Victoria and James Mead have built a family bungalow for the tiny sum of £100,000 (including the plot) under the Community Land Trust scheme, pitching in with DIY on neighbouring houses.

The village of Rock in Cornwall is widely known as a playground for youthful royals, which is not surprising given its fabulous beaches and proximity to Padstow. Yet when a place is this fashionable, it can become almost impossible for local people to compete in the sky-high housing market. That is why Victoria and James jumped at the chance to be part of a Community Land Trust (CLT) project and build their own home for just £90,000.

“We were renting a top floor flat with no garden and a three-year-old boy,” says Victoria, “and we were lucky to get that.” The family’s situation wasn’t unusual, which led Bill Dingle, a local landowner, to volunteer to make land available for very low-cost building plots — starting a process which has ended in the Meads being one of 12 families living in their own self-built bungalows – with gardens – on the edge of the village.

Sadly, Bill died before his vision became reality, and so the baton was passed to the St. Minver Community Land Trust, who managed the project. Planning permission was granted with Section 106 restrictions, primarily so the properties could only ever be sold for 33% of their open market value. Applicants for the plots were then vetted according to certain criteria, which included their income and local connections.

The aim of the project was to keep costs to a minimum. The CLT did this by employing an architect to design very simple bungalows, and then centrally bulk-buying materials. A retained project manager ensured the site ran smoothly.

When the Meads and their fellow self-builders began work in December 2007, the foundations had already been dug, and the timber frames were erected. Everyone worked on all the houses in the evenings and at weekends and, fortunately, several of the group were skilled tradesmen, including a roofer and electricians.

The communal approach and emphasis on bulk-buying did mean that the designs were already fixed, both inside and out. “We had no choice – that annoyed me – but that’s also what kept the costs down,” admits Victoria, who had to “battle” to get a minor change in the interior layout, and create a more family-friendly open plan living area.

The couple could, however, make their own choices on the internal finishes, and they were able to add another £6,000 to their mortgage in order to pay for their kitchen and a woodburning stove.

While the bungalow is a modest 90m² in size, some of the other self-builders have already added extensions and the Meads hope to do the same in the not-too-distant future, with a garden room extension to their living area.

“I always said I’d live in a shed before I lived in a bungalow,” laughs Victoria, “but living in Rock, five minutes from the beach in a beautiful environment, a bungalow is fine. And I love the fact that it’s mine.”

Community Land Trust: How it Works

The purpose of a Community Land Trust (CLT) is to build affordable housing for the benefit of local community members.?Anyone can in theory set one up, but it must be a not-for-profit venture on a volunteer basis. The St. Minver Community Land Trust was a model example of how a CLT works.

Under the umbrella of the Cornwall CLT, the project was co-ordinated by three people, including the landowner. Although each of the self-builders have their own private mortgage arrangements, the CLT was given a £5,000 set-up grant and an interest-free loan by the local district council, to provide working capital until the first drawdown from the mortgages.

Each of the 12 plots was sold for just £10,000, and the council gave planning approval, with Section 106 agreements in place to ensure local people benefitted and that the properties could only ever be sold at 33% of their open market value. The Trust kept costs down by buying all materials centrally in bulk. They also employed one architect for all 12 homes, and contracted a local builder to manage the project on site. All the costs were rolled up and spread between the self-builders. In this way, most of the payments made by the Meads and the other self-builders were to the St Minver CLT.

For more information on CLTs, visit communitylandtrusts.org.uk.

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