Middleport Matters was established in 2015, as an unincorporated association to improve the local environment and community facilities in the Middleport area of Stoke-on-Trent.
The Early Stage Support Programme
Middleport Matters received support from ‘The Early Stage Support programme’, designed in partnership with the Nationwide Foundation to provide the support required by new and existing community organisations at the start of their community-led housing (CLH) journey.
The programme has shown that early stage professional advice, peer to peer learning and grant funding is essential to support both new startup groups and existing community organisations to progress CLH schemes.
Becoming an established community-led housing (CLG) group
Regular viewers of the Great Pottery Throw Down would instantly recognise the area from aerial pictures of Middleport Pottery, which hosts the show. Despite some national attention for the area and some notable local successes, the group needed to grow from an unincorporated pressure group to become an established community-led housing (CLG) group with aspirations to own and manage its own property.
Middleport suffered negative impacts from demolitions undertaken by their local councils through the central government’s Housing Market Renewal programme that targeted disadvantaged housing market areas in the North and Midlands of England between 2002 and 2011.
Middleport Matters originally had many ideas, including a very ambitious multi-million-pound project to renovate a mill. In their application, the group requested help to guide them through what they needed to do to make their dream a reality. They were also keen to create a Neighbourhood Plan.
Workshopping aspirations, and organisation development
The support from Locality’s CLH advisor has helped the group to manage their expectations as a new group and realise that developing a track record will be important with funders before they progress to larger complex projects. A series of workshops were organised which prompted the group to take important decisions about the sort of organisation they want to be. The workshops explored their aspirations for the business as it develops over the next 5 years, and plotted their social, organisational and financial development using a balanced scorecard exercise.
In one workshop, a technique for comparing potential community assets was used that has become popular with development trusts in Scotland following training workshops under the name ‘Backing Winners’. The technique uses different criteria to compare a range of potential community assets such as land, buildings and heritage sites.
The criteria are agreed with the group in advance and can include attributes such as availability, location and whether the asset can satisfy an established local need. The resulting league table of assets sees practical and pressing projects bubble to the top and difficult pipe dreams sink to the bottom.
With all the important questions answered, the group now has a hit list of community assets on which it can invest its resources to explore their feasibility and develop a viable project.
Four empty council-owned properties have been identified and discussions are progressing with the council about how they can acquire and refurbish them. The group were supported to secure £10,000 of pre-feasibility funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Community Buildings Fund which has funded a pre-feasibility study to look at the different options for the properties including knocking two properties into one to create larger family homes.
Embarking on the project
The programme has supported the group to choose a legal structure and incorporate as a Company Limited by Guarantee.
The original assessment of Middleport Matters support needs was undertaken by Whitton Lodge in Birmingham and this mentoring relationship has continued with follow up conversations and visits.
After joining Locality, Middleport Matters successfully applied to Locality’s Knowledge and Skills programme which funded two study visits to Whitton Lodge. Whitton Lodge have been successful in securing ownership of terraced housing from their local council. A group of volunteers from Middleport visited to understand how they achieved this and help them understand more of the process involved in refurbishments.
These visits proved inspirational. The group was able to see the potential of becoming a landlord to make Middleport a destination of choice and to provide an income source for Middleport Matters to provide other community benefits.
Find out more about the Early Support Programme
You can find out more about the programme, and the groups supported by reading the evaluation report for the programme.Read the Evaluation Report (.pdf)
Find out more about Community-Led Housing
Community-led housing projects are led by community groups determined to make sure that new homes are built and empty homes and buildings can be brought back into use to meet local housing needs.
If you’re looking for new ways to provide the homes your community needs, Locality can help.Find out how Locality can support you