Press Release 26 September 2021
Bridport Cohousing was proud to host 32 mayors from all around Dorset last Wednesday 22nd September. Bridport’s own mayor Ian Bark took them on a tour of the town, which included St Mary’s Primary and the West Bay Discovery Centre, to showcase community projects that he is particularly proud of. The Civic day coincided with the ‘Great Big Green Week’, which is highlighting events around the town to raise awareness about what can be done to mitigate climate change.
Recently Ian had focussed his Mayor’s Blog on Bridport Cohousing’s project at Hazelmead, which is currently being constructed in North Allington to the west of the Community Hospital. The 53 affordable eco homes are expected to be completed during the summer of 2022 and will provide a welcome boost in the affordable housing stock of the town.
The visiting mayors were given a talk about the project by Lin Scrannage, who has been a member of Bridport Cohousing for 5 years and now handles marketing and publicity matters. She gave an outline of the timeline and how the organisation functions, its sustainability strategy and why cohousing is different from conventional housing developments. One mayor asked:
‘’How is it that these homes can be built to such a high standard? Whenever we try to get affordable homes built in our area developers tell us they can’t manage to design energy efficiency into them.’’
Lin explained that firstly this is because the members themselves are acting as the developers and, rather than taking a profit, have freely invested their time and energy into the project; and secondly, energy efficiency has been designed into the homes from the very beginning, this is our priority.
Another question was about how we were able to buy our land in the first place. Land is notoriously expensive and can be one of the major pitfalls for a community-led project, as mainstream developers will always outbid smaller groups if land comes onto the market.
We were fortunate that a local farming family sold their last remaining field to BC, wanting a community group to do something with it. Phase 2 of the land was paid for by raising loans from family and friends in 2018, and giving 3% interest. These have now been repaid or converted to community shares. We have a Community Share Offer open at the moment which is offering 4% on investments and are looking to raise money from that to buy our common facilities, which includes a Common House (similar to having a village hall on site) and 2 guest bedrooms for visitors (both of which will provide an income stream for the residents once they are operational.)
The homes themselves are being built to almost Passivhaus standard, which means they are highly insulated and have a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, keeping heating bills very low. They will be triple glazed and have air source heat pumps for hot water and back up heating, and all the buildings have PV panels on the south facing roofs. The energy from these will be linked to a single microgrid on site – the largest of its kind to date in the UK.
‘’This is an amazing achievement for a community-led group’’ said Lin. The mayors agreed and were suitably impressed by the level of detail that has gone into this cohousing project. Cohousing is a way of living where residents have their own private home and garden but also share facilities like the Common House and outdoor space. At Hazelmead there are plans to plant an orchard, to grow some of their own fruit and vegetables and to have an electric car club where residents can cut down individual car ownership.
After the visitors had gone Bridport mayor Ian Bark said:
‘’Thank you for all your hard work in making the Civic Day visit to the Bridport Cohousing site such a success. You managed to pull together a wonderful showcase of what makes the project and Bridport so special. I think it is fair to say that you blew the minds of all of the Mayors present. They left us having had both a really enjoyable day and with much food for thought.’’
In order to get the last piece of funding in place for the neighbourhood Bridport Cohousing have a Community Share Offer open on the ethical investment platform Ethex. Anticipated interest of 4% will be paid on investments, and the offer is currently 77% subscribed with 12 days left to invest.