Guest BlogNews

Creating home: a Community Land Trust development in rural West Dorset

Sheila Hawkins writes about the marvellous home-making work of the Broadwindsor Group Parish Community Land Trust with some additional thoughts from Alison Ward of Middlemarch Community Led Housing and Nicholas Boys Smith.

At the beginning of September 2023 families with smiling faces  began moving into to their brand new homes at Northcombe Lea in Drimpton, West Dorset. This was the culmination of a seven year long project undertaken by Broadwindsor Group Parish Community Land Trust (BGP CLT) to provide affordable homes for rent for people with a close connection to the local parish area

New homes. Photo: Brian Hesketh

CLTs are a wonderful vehicle for undertaking community-led projects leading to ownership and management of  valued community assets that might otherwise be lost or are not being provided – affordable housing, pubs, shops, provision of renewable energy schemes and district heating systems. The land is owned by the CLT in perpetuity and, in this case, rented to a housing association. The rental income will be recycled into funds for other local projects within the local parish area.

The BGP CLT project, initiated in late 2016, came about as a response to questions raised by community consultations during the process to create Broadwindsor Group Parish Plan (2012), and again in 2018 during the process of creating the Broadwindsor Group Parish Neighbourhood Plan, both part of the local planning process through the Localism Act (2011). Both these consultations highlighted a lack of affordable housing in the area, particularly for rent, as a major concern of local residents.

Broadwindsor Group Parish area covers 13 square miles of very rural agricultural landscape with a population of just under 1,500. It lies within Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Its villages and hamlets are located on the north western boundary of Dorset, adjoining South Somerset, with Bridport the closest Dorset town 7 miles to the south, and the south coast a mile beyond that. The village of Broadwindsor has a population of around 900, while the second largest village of Drimpton (with the hamlet of Netherhay) is home to around 400 people. As is the case in many other Dorset towns and villages, particularly in the vicinity of  the coastal stretch, house prices have risen sharply in recent years, with many house sales snapped up by people moving into the area from other regions. This has changed the housing market, making buying a home in local villages unaffordable to local people working at local wage levels. There are a considerable number of houses, which are second homes, empty for considerable periods, or holiday lets.

So, at the community’s request, Broadwindsor Group Parish Community Land Trust was formed in 2016 and incorporated as a Community Benefit Society. Eight local volunteers formed a Steering Group and set about finding a site, designing 15 homes ranging from one bed apartments two and three bed family homes (in response to the local Housing Need figures at that time), engaging consultants, and selecting a housing association as a development partner. There was a huge amount to learn and to deal with, including legal Options Agreements, design requirements, tendering for contracts and dealing with the local authority planning department. We were very lucky to be offered the services of Middlemarch Community Led Housing, who advised and guided BGP CLT through the earliest phases of the project – securing land for a development site, applying for grant funding to undertake feasibility surveys, tendering for an architect (Trewin Design Ltd selected) and a development partner (housing association Abri selected), and advising on the submission of a planning application.

As part of this earliest phase of the project, we held community consultations  to approve the site location in Drimpton that we had identified and to gain the community’s agreement to begin negotiations to acquire it. Then, having developed some outline design plans with Trewin Design Ltd for the 1.5 acre Exception green field site, we held further community consultations to get opinions on the design and ideas for landscaping.

Ideas from this process were included in the amended designs. From the outset, BGP CLT aimed to ensure that the development design matched the existing local architecture of the area. We specified Portland Stone, heritage brick and slate roofs. Each home has a front porch to match others already existing in the locality. And we included two bungalows adjacent to existing bungalows along the lane, to ensure they were not overlooked or over-shadowed..

The CLT wished to future-proof the homes as much as possible, so we designed in heating by air source heat pumps, in-roof solar panels, charging points for electric vehicles and a very high standard of insulation.  For the landscape, we designed in a native fruiting hedge around the boundary line to provide some screening eventually. Within the development the landscaping provides native trees, such as hornbeam, hazel, silver birch, magnolia and black mulberry to provide seasonal colour and, in time, blossom and fruit. The one and half acre site is located in a corner of a large field planted with rye grass. All the enhancing landscaping that we have created will, in time, improve the local ecology and provide improved habitat for wildlife.

With the majority of the community supporting the project in general, and the designs, the planning application was submitted and after a lengthy process (two years, including the Covid pandemic and a change from District Council to a unitary local authority) it received approval from Dorset Council in April 2021. Abri had, with the CLT’s approval, appointed the local contractor C G Fry & Son for the construction phase. This began on site with the ground works in December 2021.

BGP CLT wished to find a way of involving the local community through the construction period, and devised another project to include community members, which we called Homemaking, managed for us by a local volunteer. Having successfully applied for grant funding from Dorset Council’s Culture and Community Project Fund, we were able to:

  • commission local artist Jenny Beck to create an artwork Homemaking reflecting the change from green field to new homes. Prints of the painting were presented to each new household at a welcoming coffee morning. The original artwork will be displayed in village halls throughout the parish;

Painting by Jenny Black

  • commission the creation of two galvanised metal benches from local farmer and blacksmith Rob Hedditch, for use by the new residents;


New metal benches creating by the local blacksmith. Photo: Sheila Hawkins

  • recycle materials from the construction site. The contractors agreed to recycle unwanted timber in the form of pallets with which a group of local volunteers created hedgehog boxes, bird boxes, and a Christmas tree. When part of a pallet of slates arrived broken, these were also sent on to the volunteers, who then provided the hedgehogs with slate roofs over their heads and created slate plant labels and coasters. These goods went on show at the village Christmas Fair, and the hedgehog homes were given away around the parish, including to the local allotment group;

Hedgehog homes and slate plant labels and coasters. Photos: Sheila Hawkins and Robin Moses

  • make a photographic record ‘From greenfield to homes.’ A volunteer photographer from Drimpton took a series of over 350 photographs of every stage of the construction phase. Many of these are available to view on the CLT’s website, at They will also be donated, along with copies of design plans and other details, to the local museum in Beaminster.

Broadwindsor Group Parish CLT is proud to have created beautiful and sustainable homes for people with a strong connection to the local communities of the parish area. These homes will remain for affordable rent in perpetuity. We were also very honoured in November to receive the 2023 Award for Beautiful Community Led Homes from the National CLT Network.

With community led projects, homes can be created that are on the right scale, in a community created design in the right place for local people.

Sheila Hawkins is secretary of the Broadwindsor Group Parish CLT

The Broadwindsor Group Parish CLT stands among 75 communities that Middlemarch Community Led Housing CIC has assisted, or is currently supporting, to create affordable housing for local residents. These housing projects are primarily in Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. They are partnerships between community land trusts and housing associations, brokered by expert support from Middlemarch advisers, with support from Homes England and local authorities. In partnerships between community land trusts and housing associations, the community assumes a leading role in design decisions, while the housing association provides financial support, oversees construction, and manages the operation of the homes. Find out more at:

Alison Ward, Middlemarch Community Led Housing

This is such an uplifting story and it is such a pleasure to publish it on the Create Streets blog. Time after time after time, local people are the best place-makers, knowing intimately what will ‘fit in’, meet local needs and feel of home. Bravo to Sheila and all her neighbours. And well done to Alison Ward for well-judged expert support.

Nicholas Boys Smith is the chairman of Create Streets and a trustee of the Community Land Trust Network