Hythe Forward is the first community land trust (CLT) in Essex with a vision statement to: ‘make the Hythe a safe, attractive and prosperous place to live, work and do business’. Alistair Heron tells us more.
Colchester is well known for being an innovative corner of the country’s most entrepreneurial county. Perhaps, therefore, it’s no surprise to find that we’re home to the very first community land trust (CLT) in Essex – Hythe Forward.
CLT’s are democratic not-for-profit organisations, accountable to the Financial Conduct Authority. With priorities decided by their membership, they’re all about driving the ‘right kind’ or regeneration’ in line with what’s needed locally. Hythe Forward has defined its three key aims as stimulating commerce and enterprise, the provision of affordable family housing and developing high quality public space.
The Hythe is a name that resonates in Britain’s oldest town, having been its industrial engine room for many years. Now, with the port long closed, it’s probably best known for what’s not there and for an ever growing number of buy-to-let flats springing up along its riverbanks. According to Hythe Forward’s Vice Chair, Alistair Heron, these challenges are precisely what inspired the CLTs board to get to work:
“Many local people, and indeed the council, felt that the Hythe needed reinvigorating. There are a number of hurdles to overcome including polluted plots, a largely transient population and a patchwork of landownership. However, it’s also an area of huge potential crying out for a voice to bring together residents, businesses and existing community groups. We’re here now, but we’re just at the beginning of a long journey and it’s crucial that we stick at it.”
Hythe Forward’s thirteen strong volunteer board will soon be looking to launch a community share prospectus which will allow local people to buy membership for just £1. The greater the take up the stronger the mandate to influence planning, inward investment and local authority spending decisions. Although the message is ‘slow and steady’, the infant CLT has already made some real progress in its first year:
Successfully campaigned to change the local ward boundary, bringing the whole of the Hythe into one ward and changing its name to Old Heath and The Hythe.
Affiliate member of the newly launched Hythe Business Network.
Negotiating with the proposed developer of the ‘Coldoc site’ to ensure the best possible outcome for local people.
Conducted a joint planning consultation with Colchester Borough Council, with the CLT gathering views to inform the drafting of a supplementary planning document.
Agreed to work with Colchester Borough Council on local site allocations in relation to their borough wide local plan.
With solid foundations in place there’s an open invitation for Colcestrians to find out more or get involved. Enquiries can be made via Hythe Forward’s website and members of the public are welcome to attend quarterly board meetings. Their AGM is called for Tuesday 19th May, 6:30pm at Hythe Community Centre. More informal dialogue is welcome on their active Facebook and Twitter accounts.