Thame councillors believe a housing co-operative might be the best way to solve the town’s affordable housing problems.
South Oxfordshire District Council’s Core Strategy includes plans to allow 800-plus homes to be built in the area up to 2027, and the town council is in middle of drawing up its own Neighbourhood Plan outlining how the town should develop in the decades ahead.
At a meeting last week, councillors agreed to set up a committee to look into how a co-operative might help increase the number of lower cost homes.
Helen Stewart, Thame Town Council clerk, told the Guardian: “We are developing a Neighborhood Plan, one of the front-runners of the Localism Act, so Thame will be determining where its housing developments will be going for the next 15 years or so.
“It’s like anybody, you hear what a co-operative is but don’t know what is involved. The council is very supportive of the idea but without the details we can’t move forward.
“We need to know what role the town council could play in the process and find out the details about forming a housing co-operative and what is required.”
Popular in Europe and the US and Canada, co-operatives are quite rare in the UK and often consist of affordable shared accommodation where members look after the property themselves.
Other ideas include self-builds and mobile housing parks.
South Oxfordshire District Council’s Core Strategy says at least 40 per cent of developments have to be affordable housing, because of difficulties of low income families to get onto the housing ladder.
Residents will also be consulted on the possibilities of a community centre for Thame.
Ian Barclay, the consultant contracted to carry out a study on Thame’s needs, reported on April 3 that 10 of the 70 survey respondents said there was nothing in Thame to satisfy their specific needs. This was generally for a larger capacity facility for performance based activities.
Helen Stewart said: “Our initial findings are that Thame is quite well provided for in terms of community space although there is shortage of accommodation for larger meetings.
“But one of the things that has to be asked is, how does Thame see itself in 15 to 20 years? Does it want a facility that is offering a theatre or a larger entertainment which brings people into the town like Aylesbury, or like the community theatre in Didcot, or does it see itself supporting and providing community space for local groups?
“Depending on how it sees itself will determine what kind of centre is needed in Thame. One of the most important things for the town as it goes forward is that it needs something which is sustainable so it is commercially viable in the future.
“Is there enough call for a local theatre when you have Wycombe, Aylesbury and Oxford offering those facilities? There will be a consultation and the town council will be looking at that in the next week or two.”