Bridport Cohousing, the UK’s largest cohousing project to date, was this week praised for its commitment to sustainability, ground-breaking design and playing a vital role in addressing the demand for affordable housing in Dorset.

The pioneering development of 53 sustainable, affordable eco-homes to buy and rent, called Hazelmead, celebrated a milestone on Monday 31 July at a celebration event attended by MP for West Dorset, Chris Loder; the Mayor of Bridport, Cllr Dave Bolwell and many other stakeholders who brought the flagship housing development to life.

South West-based charitable housing association BCHA is delivering 39 homes of which 26 will be for Social Rent and 13 for Shared Ownership, starting with a 25% share. Bridport Cohousing is delivering an additional 14 homes for Shared Equity with an 80% share.

Chris Loder MP described the celebration of Hazelmead as “the culmination of 15 years of incredibly hard work” that transformed the vision of Bridport Cohousing into reality.

Chris said: “I remember coming here a few years ago and it was little more than a field. The development is a real testament to everyone who worked so hard on this project.

“The homes at Hazelmead are very special for many reasons. One of the really important aspects of community land trusts is they afford the opportunity for homes and housing for people who live or work locally, who might otherwise not have had the opportunity to have their own home.”

Lorraine Mealings, CEO of BCHA, praised the “incredible patience, determination, passion and motivation” of everyone who has brought Bridport Cohousing to life.

Lorraine said: “Hazelmead is now home to amazingly beautiful properties with first-class eco-credentials, surrounded by inspirational food-growing spaces. It is lovely to hear children playing in car-free streets that are already full of flowers, fruit and vegetables. I can feel this new community coming to life – it’s already thriving and evolving. BCHA is exceptionally proud to be the development partner and be part of this exciting journey.”

Lorraine extended her thanks to building contractor CG Fry, Homes England, which provided grant funding, Dorset Council, the incredible efforts of Bridport Cohousing and to her colleagues across BCHA who were busy allocating all of the homes.

She also expressed her delight that Hazelmead has been shortlisted for Best Development (0-100 homes) and Best Affordable Housing Development (less than £10 million) at the national Inside Housing Development Awards 2023, which will take place at the end of September.

The high-profile national awards champion teams, schemes and solutions that have made a positive impact on communities across the UK – celebrating the outstanding achievements of house builders, developers, landlords, architects and sustainability innovators.

Cllr Jane Somper, Portfolio Holder for People – Adult Social Care, Health and Housing at Dorset Council, told guests at the celebration event that Bridport is one of the areas in Dorset with the highest demand for affordable homes.

Cllr Somper said: “Across the county, there are more than 4,800 households on the housing register. This is why Dorset Council was keen to support this exciting and ambitious project and provide grant funding towards the land purchase.

“It’s important that partners continue to work together to develop more affordable homes. This scheme demonstrates how, as a progressive local authority, we can adopt a flexible approach and encourage innovation. It’s good to see well-designed homes built to such a high standard and by approaching housing in an imaginative way, we can increase the sustainability of areas like Bridport so people can live, work and thrive,” Cllr Somper added.

Judith Griffies, a Member and Director of Bridport Cohousing, described how a spirit of collaboration and determination had brought Hazelmead to life.

Judith said: “These beautiful homes and green spaces to roam, play and sit in, along with the bountiful food growing everywhere, are the result of 15 years of dedication and hard work by committed members of Bridport Cohousing – committed not only to providing sustainable, affordable housing for local people but to building a community of people who want to live in a collaborative, caring neighbourhood.

“This community has been steadfast and determined. We’ve put in tens of thousands of hours of unpaid work. Our system of working together, where everyone’s voice matters and decisions are made by consent, continually reviewing and learning – all of that has carried us through no end of obstacles. We’ve become experts in our project but we couldn’t have made it through without the help and support of our local community, and from organisations who are experts in their fields.”

Hazelmead’s flagship eco-homes benefit from clean, green electricity generated by a site-wide, solar-powered microgrid with hot water provided by air source heat pumps – providing inspiration for developers nationwide who are striving to create sustainable housing schemes in response to the climate emergency.

The AECB Building Standard timber-framed construction properties are triple glazed and super-insulated to near Passivhaus levels, with green-fingered residents already growing fresh, organic food at the site’s flourishing community gardens and food-growing spaces.

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