Max and Chloe become pioneers of community housing success in Cambs village
- Credit: HCLT
Max Jones and his partner Chloe Harper moved into their first home together – to secure for themselves a footnote in a village’s history.
By being handed the keys to a one-bedroom bungalow in Ovins Rise, Haddenham, they became the first occupants of a Community Land Trust enterprise to provide local homes for local people.
The list of those who helped them is formidable and Covid-19 restrictions prevented many of those responsible from attending the historic handing over of keys.
Their one-bedroom bungalow is part of the Haddenham Community Land Trust (HCLT) scheme, which was first granted planning permission in 2018.
Two homes are now occupied, a further three will follow in February and, when complete, 17 homes will become part of the Community Land Trust scheme in the village.
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The scheme, which has developed by Palace Green Homes (part of the trading arm of East Cambs Council), has received support from Haddenham Parish Council, Homes England, East Cambs District Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.
HCLT chairman Mark Hugo said: “During these challenging coronavirus times we have only succeeded through hard work, commitment, common sense and mutual support by all parties involved including importantly our members.
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“It is exciting to be welcoming our first tenants and seeing the whole site develop to become an attractive, landscaped and family friendly environment."
Naming of the estate turned out to be the least of the multifarious issues that faced HCLT.
Initially it was to be called West End Gardens but the district council felt it sounded too similar to the existing road West End which lies adjacent.
The trustees suggested an alternative, Ovins Rise, that was accepted. The name refers to Ovin, who is believed to have been the steward of Etheldreda, the East Anglian Queen who lived from 636-679AD.
A stone plinth called Ovins Stone is in Ely Cathedral but was originally found in Aldreth; a replica can be found in Haddenham churchyard.
Financing for Ovins Rise was assured in December 2018 when a loan of £6.5 million was exchanged by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority with the East Cambs Trading Company (ECTC) to support the community-led development.
Work was halted until an archaeological survey was completed and then, when building work started in autumn 2019, it had to be slowed down because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Cllr Bill Hunt, county councillor for Soham South and Haddenham, said: "I am delighted that years of hard work by the Haddenham CLT team has started to show rewards.
"These schemes are a ray of light to strengthen the communities of the future.
"All those involved with Haddenham CLT should feel proud of what they have achieved so far and what they have done for the future of their smashing village. Thank you."
East Cambs council leader Anna Bailey described the 17 homes as “properly affordable, high quality housing for local people and big benefits for the community in perpetuity”.
She said the homes would provide affordable housing to people from the local area “that are so often shut out of the housing market. Well done everyone - what a great day”.
How soon the remaining homes come on stream is still unknown.
HCLT trustees reported last year – once the pandemic had set in – that work on the site had initially halted prior to Covid-19 working practices being agreed.
However, they also warned that Palace Green Homes “have advised us that there may be delays to the delivery of construction materials and this will make progress slower than planned.
“In addition, it is likely that due to the economic downturn, it will take longer to sell the open market houses on the site than the period originally envisaged.
“It is important to understand that the affordable houses that HCLT are purchasing are being subsidised by the sale of these same open market houses.”
HCLT described this at the time as “a major blow” since it meant revising the short list of applicants to whom they could offer a tenancy.
But their determination and optimism remain and they have told villagers that “the trustees assure you they are just as committed to this project as they were before this unexpected and unfortunate delay”.