Boris hands deeds of old East End workhouse to UK’s first Community land trust

The first-ever urban land trust in Britain has been given the deeds for a site in the East End after 10 years of campaigning to tackle London’s chronic housing crisis.

The new East London Community land Trust has formally been handed the derelict St Clement’s Hospital complex at Mile End, which had been empty for seven years.

Boris Johnson’s deputy London Mayor Richard Blakeway arrived yesterday (Weds) at the four-and-a-half acre collection of old Victorian buildings—once used as a workhouse—to hand the deeds to the trust.

The public is now being invited to say what they think about how the development should take shape with two community planning workshops at Bow Road Methodist Church on November 29 and December 1, followed by tours of the site close by in Mile End Road.

Land Trust director Dave Smith said: “The land trust stops being a just a good idea and starts becoming a practical reality. We want people to get involved so we can design permanently affordable homes.”

The trust now owns the freehold for the community. It will soon sell homes to families at a-quarter of the market rate, then buy back a fixed rate if they move on, retaining the low cost land for future generations.

The scheme comes at the end of a decade of campaigning by London Citizens civic network, whose founder Neil Jameson told the Advertiser: “This is the community organizing and delivering for people—it’s civil society coming together with the state and the market to overcome London’s housing crisis.”

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City Hall exchanged contracts with Galliford Try commercial developers who are now working with the land trust and with John Thompson architects to run the ‘people’-led design process.

Ideas have already come forward from the public, such as an open square with a fountain, roof gardens and open access from the Mile End Road through to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park the other side.