Ambition Lawrence Weston – sustainable community housing

Ambition Lawrence Weston is a resident-led project based in Bristol working closely with statutory partners on developing community energy, community employment and regeneration groups.

Ambition Lawrence Weston (ALW) participated in the first year of the Community Economic Development (CED) programme and their CED plan identified the need to address issues of lack of affordable housing for local residents. They are now being supported to establish an Ethical Letting & Maintenance agency and, in the longer-term, community-led housing.

Context and challenges

Lawrence Weston is a post war housing estate in north-west Bristol between Henbury and Shirehampton with around 7,000 residents. The estate is bounded in the east by the Blaise Castle estate and woods. It is situated at the edge of the Severn flood plain, directly beneath the wooded Kingsweston Hill. The industrial complex and port of Avonmouth is a mile or so west, across the flood plain. Lawrence Weston forms part of the city ward of Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston.

The area suffers from poor and neglected mixed housing stock, much of it originally council owned but now approximately half is in private ownership. There is a lack of recreational and retail facilities and there is a negative perception of the area (internally and externally). Bristol City Council resources have become increasingly stretched and local services are closing and green spaces neglected.

There are high levels of unemployment and Avonmouth and Kingsweston wards have over double the number of claimants receiving Job Seekers Allowance than the proportionate population of Bristol and over three times the rate than the West of England. Data from the 2011 Census show that the Avonmouth and Kingsweston wards have significantly less residents achieving University equivalent education, and proportionately higher levels of people with no qualifications at all.

Planned activities

Despite these issues, Lawrence Weston maintains a real sense of community with residents working together to improve the neighbourhood. There is a fantastic community farm, access to green space, wildlife and nature, facilities for older residents including lunch clubs, walking groups and health services and its own Community Transport scheme. Community support has been demonstrated by the overwhelming support for their Neighbourhood Development Plan to give the community a voice around planning issues.

Ambition Lawrence Weston (ALW) was established as a resident-led anchor organisation in 2012 and incorporated as a charitable organisation in 2013. ALW aims to improve the lives and wellbeing of local residents and has been successful in bringing together key stakeholders and networks around planning and tackling local neighbourhood issues.

Mark Pepper, Director at Ambition Lawrence Weston said:

“Participating in the Community Economic Development programme has been a real boost and helped us to focus on the social, economic and environmental needs of our residents. During 2015/16 the process of producing a CED plan helped us prioritise our key activities and we identified a need to address issues of lack of affordable housing for local residents. Participating in the second year of the CED programme has enabled us to access additional grant funding and technical support to develop a business plan to establish an Ethical Letting & Maintenance agency which will deliver a high quality ethical service to both tenants and landlords. We have also employed a housing worker to help us develop our longer term goal to create community led housing (40 homes). Having the support of Helen, our adviser, to lead us through this process has been enormously helpful.”

Participating in year one of the Community Economic Development (CED) programme helped ALW to further refine, reflect and take a fresh perspective upon the social, economic and environmental needs of residents of Lawrence Weston. In direct response to the high levels of unemployment in the locality, there is a strong emphasis throughout each CED activity on creating sustainable employment and self-employment opportunities, in different and diverse industries, in order to enable greater wellbeing for local residents and a more resilient and engaged local community and economy. The overall aim is to provide affordable homes in partnership, develop more community owned assets, develop training and work experience opportunities and create opportunities for maintenance & energy projects.

 

Helen Bone, CED Support Provider said:

“It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to work with ALW and see how they have set about delivering real economic change in their neighbourhood. Communities know the

challenges they face better than anyone and – with the correct backing and support – are ideally placed to put solutions in place.”

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