**Cohousing series**: planning slowdown allows time for reflection
Follow our solicitor as she develops her own cohousing project.
One of the solicitors in our community led housing team is currently developing her own cohousing project in Cumbria. She is writing regular updates about the project for us, and this is the latest instalment.
For previous articles in the series, please see the following:
“Our small cohousing project continues to make progress, albeit hampered by recent global events. No-one could have predicted the impact of Covid-19 and its widespread effects. In our case, it meant that we were unable to visit the site for several weeks, and we suspect it has also contributed to the delay in receiving approval for the next stage of our planning permission. This has been caught up in the system for a few months now, and in the meantime, we are getting on with tidying up the site and making plans for our community.
The site is an old farm, with several outbuildings and caravans. They were previously used as both residential and commercial units, and when the previous occupants left, many of their possessions stayed behind. After a couple of years of neglect, the site is in quite a state. All the existing buildings and caravans will be demolished, but we are trying to do as much clearance of them as possible before that happens. This is not only to save funds, but it also means we can sort the waste and repurpose or recycle as much as possible, to avoid it all going to landfill.
For the past few weekends, since lockdown has eased, we have been meeting on site and getting on with the mammoth job of clearing various barns. These practical work-camps have been a great team-bonding exercise and we have got to know each other better as we sweep up sawdust and shift hundreds of old paint cans and oil drums.
While we wait for planning permission, we are also turning attention to some of the big decisions we will need to make in the future, particularly how we plan our shared spaces and facilities.
We are lucky enough to own a large field at the back of the site and we are talking through ideas for this, guided by a couple of our members who happen to be conservation experts. Current options include a wildflower meadow, a natural swimming pool and tree planting to shore up the banks of ‘our’ river and to provide a corridor for wildlife.
Less glamourous, but very important, are our options for dealing with sewage on the site. As we are not connected to mains sewage, we need to come up with an off-grid solution. A small group of us are therefore looking into these options and consulting with relevant experts. The Community-Led Homes Facebook group has been a useful resource, and we have been able to ask other groups for advice via this forum.
These various projects have also led us to have another look at our governance structure. We have delegated these areas of work to a couple of sub-committees and one job on the list in the near future is to look at what other sub-committees we might need and whether we need to formalise the terms of reference of these groups. Delegating areas of work to smaller groups has meant that we have achieved far more progress on the project than if we were all involved in all discussions – there are only so many hours in the week to spend on Zoom calls.
Waiting for planning permission can be a frustratingly slow process, but at least it feels like we’re making some progress on other parts of the project. I head off on maternity leave soon, but hope that we’ll have good news about planning in the next update.”
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.