The following is an extract from an article written by members of the Holne and Scoriton Local Housing Group. It is an interesting account of their journey of highs and lows, their effort and endeavour to push for affordable homes for their community.

We wanted to share their story in the hope that it will inspire others living in small villages to undertake a similar project to achieve the long term benefits for the community.

June 16th 2014 was a very special day for the communities of Holne and Scoriton

Tuesday June 16th 2014 was a very special day for seven prospective tenants and their families - they were given the keys to their brand new affordable homes – the culmination of many years of hard work by the Holne and Scoriton Local Housing Group. It was a joyous occasion and there were lots of very happy smiley faces as the tenants stepped over the thresholds of their brand new homes Any local community which has been involved with an affordable housing project will know just how long a process it can be.

With the demise of local authority housing and the escalating prices of open market housing and the cost of private rented properties, the small parishes of Holne and Scoriton, on the eastern slopes of Dartmoor, embarked upon their quest to provide affordable housing for local people. In order for this work to be carried out, Holne Parish Council set up the Local Housing Group consisting of parish council representatives of both Holne and Buckfastleigh West and members of the community.

It has been a tortuous journey – all those involved were volunteers, took no recompense for their work and spent many hours ensuring that they knew the criteria, procedures and the hoops that had to be jumped through to achieve their goal. They worked tirelessly with the Devon Rural Housing Enabler from the Community Council of Devon and officers from the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

They are eternally grateful in particular to Sue Hitchcock and Phil Markham for their assistance and support throughout the project. Countless meetings were held, numerous visits to other affordable housing projects and seminars were attended. Contact was made with all members of the DNPA, and district and county councillors, the NFU and other relevant organisations and support was forthcoming from the great majority of those contacted.

Once the first housing needs survey had been undertaken and the results proved there indeed was a need, the next task was to find a site – this was easier said than done! All landowners with land in the village envelopes of the two parishes were contacted but only one was willing to consider selling their land for local housing – a great debt is owed to Ru Roberts for her foresight in allowing her land in Holne to be used without which the houses could not have been built.

Both communities were being kept advised of all developments by way of public meetings, regular items on the parish councils’ agendas and articles in the local community magazines but once the search for a site commenced, those in our communities who were opposed to the whole idea of affordable housing voiced their views, some very strongly.

The Parish Council through the Housing Group, chose the Hastoe Housing Association to carry the project forward – and as soon as the Housing Association’s bid for funds from the Homes and Communities Agency was successful, the project swung into action. The Housing Association was keen to build Passivhaus dwellings but at the first public consultation it was obvious that this was not seen as appropriate either for the site or for the village. So there was a delay in the planning application submission whilst the architect produced new plans for a more traditional build which the community was asked to comment on via a further public meeting.

It proved to be a rather difficult period during the consultation ‘drop in’ sessions that were being held, but this finally culminated in the planning application being submitted and approved (with a Section 106 agreement setting out who should be eligible to occupy the houses, a local connection being the most important criteria). It became very obvious that there were still some people within the two communities who were very unhappy with the project.

It is with regret that supporters of the scheme were unable to convince some of the doubters about the very real benefit to both communities that would be achieved by building houses for local people. Despite the wettest winter on record, with the attendant difficulties for construction work, Hastoe Housing Association and the builders Bibio managed to keep the project on time through their hard work and commitment. However, shortly before the houses were nearing completion, with occupation likely in mid June, as originally projected, an unexpected and unwelcome problem arose.

During the ten years that it had taken to achieve our project, the goal posts had kept changing, especially within local and National Government. Any community that wishes to build affordable housing needs to be aware of how quickly change can happen, completely outside a housing group’s control. 

It became apparent, in spite of the evidences from the housing needs survey, that the contents of the Section 106 (read here about policy changes) agreement and the belief that the houses would be occupied by those very local people that the housing group had been working for, had changed.

The allocation of the houses was instead likely to go to people (however needy), who lived outside the two parishes, simply because those locals in Band E (low housing need) were likely to be excluded – due to new guidance which had come down from Central Government. So three months before the houses were to be occupied, when ordinarily the work of the Local Housing Group would have finished, the two Parish Councils and members of the Local Housing Group set about lobbying and so influencing the powers that be, to change the decision on Band E applicants. With the support of the district councillor Cllr Peter Smerdon and local MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, sense prevailed and those in Bands E (those who do not have a housing need as determined in Bands A to D) were now to be considered. Future community groups promoting affordable housing projects in their parishes should be aware of this.

So now Holne has seven well designed, eco-efficient, brand new affordable homes for local people - a magnificent achievement with tenants who will contribute to the community, continuing to keep it alive benefiting both villages, our village halls, the two pubs, the churches and the Holne community village shop and tearoom.


Written with input from: Members of the Holne and Scoriton Local Housing Group 15th July 2014

Our Rural Housing Enablers, Sue Southwell and Janice Alexander, undertake consultancy work in addition to the programmes of work undertaken for our Local Authority and Registered provider partners.

For advice and support please contact:

Sue Southwell
email [email protected] or call 01392 248919 ext*121

Janice Alexander
email [email protected] or call 01392 248919 ext*122

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Photo credit: Hastoe Housing Association