Championing community-led housing and planning

How we can help

Cambridgeshire ACRE works with local authorities, housing associations, town and parish councils and communities to build circa 50 rural affordable homes annually. Our work specifically looks to benefit those that could not have otherwise afforded a home of their own. 

Eastern Community Homes, a project facilitated by Cambridgeshire ACRE, provides group support with community-led housing approaches across the East of England. Cambridgeshire ACRE also has a number of staff who are qualified community-led housing advisors ready to help groups progress their plans.   

We also offer housing needs surveys, which inevitably find hidden housing need in most of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s rural communities. These allow local authorities, housing associations and communities to state a clear case for affordable and community-led housing need when investment and planning decisions are being made.

Our team can provide expert and qualified planning advice to those communities considering, or who have already commenced, a Neighbourhood Plan. We can provide support to neighbourhood planning groups at all stages of a plan’s development, from considering if a plan is right for your community, through to the referendum stage and successful adoption by the Local Planning Authority.

Eastern Community Homes

Cambridgeshire ACRE is a partner in, and the lead body for, Eastern Community Homes, the advice and support hub for groups interested in affordable community-led housing in the East of England.

Eastern Community Homes provides a range of services to community-led housing groups including initial group set-up, governance, business planning, funding, development and communications & marketing.

Cambridgeshire ACRE’s role is to lead the development of the hub, as well as provide its core staff team.

Rural Affordable Housing

Cambridgeshire ACRE supports rural communities to address issues of importance. High house prices and the need to save a large deposit put home ownership out of reach of many people.

With salaries disproportionate to property prices, the next generation is finding it hard to live and work in the places they grew up in. As the social diversity of our communities changes, local services such as shops, healthcare services, schools, social centres and public transport are under threat.

Being proactive about bringing affordable housing into your area is a responsible and effective way to ensure your community’s survival, by providing subsidised housing for local people who can’t afford property on the open market.

Properties can be made available to rent or for shared ownership at less than market price.

Cambridgeshire ACRE can help you meet the needs of your community by:

Cambridgeshire ACRE leads and facilitates the Cambridgeshire Rural Affordable Housing Partnership, that brings together local authorities and registered social providers to support the delivery of affordable housing across the county.

Housing Needs Surveys

Our high quality, impartial and robust housing needs surveys are tailored to meet the needs of each client.

We work with our clients, ranging from parish councils and local authorities to housing associations and private developers, to undertake housing needs surveys, provide housing needs assessments and produce independent reports.

They can be used to:

Neighbourhood Planning

Cambridgeshire ACRE is a leading provider of neighbourhood planning support in Cambridgeshire. We provide a bespoke, not-for-profit planning consultancy service by working closely with local planning authorities to ensure that our clients receive quality support and advice.

The Localism Act 2011, for the first time, gave communities the ‘right to plan’. This ‘community right’ gives people the power to form their own land-use planning policies. Once adopted, a neighbourhood plan becomes part of the local authority development plan and is used in determining planning applications alongside the national planning policy framework and the relevant local plan.

We provide support with:

Our team of neighbourhood planning experts have assisted over 20 groups with the preparation of their neighbourhood plans.

For support with community-led housing or planning, call us on 01353 860850 or contact us

Featured projects

David Olney


David completed an MBA at City University Business School, following an engineering first degree at Loughborough University. He has considerable defence acquisition experience culminating in his role as Chief Operating Officer at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation where he was responsible for delivering proposals on the management of the estate as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Subsequently, David had been Managing Director within the Babcock International Group responsible for 4 businesses ranging from media and education to infrastructure both in the UK and Brazil. David is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology as well as a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

David is a Non-Executive Director of WaND Consulting and a Trustee of Thedwastre Education Trust.

Annie Blair

Chairperson and Trustee

Annie became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017 and took on the Chairperson role shortly afterwards. She has been a volunteer for community and parish organisations in the village of Folksworth and the surrounding area for over 30 years.

Professionally, she had a career in the financial and insurance sectors before changing vocation and training in the educational sector as an arts educator / practitioner working for both Anglian Ruskin University and Peterborough Regional College.

Kirsten Bennett

Chief Executive

Kirsten joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2000 and then quickly assumed the role of Chief Executive from 2001. She oversees the work of the charity and puts in place our plans and strategies for the future. Day-to-day, Kirsten develops our relationships with new partners, explores new opportunities and oversees all aspects of the charity’s work.

Before working at Cambridgeshire ACRE, Kirsten attended Writtle Agricultural College gaining a BSc in Agriculture and then completed a Masters in Countryside Recreation Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Jenna Brame

Senior Rural Housing Enabler

Jenna joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2020. Her role involves leading our rural housing partnership, developing affordable schemes on rural exception sites.

Jenna has a BSc in Geography from University of East Anglia and prior to join the organisation worked as a Graduate Housing Strategy and Enabling Officer at West Suffolk Council. Since joining Cambridgeshire ACRE she has become an accredited Community Led Housing Advisor.

Alison Brown

Head of Business Services

Alison has been Head of Business Services at Cambridgeshire ACRE since 2007. Day-to-day Alison is involved in everything from developing new opportunities for Cambridgeshire ACRE, shaping the direction of existing projects, overseeing the delivery of advice and information to our members and working with our Board.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Alison worked in the private sector holding roles in executive support and facilities management. Alison has BSc in Sociology from University of Southampton. 

Rachael Brown

Senior Community Development Officer

Rachael became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2006, initially running a gardening project and then moving to her current role as our Community Development Manager where she leads a number of our environmental projects and acts as one of our Warm Hubs Co-ordinators.

Rachael has a BSc in Horticulture from Bath University and, upon leaving there, put her skills to work in the private sector before becoming a primary school teacher for several years.

Lisa Chambers

Community Development Officer

Lisa became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2015 taking on the role of Community Development Officer. The greater part of her week is spent providing expert support and advice to the County’s community-run buildings with the remainder being spent supporting our Warm Hubs in Winter project.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Lisa was the County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Suffolk County Council. 

Linda Watson

Finance Officer

Linda joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2005. Her role as Finance Officer sees her administer all the financial processes of Cambridgeshire ACRE, ensuring up-to-date and accurate financial information is available at all times.

Prior to joining the organisation, Linda spent over 20 years working within the charity and the commercial sector gaining wide-ranging financial administration experience.

David Gibbs


Dave became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017. In his professional life, he was a community development worker specialising in finance and external funding. Since moving to the Fens, Dave has taken on a number of parish clerk roles, as well as being a trustee of Newton Village Hall.

Sarah Severn CBE


Sarah became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2023. In her professional life, Sarah worked at DEFRA, supporting Rt Hon Lord Benyon, the Minister for Rural Affairs. She led on rural policy and the government’s commitment to thriving rural communities.

She has a BA (Hons) from the University of East Anglia in Economic and Social History and Sociology; an MBA (Cranfield) and the APM-accredited Project Leadership Programme (Infrastructure and Projects Authority). Sarah was awarded her CBE in 2013 for services to public protection. 

Terry Jordan

Vice Chairperson and Trustee

Terry became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2011. Terry is currently the Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer for Wisbech Town Council in Fenland and has worked in local government in Cambridgeshire for more than 40 years. 

Terry is also a trustee of CP Learning Trust.

Julie Spence OBE CStJ QPM


Cambridgeshire ACRE’s current President is Julie Spence OBE QPM. In 2017, Julie was appointed by Her Late Majesty The Queen as the 37th Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, the Sovereign’s representative in the County.

Professionally, Julie trained as a teacher before joining the Police in 1978 and being appointed Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire in 2005. In the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours, Julie was awarded an OBE for her management of complex and contentious organisational issues and leadership contribution. In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Anglia Ruskin University: then in the 2010 New Year’s Honours list she received the Queens Police Medal (QPM). In September 2010, after a 32 year career, she retired from policing.

Toby Frith

Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice

Toby joined the team in 2021. As our Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice, his role is to implement our digital marketing strategy  generating interest in our work and helping to build the organisation’s social presence.

From January 2022, Toby will be undertaking a Digital Marketing Degree at Anglia Ruskin University alongside working for Cambridgeshire ACRE.

Jessica Sellick BA (Hons), MSc, PhD


Jessica joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. In her professional life, Jessica works at Rose Regeneration where she undertakes projects on behalf of Government, Local Authorities, charities and community groups across the UK. She is also a senior research fellow at the National Centre for Rural Health and Care (NCRHC).

She is a Chartered Geographer accredited by the Royal Geographical Society; a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce); and a member of the Institute of Economic Development. In her spare time she sits on the board of a housing association that supports older and vulnerable people across Lincolnshire.

Ray Vidler

Treasurer and Trustee

Ray joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. He has been a member of Weston Colville Parish Council, which he currently chairs, since 2008. He is a fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and holds an MBA.

He has enjoyed living in rural Cambridgeshire for over 35 years and is keen to be able to support an organisation that aims to sustain, support, and develop rural communities.

Prior to retirement, Ray was a general manager responsible for aspects of the operation of a large food company based at Histon, having previously been the site’s chief engineer. During his working life he gained lots of experience of managing large multi-million-pound projects and developed a good understanding of finance and human resource management.

Stephanie Baxter


Stephanie joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022.

Stephanie is a strategic thinker, utilising housing policy to deliver social justice and poverty alleviation. She is passionate about community led housing and how this can enable local communities to be part of their own solutions. Stephanie has worked in rural local authorities for the past 16 years, with knowledge of planning and housing policy. She is a Trustee with her local foodbank and an active member of her local church.

Olivia Boult

New Life on the Old West Natural Heritage and Communities Officer

Olivia joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in January 2023. Working exclusively on the New Life on the Old West project, Olivia works to engage partners, communities and landowners and to create opportunities for local people to connect with the diverse Fenland natural landscape.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Olivia worked in publishing, most recently for Cambridge University Press on their Life Science and Medicine book lists. She has a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.