MICHAEL Eavis, the creator of the Glastonbury Festival, was only able to get his first festival going in 1970 because T Rex agreed to appear onstage on their way to Butlins in Minehead.
And last week, he visited the town for an entirely different reason – to speak at the AGM of the West Somerset Community Land Trust.
Below is a report of the meeting from the group:
Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the West Somerset Community Land Trust (WSCLT), he explained why he had donated five acres of his land to build affordable homes to rent. He acted on the Methodist principle from his upbringing – to ‘only take what you need’. He had more farm land than he needed so he offered the land for social housing.
Homes built on this land, known as Rural Exception Sites, cannot legally be sold on the open market.
Now, 53 houses have been built in time for the 50th anniversary of the Festival and they have all been made available at affordable rates. His mother had been more proud of this achievement than his creation of the Festival, he told the audience.
Michael also provided building stone from his land to ensure the homes were attractive and fitted into the landscape. The stone was free but the very expensive dressing process was subsidised from the Glastonbury Festival.
The homes have been built in phases in partnership with various housing associations and Foundations and partly funded by government grants. These have decreased over the years, making affordable construction very difficult.
The endeavour has created a community of families with a thriving school and a securely housed workforce for local employers, including Michael’s own Worthy Farm.
The homes are mostly two and three bedrooms with gardens and allotments which are well run by residents.
Michael was keen to know what the audience thought about the need for community-owned housing and a lively debate ensued.
There was concern that ‘Right to Buy’ has resulted in former council homes being lost to the private rental market but not replaced with new low cost homes.
The stigma about renting in the UK was seen as very regrettable and does not exist in Europe, where standards for rented homes are high, renting is widespread and often preferred to ownership. The fact that some people cannot or prefer not to obtain a mortgage, either for income or age reasons, was raised and it was agreed that a secure, high standard alternative should be available.
The Climate Emergency has brought home sharply the need for more sustainable homes with low running costs. WSCLT members responded enthusiastically to a request to attend a get-together to compile WSCLT’s response to the district council’s proposals on this subject, part of the Draft Local Plan. The need for residents to join WSCLT for a one-off cost of £1 so they could support and shape the provision of affordable homes in West Somerset was stressed.
Government funding for development of sites, which finished last year, was oversubscribed by double the amount available. WSCLT did not succeed in their application for this reason and it is essential that continuing funding for community led homes is included in the Budget on March 11.
The meeting was well attended and included Minehead’s Mayor Cllr Sandra Sade and Deputy Mayor Cllr Paul Bolton plus representatives of several local organisations.
Maureen thanked Michael for his support and the wonderful example he set of community and home building.
WSCLT are searching for Rural Exception Sites and other low cost land options and can be contacted at info@wsclt or call Hester on 01643 821768.
More information on Community Land Trusts is available on www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk. The website – www.wsclt.com – is being upgraded and will be available soon.