My name is Sophie, and I’m the new Communications and Campaigns Officer with the National CLT Network. On Saturday 29 February, I had the chance to experience the joy of community led housing first-hand when I visited the Open Doors celebration for six new bungalows at Birks Court in the Pennine valleys.
These bungalows were designed and built to create a dedicated space for older community members at an affordable price. The homes feature a beautiful and simple design, an extra bedroom to welcome carers or family members and wheelchair accessibility throughout.
They are located in close walking distance to the main amenities of Walsden village on a piece of land that will remain protected from flooding. Unfortunately, we know this because of the recent flooding in Yorkshire, which brought significant suffering to other homes in the community but didn’t affect the bungalows due to the slight incline of the site.
On the train journey up to the area, I saw rivers and streams that had burst their banks and flooded hectares of agricultural and livestock fields, not to mention residential areas in the valleys. It was great that during a difficult time for this community, this event was able to go ahead and offer some light relief.
The completion of this project follows from the successful partnership between the Calder Valley Community Land Trust and John Eastwood Homes, an almshouse trust in the area. Four of the six homes were allocated to elderly residents by the Calder Valley CLT, and two by John Eastwood Homes.
The residents represent a mix of single people and couples, some around 90 years old. The support of the whole community was needed to make this happen, from local donations to local council support. Homes England and the Quaker Housing Trust also contributed to the financing of the project.
The event received a great reception from the community, with over 100 attending and many asking how they could get on a list for future homes! The turnout showed that this project means so much to the community as a whole.
The photos do not do justice to the number of people attending -- most were inside two of the bungalows admiring the generous layout and ease of mobility. But the pictures can’t show you what I saw in-person: the older couples quietly discussing how this type of space could make their lives easier and older women or supportive grandchildren eyeing the porches out back which can be put to good use when the weather warms up.
The Mayors of Calderdale and Todmorden spoke and planted a flowering cherry tree on the site to the tune of the Todmorden Community Brass Band. I had a wonderful time meeting community members and members of the Calder Valley CLT team. Despite its very chaotic weather that day, I’m happy I saw this part of England for such a jubilant occasion.
The residents will move in on Sunday 8 March, and the Calder Valley CLT looks forward to future homes and projects. We at the National CLT Network love to celebrate the successes of community led housing projects, so please do invite us to future celebrations. Who knows -- yours just might be the 1,000th CLT home to open in England and Wales!