EngageMalvern(EM) (Registered Incorporated Charity Number 1175088 Newsletter Winter 2020-2021
EngageMalvern “ Community Led Housing in South Worcestershire (Malvern, Pershore, Evesham, South Worcester)”
Not withstanding the covid pandemic 2020 has been a relatively good year for EM in a number of ways. In particular the EM Community Led Housing(CLH) pilot project announced at the EM 2020 AGM in February then received a central Government seed corn and support grant in March which enabled establishment of an EM CLH Working Group. EM submitted the 6-month Interim Report to the funder in September.
The Group has held monthly online-meetings every month since April. The Group includes three EM personnel (two Trustees and the Treasurer), a member of the Malvern Hills CLH Group, two personnel from the local charity Community First supporting and providing administration to EM for CLH, senior housing officers from the Wychavon and Malvern Hills District Councils and now the new Rural Housing Officer of the two councils, and an independent Councillor from MHDC. On occasion guests have attended meetings: a councillor from Malvern Town Council and representatives of two housing associations--- Rooftop Housing Group and Accord Housing Association. Efforts are being made to attract a member of the Malvern Civic Society to join the Group.
Currently four land sites are under investigation: two in Malvern town, one in Malvern Wells and one in Kempsey (potential for 10, 10, 40, 10 one/two bedroom homes, respectively). On invitation a brief presentation was given by EM and Rooftop to the General Purposes Committee of the Malvern Town Council on 2nd September 2020.
Land site gift-provision/philanthropy is being sought from individuals/companies/local authority councils/parishes to transfer land sites to a Community Land Trust (CLT) for purposes of CLH for public benefit in perpetuity and to give priority to two disadvantaged groups in the housing market: the under 35s (truly affordable homes: require 40-60% market rents, to spend less than 35% of gross income on housing costs, to get up to 10 years secure cooperative rental with some equity rights) and the over 65s (for downsizing, assistive technological support, and intergenerational possibilities to address loneliness). Off-site precision-manufacture of homes for rapid on-site construction is being investigated. Site and home designs for eco-friendly and zero-carbon outcomes are being studied. The CLT will be created by EM when required and will be managed by CLT Trustees representing interested parties in the community and from tenants themselves. Malvern already has long experience of common land trusteeship.
National professional housing surveys confirm the housing disadvantages for the under 35s and the over 65s. To promote CLH and seek inputs from local people and organisations (public and private) the Working Group has developed two questionnaires, one for the under 35s and one for the over 65s. A leaflet with these questionnaires was delivered in October as an insert in a Malvern community magazine to about 16,000 homes, public and private organisations/businesses in the Malvern/Malvern Wells/Upton/South Worcester area. Over 20 of the business/organisation Human Resource Managers have been sent a letter with a supply of the questionnaire leaflets for employees under 35. The questionnaires can be completed online or be sent back by post to Community First for analysis.
Contact was made with the Diocese of Worcester regarding possibilities for a C of E land site. Contact has also been made with a councillor of Pershore Town Council who also has links with Evesham Town Council. A major press release in September received wide publicity in a local paper and in the online newsletter of the Hereford and Worcester Chamber of Commerce (of which EM is as member). EM also had an article in an earlier issue of the Chamber magazine.
EM has joined the CLH Network (UK national body), and participated in online meetings of the Worcestershire CLH Hub and regional housing-industrial- groups. A large EM-CLH promotional feather-flag and a one-year subscription to the weekly magazine “InsideHousing” have been purchased.
Future activity will largely depend on central Government continued support for the CLH from April 2021 and provision of local land sites. Availability of mortgage finance for CLH is not seen as the serious limiting factor.
During 2021 the UK Government seems certain to put forward legislation to change the planning method, but it is thought that this will benefit CLH in that it will be likely to increase the number of “exceptional” land sites for CLH and schemes to provide easier means to gain planning permission and restrain objections. If approved housing-infrastructure support will require community/council application-for-funding. Unfortunately it may also allow private housing developers free-range in an uncompetitive free-market and restrict housing for disadvantaged groups.
District-council and local authorities have a real opportunity to make a positive difference in this area by helping to provide much needed affordable housing opportunities for otherwise neglected groups in our society, if they become more pro-active with, for example, CLHs and promote modern/eco-friendly methods of site/house design and construction, and improve their success in making grant applications to central Government.
EngageMalvern “Malvern Festival of Ideas 2021”
The 2021 Festival organised by EM takes place on the weekend of 5-7 March 2021. The title of the Festival is Unity and Diversity. Over recent years there has been increasing polarisation in debates in the public domain, fuelled in part by Brexit but also other factors. More recently, there has been much talk about unity as brought about internationally by the global pandemic. Is the uniting force in some ways stronger than divisions? What can we learn from our(positive) experience and build on to face future threats and how? How do we need to change? What reforms are needed?
The programme is currently being finalised, but the opening speaker will be Baroness Shami Chakrabarty. The event will take place online and ways of achieving this are being explored.
Lansdowne Debates/Discussions 2020-2021
EM helps to support the successful Question Time events that have been held twice yearly, for a number of years, at Lansdowne Crescent Methodist Church. Two events were planned in 2020, one on the possibility of a fairer tax system in the UK and the second, in conjunction with the Malvern Civic Society, on the need to build more beautiful houses in Malvern and elsewhere. Unfortunately these had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. It is hoped that debates/discussions can be restarted in 2021.
EngageMalvern “Flexible Transport Systems For Rural Areas”
EngageMalvern has been supporting investigation of the prospects for new transport systems using advanced technologies which might address local transport needs for more flexibility and environmental concerns. Midlands Connect has been supporting research into this topic and the first report which was released in May 2020 includes a “Rural Mobility Toolkit”. David Tweats and Barry Jones on behalf of EngageMalvern did contribute to a workshop in 2019 to support the research. Midlands Connect is now commissioning a short follow-up piece of research to carry out more detailed analysis of where rural transport hubs might be best located. On invitation EngageMalvern has offered to be a pilot for this desk-study by using knowledge of the Malvern area and that of members of the EM transport working group. The possibility for a future trial of some autonomous vehicles might be included.
With other community organisations and through the local district councils EM supported the 2019 bid for future community transport in the area and is pleased that Worcestershire County Council has agreed a budget for this purpose.
Urgent Call for Additional EngageMalvern Trustees
EngageMalvern is seeking to bolster the expertise on its Trustee Board by recruiting more Trustees.The Trustee Board meets three times per year and provides vital oversight of its ongoing activities, as required by the Charity Commission. It is an exciting opportunity to become part of a dynamic group seeking to empower the more disadvantaged in our local society through awareness of the key issues facing all of is, providing access to key decision makers and to set up community-led projects such as the “Truly-affordable” housing scheme discussed above. Please contact David Tweats, the current Chair of Trustees by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Andrew Webb, Trustee and former Chair, by email (email@example.com) if you are interested in this opportunity.
EngageMalvern Annual General Meetings 2020 and 2021
The EM 2020 Annual General Meeting was held at Lansdowne Crescent including representatives from the Worcestershire Count council(WCC), Malvern Hills District Council, Community First, Malvern Welcomes, the Repair Café (RC), the Malvern Hills Community Land Trust(MHCLT), Lansdowne Crescent Methodist Church, Malvern Civic Society, as well as a number of interested individuals. Madeleine Sumner, Community Transport Development Officer from the WCC gave an excellent keynote presentation on the future of transport provision in Worcestershire.
Andrew Webb stood down as Chairperson, after many years of distinguished service in this role, but will continue as a Trustee. David Tweats agreed to stand down as Secretary and become Chairperson for the following 12 months. Barry Jones was elected for a second term as a Trustee.
EM has been guided on Community Organising by Citizens UK and Trustees were pleased that Jan Dyer (RC and MHCLT) and Suzi Glantz (MHCLT) were considering taking the 3-day training course available in March 2020 to be provided by Citizens UK with them supported by and on behalf of EngageMalvern. Barry Jones gave a presentation on the Truly Affordable Housing Pilot Project and Eoin McCarthy (EM Trustee) gave a report on the Transport Pilot Project.
EM is keen to form alliances with like-minded community organisations in the area and was pleased to form such an alliance with Malvern Welcomes and with the MHCLT.
The 2021 AGM is scheduled at 7.30pm on Wednesday February 10th and will probably be held as a Zoom meeting. All are welcome to attend and invitations will be sent out in the New Year.
EngageMalvern Treasurer’s Report
EM continues to meet its financial obligations relating to all activities, but there is a need to increase regular financial support for the annual Malvern Festival of Ideas. The 2020 Festival costs was about £8600, mainly to cover venue and equipment hire, publicity, insurance, and travel and accommodation costs of speakers. At present attendance at Festival events is mostly free but with request to audiences for donations-at-the-door. MHDC kindly provided a grant of £500 for the March 2020 Festival and several individuals made generous donations including access to tax rebates. Ideas/support for local grant applications would be very welcome.
EM has just registered with Smile Amazon under which customers can nominate a charity of their choice to receive 0.5% of the net purchase price(excluding VAT and carriage) of eligible products.This comes at no extra cost to the customers or the charity. Potential customers are recommended to visit the website: https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1175088-0. This could be a useful source of income to help support our charitable activities.
Malvern Welcomes 2020 AGM
Barry Jones and David Tweats were pleased to attend the Malvern Welcomes AGM on October 19th. Offers were made to assist with a possible cycle scheme and with possible employment of refugees willing to assist in EM projects.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Malvern
CAP is an international charity offering free debt counselling. Many people with have heard of CAP either through the media with the endorsements of people such as Martin Lewis, or through knowing someone who has been helped to regain control of their finances.
The CAP Debt Centre opened in Malvern in 2019 with two debt coaches supported by almost all of the churches in the town. CAP is not in competition with the other debt counselling agencies like Citizens or StepChange. The service that CAP offers tends to suit those who are having to deal with a complex set of issues or those who are more vulnerable. There are two ways in which CAP is different. Firstly clients are usually met in their own homes ( although during lockdown appointments are either over the phone or in designated church premises). Secondly, work with clients and support of clients lasts until they are debt-free however long this takes. CAP is able to do this through a combination of local debt coaches, a strong team of specialist debt advisers in Bradford, and a keen set of volunteers who are part of the local support team.
CAP is a Christian organisation but the debt counselling service is available to anyone: it is not just for people who go to church. Chris Mesley, Centre Manager of CAP Malvern says “.. it is one of the ways in which we want to serve our community and our experience over the past 18 months shows that a lot of people in Malvern are struggling with problem debt..”.
Each year CAP helps over 20,000 people from across the UK go debt free.
CAP Malvern is available to help you or anyone you know who has problem debt. Just phone 0800 328 0006 to make an appointment. You should contact Chris Mesley directly if you would like more information about becoming a referrer for CAP. Contact points:- www.capuk.org . firstname.lastname@example.org or 07444 481854
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