Yesterday I visited an oasis in Bramley, West Leeds. After a mini bus ride over from Liverpool all of us there got off the bus to be greeted by this.
Lilac, the UK’s first affordable ecological cohousing oasis!
Twenty houses plus something special I’ll show you in a minute.
The houses built from prefabricated straw bale panels which the members of the community made themselves.
All on the site of a former school.
This pond being the collected rainwater that falls on the houses.
Craig is an architect and an expert on straw bale construction, and co-designed what we’re seeing today with the members of the community.
I’m here with Homebaked from Anfield.
We’re spending the day together gathering learning for their Community Land Trust. Liverpool City Council have decided that the row of terraced houses next to Homebaked are going to be demolished and so they’re now gathering design ideas and architectural knowledge to design something new next to their Community Bakery. We’ve all been to a series of design events in Homebaked over the last few weeks, and now we wanted to come out and see some of the realities of community led design for ourselves.
Craig shows us what the houses are made from.
And describes the process of how they all turned the site of a demolished school into what we’re seeing today.
We hear about Lilac’s ethics of low impact living.
Much more about the practicalities of this on Lilac’s own website.
And about how come the site isn’t full of car parking spaces.
They car share and have it written into their constitution that at no time will they own more than ten cars between them.
And here’s the something special I mentioned. Their common house.
This is their shared space where they meet, work, hold social gatherings, have space for guests to stay over, do their laundry, collect their post and store their shared tools.
Today is their second birthday and a party is being prepared.
We all feel at home already.
In this West Leeds green oasis.
Time for a look at their allotments.
Like the common house, people from the surrounding community can also make use of these. We’re not in a shut off place here.
Our conversation gets down to details.
Tash, one of the cofounders explains how the money works.
There is one collective mortgage on the whole place. Again, details on the Lilac website. But we were intrigued to find that they have an agreement that should people move out the value of their equity at that point won’t be about how the market value has increased, but how median earnings in Leeds are doing. Again ensuring that people who join Lilac will share their communal ethics.
Tash’s partner Paul joins us, together with their baby.
Paul talks particularly about the importance of the community in making the place work.
‘The houses and how they’re made are important, but don’t get too wrapped up in the ‘hardware’ – it’s the people that make the place work.’
Next Paul takes us into one of the houses, and something wonderful happens.
As we’re going into the house, and unknown to us, we’re being watched by the angels in the architecture. One of them cries out to the rest ‘They’re all going into your house!’
We’re judged to be doing no harm and are left to talk in peace.
About how warm and insulated the houses are.
How fresh air is circulated around them every two hours.
And as we leave, Lilac is limbering up for their second birthday party.
Happy Birthday to you, in your green Leeds oasis, and thanks for letting us visit.
More about Homebaked Community Land Trust, from Cally at Homebaked here. And if you fancy visiting Lilac you can, on one of their Learning Days.