Work to start on Cambridge's first cohousing development
If the idea of living in an urban village appeals to you, the Cambridge-based K1 Cohousing Group thinks it has created the ideal place.
A limited number of houses and apartments are still available to purchase at Cambridge’s first ever development of its type at K1, Orchard Park, on land designated for cohousing in 2008.
When residents move into the 42 homes on the site in 2018, they will reap the rewards of their own vision of shared living in top-quality, Swedish-style, eco-friendly homes.
Created and run by their residents, cohousing developments are communities where people not only know their neighbours, but actively manage their neighbourhood alongside them.
Small enough that everyone can be familiar with each other, but large enough not to force them to be, cohousing communities are built around a shared desire for a sense of belonging, neighbourliness and mutual support that many people feel is missing from 21st-century life and modern housing developments.
The schemes are also car-free, with residents parking on the periphery of the residential area so all the children living there can play without the inconvenience of cars driving through.
Many of the 29 households which have signed up to buy homes at K1, Orchard Park are from the Cambridge area, but others come from as far afield as Cheshire, London and Brighton.
Jan Chadwick, director of Cambridge Cohousing Ltd, who is from Cheshire, told the Cambridge Independent: “It’s taken a very long time to get where we are. We’re about to start building in May, with completion in May/June 2018.
“It’s absolutely unique because it is the first collaboration between a city council, a cohousing group and a developer to build a cohousing development.”
Jan added: “We first came across this project in 2012. It was after my husband and I had read an article in The Guardian that said that one of the difficulties of getting older is isolation, and that cohousing certainly was an interesting way forward but that it was quite rare in the UK.
“It was much more common in Denmark – in fact, cohousing originated in Denmark – and it’s growing in the USA. There are a few groups in the UK, but many, many more people want to do it.
“Really, cohousing is an intentional community. If you can imagine an old-style village or neighbourhood in the 1950s, where you knew your neighbours, where your children could play outdoors, where somebody would always be there to look out for you... we don’t have that in our modern lives in quite the same way.”
After reading the newspaper article, Jan and husband Ian visited the Springhill Cohousing Community in Stroud, Gloucestershire, the first new-build cohousing development in the UK, which was finished in 2003.
“They every so often do weekends where people interested in cohousing can go and stay,” explained Jan.
“They find out about all the detailed work involved in setting up a cohousing group, they eat with the community, they help with the cooking and also experience a social event over the weekend.
“When we stayed there, it really gave us a flavour of what a cohousing community is actually about. Everyone owns their home, so you can go into your property and not speak to anybody if you don’t want to, but that’s not what cohousing is about. It’s about having your own space, but also shared space.”
There will be 42 plots in total, two of which are affordable homes.
“We have nine families, six couples, nine singletons, six retirees, 16 children and, interestingly enough, 11 nationalities – we reflect Cambridge,” noted Jan.
“We’re a very diverse group and inter-generational. We’ve got members who’ve been with us a long time and others who’ve joined along the way. We’ve got new people coming on board all the time.”
Asked if we might see more of this type of thing in the future, Jan replied: “I hope so. A lot of people want to do it, but it’s a long journey to get one of these off the ground. The big problem is land because land is so expensive.
“There are groups around the country who bid for land but have been outbid by a developer building their homes.
“But we’ve had a lot of support, I have to say, from councillors and planners, so we’ve been very fortunate and we’re really grateful for that. Without them, this build wouldn’t be happening.”
The K1 Cohousing Group is hosting an open morning on Saturday, April 1 at 10am at Orchard Park Community Centre, where anyone interested can find out more about this unique development and meet some of its future residents. More information can be found at eventbrite.co.uk/login/?referrer=/preview%3Feid%3D32659139365.
Developers Town and Trivselhus are working closely with residents and can be contacted at wearetown.co.uk and trivselhus.co.uk.