SHEPHERDSWELL, KENT – On Tuesday, 18th April, a celebratory stone was laid in Shepherdswell, Kent, to mark the opening of an affordable rural housing scheme developed by English Rural and Kent’s first Community Land Trust (CLT). Officers and Members from Dover District Council attended the event, along with representatives from English Rural, the Community Land Trust, the Parish Council, and the Church Commissioners‘.
English Rural and Shepherdswell with Coldred CLT, working in partnership, received formal planning approval for the development of 10 affordable homes for the village in July 2022. This decision marks a turning point for community-led housing in Kent and is the culmination of an idea that first formed almost a decade ago. The project aligns with the Church Commissioners’ Coming Home Report, which emphasises the importance of providing affordable housing for local communities.
The project began in 2013 with a housing needs survey, which demonstrated a clear requirement for affordable housing in Shepherdswell for singles, couples, and families alike. After a series of setbacks, the concept of a CLT was introduced to the Shepherdswell housing group in 2015, and by 2017, the CLT had been formed and incorporated as a Community Benefit Society.
The partnership with English Rural led to a renewed search for a suitable site, and in 2020, the Church Commissioners agreed to sell a site adjacent to the village to provide these affordable homes After a series of consultations, surveys, and design presentations, the planning application for the ten affordable homes was submitted in late 2020. In January 2022, the planning committee unanimously approved the scheme (with one abstention).
Tessa O’Sullivan, manager of Kent Community Housing Hub at the time, commented:
“We are delighted that 10 households will now have a secure and affordable home, and those homes will remain affordable for the local community in perpetuity. It’s been an honour to support this project.”
Alison Thompson, English Rural’s Deputy Development Director, expressed her enthusiasm for the project, saying:
“We are proud to be part of this ground-breaking partnership with the Shepherdswell and Coldred CLT. This project demonstrates the power of collaboration between community land trusts and housing associations, which enables us to create sustainable, affordable housing solutions for rural communities. The success of this project in Shepherdswell serves as a testament to the dedication and hard work of all parties involved and will hopefully inspire other communities in Kent and beyond to explore similar initiatives.”
Matthew Naylor, Principal Asset Manager for England Church Commissioners’ said:
The laying of the celebratory brick at the Shepherdswell development delivered alongside English Rural and the Community Land Trust is the latest step in the wider affordable housing work the Church Commissioners are undertaking on rural exception sites across England, in collaboration with English Rural and other Housing Associations, exemplifying the vision outlined in the Archbishops’ Commission’s Coming Home report for more affordable homes and stronger communities. The new homes will give families in the area access to affordable housing, while ensuring a future for the primary school that sits at the village’s heart.
The partnership between the CLT and English Rural has resulted in a unique model for community involvement and the expertise of a specialist rural housing provider. The project in Shepherdswell marks the first of its kind in Kent to achieve planning consent and paves the way for future collaborations in the region, inspired by the Church Commissioners’ Coming Home Report. Construction partners on the project are Kent-based firm WWMartin.
About English Rural
English Rural is a specialist rural housing association, dedicated to working with rural communities to provide affordable homes for those in need. With a focus on partnership and collaboration, English Rural helps empower local communities to address their unique housing challenges, ensuring that rural areas remain vibrant and thriving.
About Shepherdswell and Coldred Community Land Trust (CLT)
The Shepherdswell and Coldred CLT is a Community Benefit Society dedicated to providing affordable housing solutions for the local community. By working in partnership with English Rural, the CLT ensures that the development and management of affordable homes are tailored to the specific needs of Shepherdswell and Coldred, with long-term stewardship and community assets protected for future generations.