A SHROPSHIRE town could become home to the first community led housing project put forward by a new developer taking a different approach.
A Fairer Society (AFS), which is committed to helping people to create, build and own together, is hoping to shape the future of The Old Station Yard, a 4.35 acre site off Brownlow Road, in Ellesmere, which currently has outline planning consent for 57 new homes.
Peter Burke, one of the founders of AFS, says:
“We have an opportunity if we work quickly to progress a scheme that would see home owners play an integral role in designing the homes and agreeing on community facilities within the site.”
As a precursor to getting the scheme off the ground, AFS has arranged a public meeting for interested parties at Ellesmere Town Hall on Saturday, July 23, with two sessions running from 10am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 3pm.
Billed as ‘Community led housing represents the future’, the event will provide an overview of what community led housing means and how it benefits home owners. There will be presentations by people involved in other community led housing ventures, clean energy solutions, design and an exhibition about the proposed scheme and a chance for people to find out more about the organisation and its plans, both in Ellesmere and elsewhere in Shropshire and the rest of England and Wales.
“The Old Station Yard site, in Ellesmere, already has outline permission for 57 terraced and semi-detached three-bedroom homes. Under our proposals home owners will have the opportunity to customise the internal layout and influence room layouts, sizes, fixtures and fittings, etc, to suit their way of life.
“Subject to planning consent, we also envisage that home owners will determine how any public outdoor space is used, whether as allotments, a play area, community garden or something else.”
The site also includes the old Grade II listed station building which, although excluded from the original planning application, could present an opportunity to create a fully functional community centre.
“Again, home owners and the wider community would play a fundamental part in deciding how the former station building will be used and run, we are engaging with people so they tell us what’s needed, it really is exciting to think what’s possible” Peter adds.
A Fairer Society has been talking to a number of organisations, which it expects to be involved on July 23. These include Shropshire Housing Group, which owns and manages 4,500 houses in Shropshire and Herefordshire; and Housing People, Building Communities, an award winning Liverpool based housing charity which allows people to help build their homes – called ‘sweat equity’ – in return for a cash deposit.
“We’ll all be coming together on July 23 to help the people of Ellesmere, and beyond, understand what it is we are hoping to achieve. We’ll be looking to get signed expressions of interest – we have 30 people on our database already, nine of them wanting to live in this postcode – so that we can progress the Ellesmere scheme and take forward a detailed planning application to Shropshire Council. We also hope that local councillors, community leaders, local businesses and others with a general and genuine interest in housing will come along to hear about our plans,” Peter added.
Community led housing is housing designed and managed by local people and built to meet the needs of the community. It has a high degree of correlation with self-build and custom-build, which are high on the political agenda following introduction of the Self Build and Custom Build Housebuilding Act in 2015. The bill places a duty on local authorities to keep a register of individuals and community groups who have expressed an interest in acquiring land to bring forward self-build and custom-build projects and to take account of and make provision for their interests in developing their housing initiatives and local plans.
Peter Burke sees this as a major influence on A Fairer Society’s plans:
“As a community led housing developer we will source land and then work to secure it using our investors, so we can then help home owners create energy efficient homes in a community setting. We’ll also be looking to match local price values, so that wherever possible our homes are affordable. We’ve brought together a team of consultants and experts to assist, including architects, planning consultants, sustainability experts and legal teams. We’ll enable the home owners to be part of the build process and to contribute to designing the community they want to live in. They’ll be involved from a very early stage, just like a self-builder – but without the risk or headache!
“Our typical customer is probably someone aged 25 to 45, a couple or perhaps a family with one or two children, and on a low to middle income. This might be their first home or a second step, and they are likely to be motivated by eco living, being part of a community and wanting village or small town living.
“We would expect people to pay a registration fee to secure a plot and a deposit before the build begins. Prior to any deposit being paid they would take part in three community visioning events focused on the overall vision, the design of the home and the design of the community.”
Anyone interested in learning more is invited to attend the event ‘Community led housing represents the future’ on Saturday, July 23. The event is taking place at Ellesmere Town Hall, Willow Street, SY12 0AL, with sessions from 10am to 12 noon and 1pm to 3pm. For more information see: www.afairersociety.com.