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Lake District land sale leads to more affordable homes

11 February 2022

A patch of waste ground in Keswick was provided by a church

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Keswick is a popular holiday destinatoin in the Lake District

Keswick is a popular holiday destinatoin in the Lake District

A PATCH of waste ground provided by a church has been the catalyst for the building of 40 affordable homes in the Lake District, where many local people are priced out of the housing market.

Half a hectare of land beside the graveyard of St John’s, Keswick, was too stony and waterlogged for burials. So the church sold the plot to the town’s newly formed Community Housing Trust, which, in 2013, built 11 three-bedroom houses on the site. About half are in shared ownership, while the rest are let in perpetuity at affordable rents based on local earnings rather than the current lettings market.

The project was so successful that other plots were developed, including one provided by the Methodist Church on the site of a demolished church hall. As a result, up to 200 local people have found homes. Bill Bewley, who chairs the trust, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that, if it had not been for the impetus from Keswick St John’s, we would not have gone on to build the houses that we have done.”

The trust was formed after the inter-denominational group Keswick Churches Together highlighted the lack of affordable homes in the town, a popular tourist area beside Derwentwater. Estate agents reported that more than half the properties that they sold were for second homes or holiday lets.

“When we first discussed this, around a decade ago, we knew that the average house price in Keswick meant that you needed an income of £75,000 a year,” Mr Bewley said. “This was way beyond the means of most people working in Keswick.”

The total of 40 homes, he said, was an excellent achievement for a small voluntary group, run by people who gave up their free time to address Keswick’s housing need.

“However, at best, we have slowed the loss of residential homes to second homes and holiday lets. While we acknowledge the value of the holiday-homes business to the local economy, it should not be at the loss of the right of local people to work and live in the community.”

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