Cheshire Community Action, a long established rural regeneration charity, last week facilitated the ‘Meet the Developer Event’ at Crewe Alexandra Football Stadium. The one day event, believed to be the first one of its kind nationally, was organised to bring together Local Councils, community representatives and organisations that are developing homes across Cheshire.
The event was a response to requests from Local Councils producing Neighbourhood Plans (and those that aren’t) to help them engage with developers and vice versa. Both Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester are two of the most active Neighbourhood Planning areas in England and Cheshire Community Action is taking the lead in supporting this engagement.
Cheshire Community Action’s Policy and Development Manager, John Heselwood said:
“We took a risk by setting up this event, as housing and planning is an area many feel very passionate about. In recent years, developers and communities have had poor relations compounded by the upheaval of the planning system. However, we were very encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive and constructive discussion that took place between community members, local councillors and developers.
“We broke a mould by trying out this approach and it worked! But we have to learn from this event and look at how we can build on the experience. Housing and planning is one of the most divisive issues this country faces. There is a national housing crisis, with property prices (particularly in rural areas) now out of the reach of almost an entire generation of young people and families. There is also a growing need for more suitable homes for the rapidly ageing population, particularly in Cheshire. Organisations like Cheshire Community Action are well positioned to facilitate a conversation between communities and developers to enable the delivery of the right homes, in the right places. We hope that more organisations across the country will learn from our experience.”
Over 65 delegates representing 40 communities attended, each having the opportunity to engage with the 9 private developers and housing associations that attended and sponsored the event. There were also workshops run on relevant topics including: Local Housing Need, Neighbourhood Planning, Community Led Housing and Government funding for housing. There was great interest in the event being followed up to enable further opportunities for communities and developers to engage in constructive debate about the local implications of the UK’s housing crisis.