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North East leading the way in developing community-led housing


Innovative models for community-led housing development are increasingly being used across the North East to fill the gap in affordable housing and create stronger communities, research by a student at Newcastle University has shown.

Supported by funding from Newcastle University's Research Scholarship and Expeditions programme, BA (Hons) Geography student Elizabeth Johnston looked in depth at a number of pioneer housing projects in the region including the Glendale Gateway Trust in Wooler and the Stocksfield Community Association Trading Arm (SCATA).

Community-led housing is made up of a range of initiatives such as self and custom build schemes, co-operatives, shared equity, land trusts and cohousing. Despite being popular in other countries, such as Denmark, these schemes are relatively uncommon in the UK.

Elizabeth explained: “As a result of the current housing crisis, there is a need to look for new ways to provide homes for people. Community-led development could offer an alternative, so it’s exciting to see a groundswell of interest in community-led development community building across the North East.”

The Glendale Gateway Trust (GGT) is one community-led organisation in particular that stands out for Elizabeth. The Trust currently own and manage nine properties which they let at an affordable rate and the income then reinvested into the Glendale community. To date, a community bond scheme launched in October 2013 to help fund new affordable homes for older people has raised £129,000, highlighting the strength of support for a community-led approach.

Elizabeth added: “The success that these schemes are having shows that community-led development is not just a way to build housing that is better suited to the needs of the communities in which they’re located, but can also help strengthen and widen participation among those same communities, whether its increasing the vitality of the high street or building relationships between different age groups and interests.”

Elizabeth will be presenting her research at a special public lecture taking place at Newcastle University tomorrow.

She will be joined by other students also presenting their research at the event, including Naaem Adam and Emma Walshaw, both dental surgery students. During an expedition to Porto Alegre, Brazil, they carried out research among people covered by the Brazilian universal healthcare provision, Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), exploring the value this group placed on dental treatment and their willingness to pay for a high fluoride varnish as a clinically proven way to prevent tooth decay.

Laura Misch (BA Media, Communication and Culture) will talk about the role of digital technologies in relation to the Gezi park protests in Istanbul during summer 2013. The protests involved thousands of protestors but were deliberately ignored at first by the Turkish media. Because of this lack of mainstream media coverage, social media played a key role in keeping people informed, with the Twitter hashtag #OccupyGezi being used by activists to share on the ground real-time images. Lauren’s talk will draw on the experiences of activists and academics to discuss ‘citizen media’ in the 21st century.

Also taking part will be Samuel Tingle (School of Medical Education) who has studied the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and drugs prescribed for lowering blood pressure and whether they result in improved survival rates among patients with pancreatic cancer.

The work of Nadi Aung Myo (Bsc (Hons) Food and Human Nutrition), based at NUIS Singapore, will be streamed at the event as a pre-recorded presentation. She will talk about the development of a type of bread which contains high alginate (fat replacement) content as a convenient and affordable product weight management.

The University Research Scholarships support undergraduate students to work alongside researchers on summer vacation projects, while the Expeditions Scholarships give students the opportunity to undertake field research in other countries. Both schemes enable students to experience research-led learning and to develop key skills.

Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) at Newcastle University, said:
“Conducting research gives students the opportunity to plan, organise and execute projects often in challenging and unfamiliar environments and can have a very positive impact on their confidence and motivation. By giving them the opportunity to work closely with staff on research projects, these Research Scholarships enable students to have a window on the research environment, helping them to better understand different research activities and techniques.

“Whatever the domain of activity, a Research Scholarship provides an opportunity for students to find out what research is like and develop valuable research and problem solving skills that will help them throughout their academic career and beyond.”

Since its launch in 2007, the scheme has become established as an important platform for students to showcase their research. This year has seen significant growth in the number of successful applications for Research Scholarships: some 114 projects were undertaken, compared with 32 projects funded in 2007. In addition to the five presentations taking place, there will also be posters from all participants on display, with a prize for the best poster. 

The public lecture is free to attend, and takes place in the Curtis Auditorium of the Herschel Building from 5.30pm until 7.30pm on Wednesday 19 November. Posters from all participants will be on display in the Lindisfarne Room from 4.30pm.

For more information about the Expeditions and Research Scholarships, visit the website

published on: 18 November 2014