West Dorset is leading the way nationally in the development of community land trusts.

Community land trusts (CLT) are affordable housing schemes led by communities to provide housing for people with a local connection.

There are 10 in west Dorset – among the highest for any council area in the country. They include schemes in Bridport, Lyme Regis and Dorchester, with others being investigated in the Weymouth area.

An open day was held at Bridport Leisure Centre about the schemes, where visits were arranged for people to see projects in Symene, Lyme Regis and Marshwood.

CLTs are being progressed by communities with the support of councils to provide much-needed low-cost housing for local people.

The new Opening Doors campaign – involving councils in western Dorset – is encouraging more communities to start CLTs and take advantage of £2m of funding to support projects across their areas.

Paul Derrien, housing enabling team leader for North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, said: “CLTs are a valuable way of helping to meet significant local housing need.

“We have an impressive number already but we want to see more projects coming forward. 

“The networking day went extremely well with the opportunity for people to share knowledge, compare experiences and exchange ideas.”

There have been 62 affordable homes developed by CLTs in west Dorset, including Lyme Regis which is not yet finished.

Symene and Marshwood are already fully occupied and 15 more homes will be available when the Timberhill development at Lyme Regis is completed. Plans are also underway for a Dorchester CLT.

Ten-home Symene CLT was formed for the people of Symondsbury on the edge of Bridport.

Resident Kim Squirrell, who lives with husband David and their two children, said: “We feel much more connected here and see our neighbours regularly. It really brings back a sense of community which has been lost in some places.”

Fellow resident Rachel Millson, who lives with husband Pete and their two sons, added: “The CLT is absolutely life changing because of its lifetime tenancy. For the first time we feel at home and really rooted.” 

The Symene and Marshwood CLTs were developed with Hastoe Housing Association, which now manages the properties.

Timberhill at Lyme is being developed in partnership with Yarlington Housing Group and CG Fry & Son.

Cllr Tim Yarker, housing spokesman for West Dorset District Council, said: “There are other communities who could benefit from this kind of development. We want to get the word out that it can be done, it’s not impossible.”

The CLT event, the first of its kind, also included a presentation by Steve Watson of the Wessex CLT Project, which has helped many communities develop their schemes.