An affordable housing scheme which 'puts decisions in the hands of Knaresborough residents' has officially launched.
The Knaresborough Community Land Trust (KCLT) launched last Friday evening, with residents gathering at Knaresborough House, where an outline of the group's plans for the future were unveiled. As part of this the group made their first announcement that the initial site for a development had been secured, following approval by Harrogate Borough Council.
While giving residents the chance to sign up as members of the trust it was also an opportunity for them to help shape what kind of housing and other projects are pursued.
To pay tribute to their support of the trust the evening also saw Graham Brookfield, Andy Grinter and Coun Phil Ireland named as the first three official members of the trust.
Emma Walsh, Chair of the KCLT said: "We are really pleased with tonight, to see so many members of the community come out for the launch. We had a room full of people, interested in what we are doing and to be able to tell them of what our firm plans are for the future was fantastic."
She added: "To be able to say thank you to everyone for the help they have given us and recognise that support, by making them the first members we felt was really important."
Work on the trust began six months ago, following the development of Knaresborough's Neighbourhood Plan - A legal document which could be consulted through to 2035 on all planning applications for sites in the town. In this it was found that more affordable housing was needed in the town.
The issue has been recognised nationally, with the Government providing Harrogate Borough Council a grant of £585,000 in 2017 to promote community led housing schemes across the district. The £50,000 purchase price of the toilet block has been financed through this grant.
More than £160 million has been available nationally for the Community Housing Fund.
With Knaresborough having the opportunity to secure professional advice, appoint architects, buy land and retain ownership of it, Mr Brookfield said the scheme was a chance for communities to work together and make the 'key decisions.'
He said: "I am really excited for Knaresborough, to have this trust, as a community it will really makes things happen. Harrogate Borough Council has been really supportive, and I personally see it as a great chance not just to provide housing for Knaresborough, but for the community to work together."
He added: "The key thing for me personally is the community coming together, and being able to make these key decisions. In the past developers would decide what goes where, when it happens and what houses are provided. This is a chance for people in Knaresborough to make those decisions."
The potential for the trust to eventually carry out work to disused commercial units in the town is welcome news to Mr Grinter, who has had a hand several projects in the town - including development of Knaresborough's Neighbourhood Plan.
He said: "Its a great feeling that we have a chance to be masters of our own destiny and make things happen after years and years of apparent neglect. I can't begin to think how much hard work this could be, but these days when people are waiting around for others to sort it out its wonderful that the community is now taking it upon themselves."
Coun Ireland said he welcomed the chance to bring more housing and community facilities for local residents.
He said: "The KCLT will seek out other suitable sites and, subject to planning permission develop the sites, which unlike other affordable housing will not be subject to the right to buy; therefore, the benefit to the community would be retained in perpetuity.
"This community led housing initiative will help create affordable homes for local people and strengthen the local community. As Mayor of Knaresborough I welcome this initiative and wish KCLT every success in providing affordable housing and services for local people."