UK’s largest and most innovative cohousing scheme opens!

Bridport Cohousing CLT – launched!

The pioneering Bridport Cohousing CLT in Dorset, known as “Hazelmead” officially has opened. The rain cleared, the sun shone, tea and scones were served as local dignitaries joined residents and housing professionals to “cut the ribbon” this week.

Hazelmead is the largest and possibly most innovative cohousing scheme in the UK to date. The community can boast the first Cohousing/Community Land Trust combination, a major partnership with a housing association, the largest community owned micro-grid managing energy created from its solar panels. Moreover, the project is an exemplar for mixed tenure housing including social rental and shared ownership housing including housing for key-workers at the neighbouring hospital. It really is quite remarkable!

Inclusive decision making key for community

On behalf of fellow Bridport Cohousing residents, director Judith Griffies’s (picture above) gave an impressive speech to the assembled crowd, honouring the remarkable 10-year journey it has taken to create the community which had seen many twists and turns.  “This is not just about sustainable, affordable housing” she said, “this is about setting up a sustainable community where everyone’s voice matters, decisions are made by consent. That is how we’ve got through a whole host of obstacles so far”. “One of the best things about living here is hearing so many children in our community who you can hear playing in the fields all summer”.

Visitors enjoyed the chance to visit the brand-new timber framed passivhaus terrace (above). The development includes 2 and 3 bedroom homes and flats for shared-ownership and social rental.

Cohousing / CLT first

Judith recalled that a pivotal moment came when the cohousing group, who had faced initial scepticism from some local politicians, discovered that community land trusts were a tried and tested model in the south-west. In becoming a CLT aswell as a cohousing group they have managed to win support and unlock doors and make the project happen. The combination is the first of its kind in the UK and a model for others to follow.

Judith (above) kindly showed current and former Bournemouth Churches Housing Association board members Dr Dillon Phillips and Rodger Hawkyard around her new home.

Housing association partnership

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes solid support networks and partnerships to launch a cohousing scheme. Two housing associations, Synergy and Hastoe played supportive roles on the journey before they finally found their partner in Bournemouth Churches Housing Association. CEO Lorraine Meanings (below) spoke at the launch to acknowledged the hard work of her predecessor and staff “I’m so proud to come in at the end of a scheme that will provide such an incredible home for many people” she said. Other speakers included the local MP Chris Loder, who welcomed the schemes and noted the value of community land trusts in the region. Other important advisers thanked for their support along the way  included the Dorset Council’s housing enabler Paul Derrien (Dorset Council) CLH expert Andy Lloyd, innovative building specialist Charles Cousens and of course CG Fry builders.

Dorst tea and scones!

Attendees were treated to hot tea and delicious home made scones. A taster for a second launch to take place in September to mark the point at which the full scheme is finished and the final residents move in. Visitors to the site could enjoy a unique chance to compare the beautiful finished streets with the hard work of construction crews completing the final homes (below).

September: building a Straw Bale Common House (we’re invited)

Whilst significant funding for the developed has been provided by Homes England amongst others, there was a shortfall with regards to having a common house – one of the central features of a cohousing scheme – where meetings, celebrations and weekly meals take place. Following an hugely successful crowd funding launch by the community they have managed to secure sufficient funding to start to build the common house themselves – and we are all invited to be apart of it.

If you’ve every wanted to build your own home this is the chance to learn how – using traditional straw bale methods with world-leading teachers. See details of the course programme below:

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