Anna’s Blog – August 2016

Anna Kear, Executive Director

On a sticky summer afternoon, we piled into a dark grand auditorium at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) at Savoy Place, London for the Housing Design Awards 2016. I’d been invited to speak with Maria Brenton and Patrick Devlin of Pollard Thomas Edwards, at the seminar prior to the award ceremony. It was a great opportunity to showcase cohousing and OWCH in particular. We were delighted that the OWCH ‘New Ground’ project in Barnet was awarded both the Richard Fielden award (the best example of housing enabled by the HCA) and a HAPPI (Housing our Ageing Population: positive ideas) award. It was a really interesting event seeing how many of the awards went to community focused design approaches in both new build and regeneration; the overall winner Ash Sakula & Igloo for the Malings in Newcastle has some cohousing principles in its design enabling informal community interaction and people love living there. The ‘collective’ custom build approaches showcased were very innovative and could potentially be used to provide more cost certainty in new build cohousing projects.

Later that week I met with Cllr Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities for Bristol City Council with Zoe and Mel from Bristol Cohousing. It was a really productive meeting and great to see the Council following the new mayor’s pledge ‘to support the development of alternative housing options, such as CLT’s and cohousing’. The following Monday there was the first Community-Led Housing event in Bristol which brought together community housing groups from across the city to help build a Bristol-wide movement.  It was a great and positive day; I spoke alongside Catherine Harrington of the National CLT Network, on the national work we are doing as an alliance; and there was real energy to create a local hub for community housing in the Bristol area to pool experience, provide support and engage on the policy opportunities of the new administration.

On the train to Ladywell to attend an event hosted by LSE’s Melissa Fernandez and Kath Scanlon on ‘Alternative housing development in London’, I met Maria Brenton. When looking for the venue PLACE, which had only opened that week, we were kindly walked there with by a young woman who told us all about the new homes for homeless families with community business space and how much the local people supported the development on unused land. This event bought a wide range of examples of community development across London and some Local Authorities to showcase their support for community led housing. A summary of the findings and key action points can be found here (link to document). The day ended with a site visit to the RUSS project, where the CLT has selected residents for the new homes by democratic ballot, and those selected have decided to design in cohousing principles into the development.

I’ve held Skype meetings with Barbara of Pennington Cohousing, where we discussed a Scottish Gathering to be held on 8th November, which I will be attending; and with Diana and Fran of Homes for Oxford, which includes Oxford Cohousing, about their ambitious plans and possible options for land acquisition.

On 26th July we held a UKCN Board meeting, with our potential new Board members observing. In the afternoon we did some media training, to better prepare us all in both positive promotion of cohousing and responding to the interesting stories such as the OWCH opening planned in October. Slides from the session are available below along with the Data Protection Policy that was approved at the meeting. At the end of the day we presented Maria with a small brooch and some flowers to say thank you for her eight years on the UKCN Board.

Whilst not officially working I had the lovely coincidence of meeting Heather from Postlip Cohousing at the WOMAD festival when I went to the Ecotricity debate hosted by Jon Snow. I also got to have a nice chat with Jon about Cohousing and said we would send him some information for a possible C4 news item.

Cohousing network media session 2016
UKCN Data Protection Policy

UKCN Data Protection Policy