Local community group urges new council to transfer land so it can create affordable housing in Kendal

A local community group is urging the new Westmorland and Furness Council to transfer a piece of land in Kendal into its ownership so that it can create affordable homes for local people.

Kendal Community Land Trust (KCLT) wants to provide around 16 housing units on land at Busher Walk opposite Kendal Fire Station.

“There is a desperate need for affordable housing in and around Kendal,” said Beki Winter, the chair and founder of KCLT. “Market rents are high and available affordable housing is almost non-existent, causing young people to move out of the area and families to live in overcrowded conditions.

“The situation is making it difficult for local businesses, such as retail and hospitality companies, to recruit and the local community is getting pushed out as property prices in Kendal have soared over the last few years while local wages haven’t.”

KCLT is a not-for-profit, member-owned organisation dedicated to providing sustainable and affordable housing in and around Kendal. Unlike housing associations, its homes are not subject to ‘right to buy’ so it can preserve affordable homes, prioritised for local people, long term.

It is calling on Westmorland and Furness Council, which will become the new unitary authority for South Lakeland, Barrow and Eden from April 1, to transfer the Busher Walk site to KCLT by means of an asset transfer. The land, the site of now-demolished council offices, is currently owned by Cumbria County Council, which will cease to exist at the end of this month. A proposal has already been sent to the new council, which will become owners of the site after April 1.

The homes would potentially be a mixture of two, three and four-bedroomed town houses and one-bedroom flats for rent or shared ownership.

The trust would apply to South Lakeland District Council’s Community Development Fund, which still has around £1m in its pot, to pay for pre-development costs. It would then aim to enter into a long development lease with South Lakes Housing in order to draw down Homes England funding and develop the homes.

“It is an ideal site because it previously had planning permission, now lapsed, for 16 homes so a new attractive, sustainable, community-backed proposal stands a good chance of getting planning approved again,” said Beki.

“It is very central so we can limit the car parking spaces. We would look to introduce an electric car share scheme and would like the people who live there to work in town, so we would not be adding to congestion issues in the town.”

She said the homes would encourage community cohesion and neighbourliness through designs which incorporate communal spaces and the introduction, even before homes were completed, of a residents’ forum, where those who would live there could influence the layout of the site and gardens. The homes would improve the general appearance of the area and biodiversity would be enhanced wherever possible.

The trust aims to use local contractors for the development and for the properties to be as sustainable as possible, ideally achieving ‘passivhaus’ status. Sustainability is at the heart of what the trust hopes to deliver – one of its guiding principles is to reduce carbon emissions and help make running costs affordable.

“We shall involve the local community throughout the process,” said Beki. “We will have early consultations about the plans and, because we are a member-owned organisation, anyone can join the trust and have voting rights.”

She said the trust had been inspired by a 20-home affordable passivhaus scheme by Lune Valley Community Land Trust and South Lakes Housing, which is nearing completion at Halton.

Cllr Doug Rathbone, the mayor of Kendal and a member of the shadow Westmorland and Furness Council, said: “This sort of initiative is greatly needed in Kendal and the surrounding area and I fully support the aims of the Kendal Community Land Trust and hope the new Westmorland and Furness Council will look positively on the request to transfer this land to it.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “I support the Kendal CLT in this. Kendal is sorely lacking affordable homes and the CLT’s proposal would put a piece of ignored land to much better use.

“I’ve written to the new Chief Executive of Westmorland and Furness Council to support the CLT’s proposal and urge that the Busher Walk land be transferred as soon as possible after the new council is vested.”

KCLT was founded in 2021 and incorporated in 2022. Its nine board members, all Kendal area residents, include a wide range of skills. The CLT is also hoping to buy the Fellside Chapel and Sunday School in town from the Kendal Methodist Circuit to create five affordable homes, financed through a community loan share scheme.

“Ultimately we want to keep on going and provide as many affordable homes as we can,” said Beki.

“We want the community to get on board by signing up to our mailing list and, for £1, becoming a member of the trust. Details are on our website www.kendalcommunitylandtrust.co.uk

“We would also like landowners with any potential sites for affordable houses to get in touch with us, for example infill sites, underused buildings or empty spaces above shops and businesses.”

Pictured at the Busher Walk site are (from left) Kendal Community Land Trust board members Heather Thomson, Janet Battye and Helen Ladhams; Cllr Doug Rathbone; Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron; and KCLT chair Beki Winter

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