There is a movement afoot for people to take community ownership of things that affect their community. On our 2015 Cumbria trip we visited a small village called Witherlslack where village residents have, after much difficulty, taken over the village shop, which was due to close on the retirement of its previous owners.
They have also forged links with a local school, some of the students making food items to be sold in the shop, and they have built a couple of “eco-friendly” homes.
They set up a rust to raise the money to buy the premises and the land, and then set up a co-operative to run the shop. This is quite a common model, and the Community Land Trust (CLT) movement exists to help this to happen. CLTs were first invented in the USA:
The land in a CLT is held in trust by a democratically-governed, regionally based, open membership, non-profit corporation. Through an inheritable and renewable long-term lease, the trust removes land from the speculative market and facilitates multiple uses such as affordable housing, village improvement, commercial space, agriculture, recreation, and open space preservation. Schumacher Center for New Economics
For me that “removing the land from the speculative market” is of prime importance. As a 2015 article in the Daily Telegraph put it:
Swathes of rural England are set to become ‘pensioner pockets’ in the next six years as young families find themselves priced out of the areas they grew up in
It’s just a fact of life in a free-market economy: baby-boomers, now reaching retirement age, sell the family home and have plenty of money to afford a nice house in the country, and, inevitably, demand pushes up prices, both on development (housing) land, and on agricultural land. So young farmers can’t afford to buy farms, and they can’t afford to live in the countryside. If a communal effort can be made to buy land, either for housing, or for farm land, (or both) that land can be held by the CLT (or other community body), in perpetuity, for the benefit of the community.
For me, two of the most exciting stories of farms being saved by community effort are that of Fordhall Farm near Market Drayton in Shropshire, and Rush Farm (the original inspiration for the long-running Radio 4 soap “The Archers“) in Worcestershire (the village shop in Ambridge is now community run!)
Rush Farm is now owned by the Stockwood Community Benefit Society, and they have an excellent short animated video, explaining the benefits of community ownership.
The land at Fordhall Farm is owned by the Fordhall Community Land Initiative (FCLI), which is an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) with charitable status. However, since 2014 the IPS structure no longer exists, and has been replaced by Community Benefit Societies.
All this is spelled out in greater detail on our Governance webpages.
BTW: I just discovered that it was Elysia, now Dr Hauschka (UK), a natural skin-care company, who originally bought the Rush Farm land and the business park, and which is now one of the companies whose home is in the business park!
Well, I thought that Elysia was just that simple, but as I’ve explored further, I have discovered a whole new model of community ownership, Elysia Commons.
I think that this discovery could have a WHOLE new effect on Foldehampton, its residents, and the businesses that happen there, but I need to go away and do some thinking first! In the meantime, here’s another animated video, that explains (I’m going to have to watch it a few times before I’ve grasped it, I think) how the Eysia business model works.