A FORMER district councillor will help hand out £500,000 to support community social housing projects.

Alan Debenham, who served on Taunton Deane Borough Council for a number of years, has been appointed to Nationwide Building Society's newly established South West Community Board, one of seven boards countrywide.

He previously unsuccessfully stood several times for election to the Nationwide board, opposing what he views as inflated directors' pay and urging the society to remain a mutual.

Mr Debenham has long championed social housing and is currently chairman of Somerset Cooperative Land Trust, based at its social housing project in East Reach, Taunton.

The trust aims to help solve the town's shortage of low rental, quality apartments, with tenants having direct participation in the project - and it has sent in an application for Nationwide funding.

Mr Debenham said: "This big funding move from Nationwide to directly support community generated social housing projects is very much part of the mutual society’s cooperative based ethos of 'helping others to help themselves' from grassroots organisations upwards in the fight to combat the current scourge of homelessness and rough sleeping."

SCCLT plans to develop up to another 12 new-build, low rent flats by buying sites near to four flats it already owns at a former hairdresser’s in East Reach.

To do so, it is seeking investors in a community shares offer – visit ethex.org.uk/somersetclt contact SCCLT on 0300-4562265 or e-mail landtrusr@somerset.coop

SCCLT is developing a horticultural and chicken based ‘urban farm’ in the large garden behind the East Reach shop, together with solar panels, as well as an attempt to set up a renewable energy cooperative aiming to combat climate change.