Tony Crofts, a pioneer of the English CLT movement, passes

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We were sad to hear that Tony Crofts, a pioneer of the English CLT movement, passed away in Bristol on 3 February 2021. Tony played a key role in setting up the first Community Land Trust in England in 1983, a full 27 years before the National CLT Network was founded.

Fran Ryan of Oxfordshire CLT has offered the following tribute to Tony:

“Tony leaves behind an impressive legacy of projects that show what can be done with determination and a good smattering of audacity. In the 20 odd years I knew him one of the clearest things about him was his absolutely visceral distaste for the high street banks he called ‘money lenders’ who he saw to be something of a curse and a fundamental blockage to the creation of genuinely affordable and decent places for ordinary people to live. I am glad to say such dark forces did not stop Tony and they were often at the receiving end of his critiques and occasional tirades. He was a passionate believer in what he called speaking truth to power and was fearless in doing such, not always comfortable for those at the receiving end.

Tony’s greatest achievement was probably the setting up one of the first community land trusts in the country in 1983 by gifting a small piece of land to his local community in Stonesfield for affordable housing. This developed into Stonesfield Community Trust which, with further input from Tony, his Quaker connections and very many other local committed people such as Libby Hartwell and Bernard Youngs and others too numerous to mention, has now grown to own 15 permanently affordable homes, a small office building and a pre-school. It has clearly contributed to the well being of the village in ensuring that some people can afford to go on living there in spite of escalating prices across the county and country. Every village and neighbourhood needs a land trust like that.

Tony was also a founder member with myself and Jock Coats, of Oxfordshire Community Land Trust prior to its registration in 2006. He also found its first (and to date, only) piece of land through his Quaker connections. Tony retired from OCLT in 2011 when he moved to Bristol.

Having returned to Bristol where he was born and had grown up, Tony went on to do two more interesting and radical projects. The first, with his wife Randi, was to set up their home at 3 Windsor Terrace as a housing coop with 4 flats where rents were affordable for local people. This became Windsor Terrace Housing Society which has an asset lock so that it can’t be sold off by members for a personal profit, they are tenants in common and when both Tony and Randi have passed away, the property can be transferred to the cooperative.

Having got Windsor Terrace set up, Tony then turned his attention to addressing what he saw as another scandalous waste of space: the many empty commercial properties in and around Bristol. He set up Abolish Empty Office Blocks and again, drawing heavily on his Quaker and other local connections such as Chris Askew, they managed to raise the funds to buy and convert a vacant commercial property in St
George. AEOB now owns this building which provides affordable homes for 6 households. We need more of this sort of thing as well.

I will miss him in spite of the fact that his risk taking sometimes left those close to him stressed and ready to pounce to extinguish some of the unwanted fires that occasionally ensued. He was one of the pioneers of the growing movement to create an alternative and parallel system of land ownership, where land is held by communities in trust for local benefit, out of the speculative market. That movement will miss him and so will I.”