On the way to the west country for an Autumn break, two of the ICoHo group met Monica King from Bridport Cohousing CLT. https://bridportcohousing.org.uk/
Bridport Cohousing is in Dorset and, as such, is probably our nearest neighbouring cohousing project and they are ahead of our group as they have planning permission and are due to break ground around now.
Their journey had been similar to ours: forming a group around the principles of creating a low impact, eco friendly, social, supportive and affordable community housing project. Finding a suitable site, negotiating with the NHS over access, and engaging with housing associations had taken years of determination and commitment to take the group to its current position. It is fifteen years since the idea of creating a cohousing project in Dorset was mooted by Alan Weeks,a founder member of the group, (Alan went on to form Threshold cohousing community http://www.thresholdcentre.org.uk/).
One of the hurdles they had to overcome was the lack of knowledge about cohousing that planning departments and financial institutions were facing. We are fortunate in that we can benefit from their ground breaking work in explaining some of these fundamental concepts of cohousing and intentional communities. Hopefully, IcoHo can at least halve the time it takes our group to reach planning approval.
Bridport CoHousing are using Barefoot Architects whom they chose after meeting Sam Goss at an ‘Architects Open Day’ event and hearing about and seeing the ‘chalk house’ he and his family had built. Monica spoke positively about their role in bringing the scheme forward, making us feel even happier about ICoHo’s choice of Barefoot as our architects.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”Isaac Newton
It was interesting to hear Monica’s comments about the difficulties of engaging with housing associations (they are currently with their fourth partner, Bournemouth Churches – who seem closest to their values than others). Original plans have been expanded to 53 homes and the build is to be in two phases. (Phase 1: 34 homes – 35% of which should be affordable and a common house, phase 2: 19 homes 7 of which are affordable – some for rent and any resale to be at 80% of market value)
Hearing of the compromises required to work with the different housing associations, validated our group’s decision to keep our project smaller and not involve housing associations, if at all possible.
Monica spoke very positively about the use of sociocracy (Many voices one song Ted J Rau & Jerry Kock-Gonzalez 2018) as a decision making process and said “ I would not contemplate joining a cohousing scheme that did NOT use sociocracy for its decision making. It has been fundamental in Bridport Cohousing for some years”.
It was an interesting meeting with a person who has spent many waking hours working towards realising their vision of creating a vibrant, dynamic, intentional community of low impact, affordable houses. We look forward to visiting their project as it becomes a physical reality.
Post by Sue Bailey and Neil Oliver