Update from Bridport Cohousing – work started on 27th July!

A very happy Charles Couzens standing at our field gate

Bridport Cohousing members are jumping for joy because, following early preparatory work in February, their construction company CG Fry moved on to site on Monday 27th July. Since then there is daily delight at seeing earth movers creating such a difference to what was a field in such a short space of time.

Bridport Cohousing CLT has been in the making since 2008 when the idea was conceived to provide affordable homes for local people within a cohousing community. Alan Heeks, who founded the Threshold Centre in Gillingham, was a founder member and helped to inspire Dorset councillors that this would be an idea worth backing.

There have been many twists and turns along a very complicated journey, where the build was almost in place several times but failed to get going because of changes in government policy, or that key contractual agreements were not in place in sufficient time. The group however was tenacious and determined, and had an amazing professional advisor in place who saw every pitfall as an opportunity to try moving in another direction!!

Charles Couzens of Ecos Maclean was always calm and creative in the face of disruption. He is now also working with Oxford Cohousing, who are very fortunate to have him on board, and we hope that they may get their project built faster as a result of learning from some of our pitfalls.

Our major challenge was always going to be how to get beautifully designed homes, fit for the 21st century in terms of energy efficiency, built at affordable prices. The way we have done this is to form a partnership with a local housing association to build some of the homes. Bournemouth Churches (BCHA) is the fifth housing association that we have worked with and we are pleased that their vision and values sit well with ours. Working together we have been able to get a large grant for capital funding through the Government’s Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme 2016 to 2021, which has enabled the financing of 53 affordable eco homes. BCHA will build 26 homes for social rent and 13 homes for leasehold purchase through Help to Buy South at 30% – 75% of open market value and Bridport Cohousing will build 14 homes at 80% omv.

Bridport Cohousing owns the freehold of the land and is constituted as an Industrial and Provident Society – Community Benefit model; this legal model supports our Community Land Trust status. The unpaid equity in the homes remains in the hands of the CLT (which all members and future homeowners belong to) and this will ensure affordability for generations to come.

Membership and governance are key to keeping this model working well. Once built it will be the largest cohousing neighbourhood in the UK, and that in itself could present problems with social cohesion, (the optimum number of homes is reckoned to be around 35.) Over the years we have refined our membership process, which usually starts with someone coming along to one of our ‘’Meet The Neighbours’’ where newcomers can meet established members and find out about the details of the project while feeling into the actual people and what makes us tick. We also use Sociocracy as our
support structure for making policy, for how we run meetings, and for how to get decisions made, and are training ourselves in Non-Violent Communication which will help us with our listening and speaking skills.

Having moved into this next phase of our development we anticipate another 15 months minimum for the homes to be ready to move into, and we still have major hurdles to deal with, not least of which is getting funding for the common house in place! But Bridport Cohousers are always up for another challenge and we will keep you posted with our progress in the months to

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