Over the last 14 years, Wessex Community Assets has provided a range of support to Bridport Cohousing. They are just completing the UK’s largest affordable co-housing project, with 53 homes made available through rent and shared ownership. Wessex helped to register the group as a Community Benefit Society, using our model rules, and this allows Bridport Cohousing to function as a community land trust, holding the land in perpetuity. Subsequently, Wessex provided assistance for the development of the community share offer, which raised funds for the common house which is a core element of any cohousing project.
Then, through the Raise the Roof project, Wessex encouraged the group to look at innnovative ways to construct the common house, using local natural materials and off-site prefabrication for the timber frame and roof panels. Very recently, one of the Raise the Roof partners, Common Practice, was commissioned to lead the design and build process. Common Practice is a design studio run by Georgina Bowman and Jack Cardno, who met at the Architectural Association’s Hooke Park college near Bridport. The focus at Hooke is designing and building using locally sourced timber, and this was at the heart of the common house project.
Wessex had worked with Jack and Georgina on two demonstrator build projects at a workshop we established in an old dairy barn at Denhay Farm, and this space was then extended to allow for the pre-fabrication of the timber frames, roof trusses and roof panels. The Farm has also provided the straw bales which have been used to create the walls of the common house.
The build process has involved local carpenters and builders, plus volunteers from the co-housing project and the local community. In addition, Common Practice has worked with the School of Natural Building to organise 4 courses – on car tyre foundations, straw bale wales, lime rendering and clay plastering. The lime is provided by a local firm and the clay has come from the site.
One of the partners in the Raise the Roof project is Bridport Area Community Housing (BACH), which Wessex helped to establish – and Tim Crabtree is a volunteer board member. For their AGM on Wednesday 11 October (6pm at Bridport Town Hall), BACH has invited Monica King from Bridport Cohousing to share their learning from their 14 year journey. Then there is the chance to hear about the process of building the Common House, which has involved a community share offer to raise funds and a build process that has included a combination of local pre-fabrication, community self-build and taught courses. Georgina Bowman and Jack Cardno from Common Practice, who have led the Common House build, will share about the process.
In addition, Tim Crabtree will talk about the work of the Raise the Roof partnership, which includes Assemble Studio, Bridport Area Community Housing, Common Practice, Plymouth University and many other organisations – the aim is to link affordable housing with the use of local sustainable materials. Further information here.