Village development project begins

Joseph Bulmer

WORK is about to start on a flagship, community-led, village development in North Devon that will provide homes, jobs and facilities for local people.

Pearce Construction are due to start this week on the first phase of work to develop 18 new homes to rent, buy or part own, two employment space workshops and an environmentally sustainable biomass heating system for the new buildings at Little Bickington Farm, High Bickington.

The work forms part of a nationally-significant project involving members of the locally-formed High Bickington Community Property Trust, Torridge District Council, Devon County Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and a wide range of funders and community organisations.

The initial phase forms part of wider plans for the 7.2 hectare site, which has planning permission for 16 affordable homes to rent and buy, a further 23 for sale, workshops, community and sports facilities and a primary school.

When built, the affordable homes will remain under the management of the trust, which received the site from Devon County Council. This will ensure that they remain available to local people or those who have connections to the area.

The move is seen as a demonstration of the Government’s emerging localism policy proposals, which are intended to give communities more of a say over the provision of housing and services in their local areas.

It has been supported by an investment from the HCA of �360,000 to help meet the cost of this stage of the project, �193,000 from the Leader4 Torridge and North Devon programme, �30,000 from the County Council’s Renewable Energy for Devon project and around �50,000 over three years from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Devon County Council will also be contributing around �750,000 to support costs relating to infrastructure and planning.

David Brown, chairman of High Bickington Community Property Trust, said: “It’s fantastic that work is about to start on the development of these much needed new homes after all the effort the local community and the partners have put into this. High Bickington is a small village with a big vision. We are working with partners to bring our vision for the future of the village to life, for the benefit of those who live here. There is still a lot of work to do before the homes become a reality, but we are delighted to have got to this stage and are grateful to the county council and the HCA for their support in getting us to this point.”

The trust, which has around 200 members in the village, identified affordable housing as a local priority and worked with partners to develop proposals and secure planning permission for this community-owned project to be developed.

Other partners involved in the scheme include High Bickington Parish Council and the national Community Land Trust movement.