An ambitious scheme to provide much-needed affordable housing in a village community has been backed to the tune of £718,244 through grants approved by South Lakeland District Council.
The authority has agreed a scheme grant of £350,000 and an infrastructure grant of £368,244 to the Levens Community Project.
The money has come from the council’s Community Housing Fund, set up after the Government provided £2.36m to the authority in 2017 to help tackle the problem of high levels of second home ownership.
The fund can be used to enable the delivery of new community-led housing schemes through new build, reuse of existing buildings and bringing empty homes back into use.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, SLDC’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for housing and innovation, said: “The Levens Community Project is a wonderful, innovative example of a local initiative tackling the challenge of availability of affordable homes for young people wishing to acquire a property in their village, or for more elderly residents wishing to downsize, in an ambitious and sustainable way.
“Residents know their communities better than anyone and I am delighted that SLDC’s commitment to community-led housing is making a real and substantial contribution to the creation of affordable homes in the district, meeting two of our key priorities in delivering balanced communities and reducing income inequalities.
“It is a fantastic way for local people to be involved in meeting their own housing needs.”
Levens Parish Council is the driving force behind the Levens Community Project, which was initiated several years ago in response to feedback during the preparation of the village plan.
Among other things, feedback underlined a need for providing affordable housing for local people and elderly residents and replacing the existing Village Institute with a new and larger village hall incorporating modern design, flexible space and sustainable build.
The project will deliver seven affordable dwellings – two three-bed; two two-bed houses and three apartments aimed at more elderly occupants – in a new development on the site of the current Village Institute
The parish council also owns a number of plots of land within the village which it has made available to the community project.
Fundamental to the project is the sale and development of these plots to provide homes for sale at market value to generate the funds necessary for the affordable housing (which will deliver a return to the village through rents) and for the new village hall.
Detailed planning consent has been secured for six houses (three at Cotes and three at Church Hill – all potentially self-build) and for 15 houses at Sizergh Fell Quarry site (site now sold) creating a total of 28 units to add to the local housing stock.
Detailed planning permissions were granted for the Underhill site in December 2019, for the Cotes site in July 2020 and the Church Hill site on Thursday last week.
The Village Institute is inadequate for the needs of the village today and therefore for the future.
A private sector development of 49 houses on the edge of the village has increased the demand for local facilities and the provision of a new village hall will address this growing need.
As an important part of the scheme, the project has worked with Levens Hall Estate to provide 10 brand new allotments on a superb site opposite the hall.
Councillor Roger Mason, chairman of the Levens Community Project management committee, said: “The community project came about as a result of consultation with local people during preparation of the village plan.
“They identified two key priorities for the village – a new village hall and the need for affordable housing.
“In themselves the cost of these goals were out of reach, but imaginative thinking came up with a scheme that could be made to work based on the utilisation of redundant parish land and support from external funding.
“Following the grant of planning permissions on a number of sites which makes the scheme feasible, the project is delighted to have secured grant-funding from SLDC’s Community Led Housing Fund. This is a major boost to the supply of seven affordable houses for local people and it is expected that construction can now start early in the new year.”
Find out more about community-led housing in South Lakeland at www.southlakeland.gov.uk/housing/community-led-housing-clh/