Type of Community-Led Housing: Cohousing
Local Authority: Colchester Borough Council
Number of Homes: 23 (6 1/2 bed flats and 17 2/3 bed houses)
Year of Completion: 2019
Cannock Mill, Colchester is a cohousing development delivered by a group of around 30 like-minded people. The development is made up of 23 flats and houses as well as communal spaces for all residents and won ‘Best Community or Group Self Build Project’ at the Build It Awards.
Ethos and Governance of Cannock Mill Cohousing
The members of Cannock Mill cohousing group share similar values and aims, common within cohousing communities. In this case, the group focuses on low energy and environmentally friendly living and see the benefits of living in an intentional community such as this. This shared interest of eco-living is reflected through the development in the low energy homes, solar power generation, and shared vegetable gardens.
Whilst the age range of the group currently is from late fifties onwards, this is not a restrictive group and anyone is welcome to join.
The cohousing group is legally constituted as a company. In order to ensure an equal split of work during the build phase, each member was part of at least 2 sub-groups such as finance or social activities. There were monthly Board meetings to ensure all members were up to date on current work and included in discussions.
Funding, Site and Development
The development at Cannock Mill was largely self-funded, with all members of the group providing as much money as they could. So that the development could be completed the group received a loan from the Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England) which was paid back upon sale of the members’ houses when they moved into Cannock Mill.
In order to proceed with their idea of a cohousing development, the group needed to identify and secure a site. Although mostly originally from London, they used the following criteria to help them identify a suitable place:
- Affordable land – London prices were too expensive. They needed a large enough town so there was easy access to amenities and no forced dependency on cars, but also within easy reach of the countryside.
- A ‘wow’ factor – a place they could fall in love with.
This led the group to deciding on a site in Colchester that allows for the proximity to the countryside which the group desired but is also on the edge of a large town so that the site does not feel isolated and the residents can be part of the wider community. Adjacent to woodland and including a Grade II listed water mill, Cannock Mill provided the ‘wow’ factor the group was looking for and this was only amplified by the design and eco-standards of the new development.
In line with the group’s eco-living ethos, the 23 homes were designed and built to ‘Passivhaus’ standards. The design process was led by one of the group members, an award-winning eco-architect. The development went out to tender in Summer 2016 and was completed in 2019. Alongside the 23 homes there is a common house. This is the old listed mill building, which has been renovated to now provide a kitchen and dining room, lounge, library, guest rooms, and workshops, all with full disabled access. The pond at the Mill has also been restored.
Key Advice: The key advice from Cannock Mill Cohousing for any potential new cohousing groups is to join the UK Cohousing Network. This not only provides a large amount of information, but also connects groups.
A second phase of development at the Cannock Mill site aims to convert an old Victorian house on the site into 3 additional flats in 2021.