From the 14th to the 16th of October, more than 30 representatives from the Community Led Homes network of enabling hubs descended on the Liverpool City Region. The hubs meet-up was organised in partnership between the Community Land Trust Network and Breaking Ground, Liverpool City Region’s CLH hub. This meet-up was part of the Homes in Community Hands programme, run by Community Led Homes for Power to Change.
Over this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, enablers from the hubs network and staff from some of the movement’s national membership bodies came together to share ideas, get inspired by schemes and explore the future of the community led housing movement. Follow along below to see the inspiring projects we visited!
The group first visited SAFE Regeneration and got a tour of its community owned pub and buildings. Then we walked along the canal to see the site of its Destination Bootle project (#DestinationBootle). This is a large project to revitalise a deprived part of Liverpool driven by the community, with a mix of community orientated solutions including community led housing.
We were hosted by Safe Regen (Safe Regeneration Ltd) who talked us through their ambitious plans for CLH in Bootle from their current HQ which is a disused school. Brian and the Safe Regen creative crew have done a tremendous job of breathing new life back into the area and the new housing will certainly not be run of the mill.
It was an action packed and fantastic couple of days, thankfully in the autumn sunshine, of project visits, debates and discussions and of course tons of networking.
The group then settled in at Safe Regeneration’s community centre to discuss issues key to the future of community led housing. For example, how to retain community roots while scaling up the movement to transform housing in England and Wales. This day of discussions was followed by an evening of chats and live entertainment at the community owned Lock and Quay pub!
The following morning, the group visited New Ferry CLT, whose project has started on-site. It aims to provide affordable flats and business spaces in the first significant regeneration project following a devastating gas explosion in the community in 2017. Even before the explosion, New Ferry’s high street saw shop after shop close. That’s why their project has been funded through a Town Centre Fund awarded by Liverpool’s Combined Authority.
The Hubs gathering in Liverpool was great, both for the energising effect of meeting with colleagues and for the insight into how community led housing is interpreted and implemented in other parts of the country.
For us in the overheated housing market of the South East, accessing land and getting some affordable roofs over people’s heads is the primary objective. But CLH is of course about building communities too and to hear from the likes of New Ferry CLT who have literally picked themselves up from the ashes to breathe some life back into their high street and begin to re-build their community was quite extraordinary.
In the afternoon, the group visited Runcorn Old Town, where the local council approached the hub to explore a large-scale community led housing project on the site of a disused bridge access road. This project hopes to bring a sense connection back into this area that was partially demolished to build the bridge.
As always, the housing projects we visited are inscribed in their local context, and the word ‘regeneration’ resonated through the whole three days.
Communities seemed wary of top-down regeneration schemes, and seem to want instead to be active participants in the area’s changes and evolution. It was encouraging to see staff from the local authority engage with the prospect of a more community-driven approach to regeneration – like in the case of Halton Council approaching Breaking Ground to explore community-led options in Runcorn. Here, the idea is that a newly-cleared site could be used for housing under the soon to be created Runcorn Town Community Land Trust. This development would offer a starting point to rethink the neighbourhood’s needs and ambitions in terms of opportunities, connectedness to the waterways and green spaces nearby, and potentially much more.
On Saturday morning, the group visited Granby Four Streets CLT in the L8 area of Liverpool. We received a tour of the CLT’s homes and neighbourhood and its beautiful winter garden, then learned about their plans for the years to come.
Vision, determination and dedication are the words that spring to mind reflecting on the Granby 4 Streets CLT. The story is clearly one about people determined to make things work and willing to look at new ideas that help make their place a better place to live, this is no more evident than the surprising oasis that is 39 Cairns Street – two derelict homes in one of their streets transformed into a calm, warming and inspirational community space whilst retaining the integrity and spirit of Liverpool L8.
The sense of community was powerful too and so evident – as we walked and talked Joe our guide and committed CLT member, stopped to pass the time of day with tenants and residents and mused over the little things the CLT were keen to do that made a real difference to peoples lives. So glad I didn’t miss this uplifting story.
The story of Granby Four Streets inspires because it reminds us that direct action by a small community fighting for the housing and neighbourhoods they want can prevail despite the odds. Granby Street was once bursting with traders, shops, markets and life connected with the docks and international trade. With backing, a new generation can create a different, rich and vibrant neighourhood.
Thank you to all who made these few days a great success, especially to Paul Kelly of Breaking Ground who saw to it that the Community Led Homes hubs received a warm welcome to Liverpool.