A small village near Ely, Cambridgeshire

Wilburton - The SWCLT Leaflet

Wilburton Sign

The SWCLT have distributed a leaflet around the village, but it contains some rather concerning false "falsehoods" - appearing to be aimed at those who can see that this plan is about open market housing, not affordable housing. These claims will be discussed here, along with a few omissions that should have been included in their SWCLT leaflet.

False Falsehoods

The leaflet states:

It has been unfortunate that many falsehoods are circulating via leaflets dropped through doors in Wilburton and on social media about the Trust's intentions for the land. The Trustees would like to address those to set the record straight.

Fair enough, if something has been stated incorrectly it needs to be addressed - and SWCLT and their supporters have been given ample opportunity to do this - but have not. Instead, they have chosen to go public - but not necessarily accurately. To work through their leaflet:

There will be over 500 houses on the Camps/Everitt land - the only prior mention of 500 houses relating to Wilburton that can be found was:

We should not forget that for every single affordable home, there will be two so called “market homes”. If this development goes ahead then including other planned and potential developments in the village the total number of houses in the village will increase by almost 50% (from its existing size of around 500 houses).

This clearly states the number of existing houses in the village, not the number proposed. SWCLT were pressed on the number of houses from the outset, often saying no figure had been discussed - finally adding a figure of approximately 120 houses to a board in the second public consultation, which has now been confirmed. This is the figure that has been used, or combined with other possible development (including on accepted sites) in the village. As the developer has clearly had a key role in this proposal, and options were signed in May 2018, they will have known the required number of houses to achieve their profit margins - so continued denial by SWCLT trustees is somewhat suspect.

The leaflet continues that "The majority of the land will be secured as green open space with a vast array of possibilities for recreation and preservation of the countryside". At a recent Parish Council EGM, the RIG (Recreation Improvement Group) stated that they would be keeping recreation on the existing ground and will be bringing forward improved cricket, football and other recreation facilities as well as a new pavillion. To date, there has been no detail of funding for the upkeep of this proposed additional "green open space" by SWCLT. And building 120 houses on countryside (the definition of land outside of the development envelope) is an unusual way to preserve it.

The Trustees receive money for their work - no mention of this can be found in leaflets distributed - and it is well known that the trustees do not receive money. All CLTs are set up as not-for-profit organisations. Regarding regulation by the FCA, the FCA stance on CLTs is "community land trust are not regulated by us as they are a mutual company. They appear on the mutuals public register for which we act as registrar". Annual accounts are available to purchase on the FCA Mutuals website, and should be displayed in the SWCLT office.

This will cause more pollution - SWCLT state "The congestion is predominnantly caused by through traffic - not by traffic in the village". Pollution is caused by any traffic, whether local or through, and a cold engine produces more pollution - typically twice as much as a warm engine. Therefore any traffic originating from the village will add to the pollution issue in the village. As there are likely to be a large number of out-commuters using the A1123 and B1049, traffic flow in the village is also going to be affected - increasing the pollution effects of stationary and stop start traffic. To attempt to put the blame on through traffic is nonsense.

The School is full - what has been stated is that the next intake is at the PAN recommended for the school - a figure of 20 - for the 2019-20 year, this information was received from the school, and is now confirmed as 21 (or even 23...). Previous lower-intake years mean the total pupil numbers are reduced compard to previous highs - but the school is around it's "permanent capacity" level - that which does not include the temporary classroom.

This 2019/20 high intake is without any major development within the village for many years. Cambridge County Council figures show that there was a small decline in birthrate within East Cambridgeshire from a peak in 2011 to a low point in 2014, and this would map to school intake being reduced in the past 2 years. In the Policies for Wilburton - November 2017 document by ECDC, the reference to school states "School being at capacity indicates its success, as children travel in from neighbouring parishes".

In 2008, the school had 90 pupils, the figure now stands at around 120 - showing a steady overall increase without significant development in the village. The primary school has been advertising as "around 120 places" in the Village Voice, and this figure is used as the "permanent capacity" for the school in a recent application to renew the mobile classroom (application ref E/3001/19/CC). The justification for the renewal states:

The latest pupil forecasts from the county research group indicate that the number on roll will be well in excess of the schools permanent capacity of 120 places for the next five years.

Cambridgeshire County Council suggests 25-35 additional primary pupils per 100 houses built (in fact, their documents for developments in the area now show 40 primary pupils per 100 houses) - which would clearly take the school beyond it's current maximum capacity (including mobile classroom) if 120 SWCLT houses plus 92 (SWCLT suggested number) of infill and small development houses are built in the village. No mention has been made of secondary school provision - Soham appears to be now out of reach (even from Stretham), Cottenham is forecast to be full from their own local intake by 2025, although this year only siblings were considered - vastly reducing secondary school choice to those in Wilburton.

The County Council has also stated, in documents associated with other planning applications in the village, that mitigation for development would be sort at Haddenham Primary School, not Wilburton. This would suggest that whilst we get the developments and associated issues, the school is unlikely to benefit from funding to increase in size, or change the temporary classroom into a permanent classroom.

What does affordable housing even mean? - the SWCLT have been asked for figures in writing, but have so far been unwilling to back up their claims of genuinely affordable housing. Their leaflet states "Shared Ownership properties are made available at as little as 25% ownership to allow families their first step on the housing ladder". At public consultations, SWCLT representatives stated a figure of 40% (£88k - £100k) for Stretham, and likely to be from £100k for Wilburton - giving a full valuation at £250k. Their Section 106 agreement for Stretham also states:

Any shared ownership homes provided will be made available at between 40% and 80% of value at the largest share affordable.

It is noted that the ECDC section states between 25% and 80%. What the leaflet does not include is that rent and service charges also apply - rent being paid on the remaining portion of the house, which could be over £350 on a 2-bed house with 40% shared onwership. From the SWCLT financial report, service charges work out at £380 per annum - around £30 per month. Those in shared ownership are also likely to be liable for 100% of the maintenance costs, regardless of the size of share or rent paid. SWCLT should have included worked examples, demonstrating the full costs of their affordable homes, and made comparisons to similar homes for example those in Sennitt Way, Stretham. We note that SWCLT have started using a figure of 25% now.

The ECDC definition for affordable housing states:

Affordable housing means that homes are available for less than the market price and can be offered by renting, part-ownership, buying or self-build. Generally 'affordable' means that:
  • mortgage repayments are lower than 20% of the household disposable income; or
  • rent is lower than 25% of the household disposable income.

This would appear to be genuinely affordable - as it is geared to disposable income, and not market rate for rental or house prices. Disposable income is income after taxation - so for example someone on a salary of £25k would have a disposable income of around £1700 per month - 20% of this being around £340pcm - 25% being £425pcm.

A rough calculation based on figures obtained from public consultations shows monthly figures of around £900 required for a 40% share of a 2-bed affordable home in Manor Farm, Stretham - to include mortgage, rent and service charge. Clearly way over what ECDC would class as genuinely affordable. SWCLT have been asked to provide figures, but have chosen not to. In constrast, Cottenham CLT responded quickly to a request of affordability, stating they aim to provide houses for people on a salary of £28k - £50k.

SWCLT also avoid to mention that the "ownership" is in fact leasehold, there is no actual ownership. Should the purchaser fall behind on rent they can potentially lose everything they have paid. The leasehold issue of shared ownership is often discussed in the national press.

A few other points dotted throughout the leaflet or even left out completely should also be highlighted. First, the ECDC Community Land Trusts page states:

The planning policy lets communities bring forward sites in areas close to village or town boundaries which might be outside the normal development envelope. The community decides itself what is appropriate. These sites could include affordable housing, workspaces, community buildings and other amenities. And the project could also include some ‘market housing’ for sale to help pay for the community development if it would otherwise not go ahead.

The important points to note are "The community decides itself what is appropriate" and "could also include some 'market housing'". SWCLT began negotiations on the Camps Field land in 2017 (as stated in their financial report), and options on the land were signed in May 2018 by Laragh Homes. At no point were the community consulted, or allowed to decide what is appropriate. As for "some" market housing, SWCLT are proposing 70% - a majority - market housing. If the site were to be developed as a rural exception site, there would be a maximum of 20% market housing, 80% affordable.

The leaflet also mentions the doctors surgery in Stretham - which should have been delivered as part of phase 2 of the Manor Farm development. A recent email from NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough states:

The CCG, STP and Capital Oversight Investment Group have all supported the initial Project Initiation plans in principle, and have advised the lead GP practice to proceed to the next stage of the process which is to develop an Outline Business Case.

To date we have not received any further submission, so can only assume the Practice is still working on this.

This appears to differ somewhat from the view stated by SWCLT - some clarification of the position is therefore required. The sum of money required by SWCLT from Stretham Parish Council - £33,600 - is quite staggering. It is noted that the LLP set up between Laragh Homes and Peterhouse Enterprises Limited suggests a profit approaching £1.8m in the past two years - figures for Peterhouse Enterprises on page 15 - for a 40% share, land value £106,000 - estimated profit share of £397,677 for 2018, £274,361 for 2017. Where is the "not for profit" element to that?

The leaflet states "the CLT is managing to provide its homes without any cost to the taxpayer" - maybe not a financial costs, but what about costs associated with time lost due to a significant increase in out-communting, health risks to children on an already congested road and even potentially having to take children to neighbouring schools if the village school (or secondary schools) are full? Money is available - via grants, or low cost loans (Matter 12 - Hearing Statement - p. 3-4 - quoting the housing minister), to bring forward affordable housing without the need for large-scale development. This is being utilised in South Cambs - where 80-100% affordable housing is provided on rural exception and CLT sites, or 40% affordable housing on open market development sites.

Next: CLTs for Profit