their target of no more than 3% voids. Their experience with tenants who have joined since 2018 has been excellent, and so far no less than four have served on the board of directors alongside community and consultant directors.

The next goal was to increase the scale of their operation by acquiring further property. Thanks to the overwhelming response to their previous share offer launched at the end of 2018, they were able to complete the purchase of 11A East Reach. Since then, they've been conducting substantial improvements to the existing flat, investing in an ambitious property development to the rear. The investment has been substantial, but it has served to significantly increase the value of the site as they moved closer to a planning application. Not only that, but because 11A’s garden adjoins that of number 10 – there is a large enough area for eight flats.

The model SCCLT has developed includes a number of innovative features – the use of community shares in distinct classes, the high degree of tenant participation, the regular social impact reporting, and the focus on community enterprise alongside affordable housing. SCCLT hopes these will be replicated in towns across the UK – seeing this as a local project with potentially national significance.

This current offer by Somerset Co-operative CLT  has been awarded the Community Shares Standard Mark by the Community Shares Unit, which is awarded to offers that meet national standards of good practice.

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