Our end of year report was presented by Roger Saunders (Founder and Retiring Director of Frome Area Community Land Trust) on behalf of FACLT Directors at the November 2023 AGM.
Board of Directors and Working Groups
FACLT is led by a strong board of committed directors, bringing between them a wide range of skills and experience.
Two directors, Chris James and Polly Lamb, stood down in the course of the year, and we thank them for the enormous contribution they have made to our work over the years. Tim Cutting and Delia Goddard have continued offering brilliant support as Treasurer and Secretary respectively, and we were delighted that John Clarke agreed to take on the role of Vice Chair.
Our board meets monthly. While the board gives the CLT strategic direction and governance, the practical operational work has been carried out by our working groups: the Projects and Land Search Group, co-ordinated by Ali Barclay, and the Communications Group, currently co-ordinated by Delia Goddard. In addition, we establish various task and finish groups to focus on particular, time-limited projects.
We are extremely grateful to the CLT members who actively contribute to these groups.
Merger of Fair Housing for Frome and Frome Area Community Land Trust
The key governance change that took place this year was the merger with Fair Housing for Frome, completed in April. As a result, the newly merged organisation has adopted a wider remit, aiming to make best use of existing housing as well as creating new homes, working across all housing tenures to help people in housing need, taking responsibility for projects such as the Frome Renters Alliance and the proposed Legacy Scheme, and playing a stronger campaigning and advocacy role to support those at the sharp end of the housing crisis.
FACLT’s core aim is still to acquire land to build genuinely affordable homes for local people in housing need. During this year we have focused our efforts on Somerset County (SC) land – and although we have identified several prospective sites and worked with Somerset planning officers and others to work up concrete proposals, progress has been painfully slow. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic that at least one of these will go ahead.
Secondly, besides council land, we have also contacted private landowners, in person, about sites we consider would have a realistic prospect of development for community-led housing. Although they haven’t exactly welcomed us with open arms, at least we’ve opened some doors.
The third area has been looking at possible opportunities in commercially led developments. This has been particularly challenging for the CLT in the past year, with highly controversial proposals such as those for Selwood Garden Community and Packsaddle. In both cases the CLT was approached by the developers with offers regarding potential involvement. While we were of course wary of being used to give a community veneer to generally unpopular proposals, neither were we prepared to simply oppose the plans outright. We felt that our job as a CLT must be to focus on the needs of local people desperately in need of affordable, adequate housing, and so in both cases we outlined to the developers conditions for the CLT’s involvement, such as high percentages of social rented housing, very high environmental standards etc.. In both cases our conditions were rejected outright.
We prepared a position statement, arguing that the need to protect precious green space must be balanced by recognition of the need to provide homes for local people who need them.
Having said all this, one potential developer with whom we now have a very positive relationship is Mayday Saxonvale, and we are hopeful this will bear fruit.
Campaigning for Change
Alongside this project work we have also campaigned to influence and engage others with agency in the housing world. In July we organised – with the support of Frome Town Council (FTC) – a public meeting to highlight the issues.
We are very grateful to those people who were prepared to share their own, often painful stories, laying bare the human dimension behind all the rhetoric and evidence – as well as to the panel of experts who joined us. Thanks also to Rupert Warren and Annie Panico, from Homefinder Somerset, who helped unpick the statistics around social housing need in Frome.
The key outcome of FACLT’s meeting was a call for FTC to formally declare a housing crisis, and this indeed happened in August. As a result, a working group has been set up, including FACLT representatives, to agree concrete actions the Council and others can take to address the crisis.
Thanks for all you support!
The directors would like to thank some of the people who have done so much to keep the CLT moving forward over the past year:
• Polly Lamb and Caroline Wajsblum for their brilliant communications work;
• Catherine Warburton and Jane Llewellyn from Frome Town Council for so much practical, day-to-day support;
• And Selwood Rotary Club for their generous donation of £1500.
And since I (Roger Saunders) am standing down from the board this year, I would like to take the opportunity to thank two people who have played an absolutely crucial role since the CLT set up four years ago:
• Ali Barclay, who is herself standing down as a director this year; Ali has brought enormous experience, insight, and skill to her roles in the CLT; thankfully she intends to continue offering her support as an active member;
• And Steve Watson from Middlemarch CLH, who has provided an incredible level and quality of support, advice and guidance since our inception. I hope that he will stick with FACLT for several years yet – and be there to cut the ribbon when the first homes get built.
Finally I’d like to give my personal thanks to all my fellow directors and active members, past and present, with whom it’s been such a pleasure and privilege to work.
Roger Saunders (Retired Director of FACLT)
Help us tackle the housing crisis in Frome
Share your story: It’s time to address the housing crisis and find solutions. There are many voices not being heard. That’s why we are encouraging those who are finding it hard to find suitable housing or struggling with the homefinder bidding system to share their stories with us. If you would like to share your story (anonomously is fine) you can contact us at email@example.com
Like and Follow us on Social Media: Please follow us on Facebook, X formally known as Twitter and Linkedin and tell people about our work and/or sharing our events and posts on Social Media.
Become a Member: FACLT invites local people to join us and support our mission.
For a minimum of £1 you can buy a share which makes you a member, you can of course purchase as many shares as you like and any extra contributions are welcome although we operate on a one member one vote basis. You’ll receive a share certificate and will be eligible to vote at the general meetings. You will also be able to apply to stand for one of the places on the board. https://fromeareaclt.org/become-a-member/
Share Your Skills: Help us to manage the organisation, join a working group, conduct research, continue to identify opportunities and support the creation of community led housing in Frome.
Specific skills that could be useful to us…
Become a board member or Director: Are you a local resident with good links in the community and some understanding of insecure housing and homelessness, either through your own experience or the experience of friends and family? Or are you someone with professional skills related to housing, fundraising, development and marketing, or a strategic thinker who can help turn vision into reality?
It’s also important to us to have as much diversity as possible on the board of directors, in terms of age, gender and experience.
We are a friendly open-minded group that meets approximately every month, with other events and activities in between. This is a voluntary position, and following a trial period, we’re looking for a commitment of two to three years.