With thanks to Dan Barron, a community organiser at PEACH, for writing this article.
The history of PEACH
Our neighbourhood, Custom House, has been facing the prospect of regeneration since it was first raised as an idea in the early 2000s. The regeneration that has gone ahead around us in places like Royal Victoria Dock, Canning Town and City Island has seen social housing and industrial land flattened to build luxury high-rise apartment blocks and yet more hotels, leaving residents here worried that they will be forced out or priced out.
Custom House is a diverse and connected community, home to many families. The prospect of losing over 500 homes and the high street was one of the main causes for concern when in 2013, 150 residents from the schools, churches, streets and clubs of Custom House came together to form PEACH: People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House.
With support from the Big Local Scheme and led by local residents, PEACH worked with hundreds of local residents to produce an Alternative Regeneration Plan as a community response to the regeneration, which prioritises local business and genuinely affordable housing pegged to local incomes. Since then PEACH and local residents have been working towards the creation of a genuine partnership with Newham Council so residents have meaningful control over how their own neighbourhood is changed.
Why we formed a CLT
In 2018 PEACH members who had been working to create the Alternative Regeneration Plan voted to establish the E16 Community Land Trust. While PEACH members had done a lot of work, the fact that we were not a formally constituted group created barriers to forming the partnerships that we needed. We also realised that if we were serious about our ambition to be in control of our destiny, we needed to be able to build, own and manage property ourselves – not just feedback on Newham Council’s own plans.
Becoming a CLT helped us move from being a campaign to a committed and formal group. This built our credibility and has opened up many opportunities that just weren’t on offer before. One of the aspects we love about being a CLT is that the housing we build isn’t subject to ‘Right to Buy’ which means we can play our part preventing valuable social housing finding its way onto the private market. This is important to us because we want to secure truly affordable housing for our community, now and in the future. Being part of the CLT movement feels right too because we shared the same vision of empowering people and communities.
Using the CLT approach to have power
The CLT framework provides the legal basis in which communities can hold assets for the benefit of its members. While this isn’t the only source of our power, it is important to be able to build and manage property and for others to take us seriously and in turn, be able to partner with us. Making things a bit more official has also served as a key milestone around which the community can celebrate its achievements and progress, another important source of power.
We believe community led housing can have a significant part in ending the housing crisis. When Councils and communities work together effectively, great results can be achieved like other great CLTs have triumphed before us. We have been inspired to join learning days and site visits to places like St Clements, Leathermarket and Brighton and Hove CLT, as well as discussing case studies we have researched in our Board Meetings like Granby Four Streets.
Ultimately, we believe that the people who know best about what a neighbourhood needs are the community who lives there. This concept is at the heart of the CLT model and we’re proud to be a part of this ever-growing movement to transform housing across the UK.