A west Dorset housing development is 'a perfect example of just how well community land trusts can work' and others should follow suit, it has been said.

Trailblazing affordable housing developments in the area have been hailed for breathing new life into rural communities.

The west of the county is leading the way nationally for the number of community land trusts (CLTs) providing affordable homes for local people.

They have been held up as shining examples of residents, councils, housing associations and developers working together to build much-needed housing in often rural settings.

During Rural Housing Week last week, the newly-built Forge Orchard - visited by Prince Charles in May - was praised. The site was developed in partnership with Powerstock and District CLT and rural housing specialists Hastoe Housing Association.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “Forge Orchard is a perfect example of just how well community land trusts can work.

“It shows just what can be done if the community gets behind a scheme. I hope the success of such schemes as Forge Orchard inspires other communities to seriously consider CLTs too.

“Our Opening Doors programme has identified affordability as a major issue in Dorset and CLTs are one of the ways of breathing new life into villages with affordable homes for local people.”

Community land trusts are led by local volunteers and properties are let out to people with a local connection at rents below the open market rate.

CLTs usually select a housing association to develop and manage a site although they can apply for a building grant and manage the tenancies themselves if they wish.

Volunteers worked tirelessly for seven years on the eight-home development at Forge Orchard in the village of Powerstock, near Bridport.

Patrick and Susan O’Dowd have lived in the village for 38 years and relocated to a bungalow at Forge Orchard.

Mrs O’Dowd, 78, said: “We feel very lucky and are very happy here.”

Mr O’Dowd, 79, added: “There is a good mix of people with young families. It fits in very well with the village, and everyone gets on very well.”

Naomi Bell, who lives at Forge Orchard with husband Charlie and their two children Ruby, two, and Izaac, who is nearly one, said: “We’re really grateful to the community for making this happen.

“It is so important for the younger generations, and for the future of the village.”

Powerstock and District CLT selected the site, gained the landowner’s support and commissioned the architect before selecting Hastoe Housing Association to develop and manage Forge Orchard.

The total cost of the development was £1.8m with the former West Dorset District Council contributing £195,000 and Homes England £360,000.

Trust chairman, Vanessa White, also a trustee of the National CLT Network, said: “West Dorset is among the most active areas regionally and nationally for CLTs.

“If we want to keep rural communities alive, we need more projects such as CLTs. The key to success is to be open, honest and transparent, and to keep the community informed and involved every step of the way.”

Seven CLT schemes have been completed, delivering just over 70 affordable homes.

There are also more than 10 projects coming forward in the Dorset Council area, which are at various stages.

Dorset Council is helping communities to start CLTs along with the Wessex Community Land Trust project.

The success comes as the council’s Opening Doors programme encourages the construction of 20,000 more good quality homes of all tenures by 2033.

For more information, visit openingdoorsdorset.co.uk f