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Staying Hopeful: Update On Our Sea Mills Project

By Rachel Butler and Esther Hall.

The pieces needed to form the puzzle of our planning application and pull it all together are nearly all in place.

We had a much more hopeful meeting with the council last week about our Sea Mills project. We met with some officers from the Housing Enabling Team, the current Head of Planning, our architects (Barefoot), our planning consultant James Shorten, and our external Project Manager, Noah Fagan.

There are a few areas that we needed to talk through together, the main one being how our scheme works with the Nationally Described Space Standards. It’s an area that planning departments are understandably needing to be careful around, as profiteering private developers watch and wait in the wings, waiting for a precedent to be set. We're pleased to say that the council now seem to have a much better understanding of where we’re coming from with 'tiny houses'. It’s NOT 'regular housing, just smaller' as so many unfamiliar with the concept of tiny homes may assume. As we know, there are a whole different set of design principles that underpin the movement, and it takes time to educate others on these differences. A key element that will help with this is that we are a Community-Led Housing group, planning to manage and govern the whole site ourselves, which will allow us to be considered ‘Sui Generis’, being a novel form of co-housing unlike any other the council has dealt with thus far.

In addition to this meeting, here's where we're at with many other areas of our work:

  • We’ve submitted what we believe is a strong application to the council’s affordable housing fund.

  • Our Design Circle have confirmed the overall site layout and have selected their preferred options for the internal layouts of the homes.

  • Our permaculture consultant has finalised his designs for the landscaping of the site.

  • We’re now exploring different ways of constructing these homes, including additional technology we may need, such as whether we want to have mechanical ventilation heat recovery units installed.

  • We’re on the search for a space to allow us to store reclaimed resources we can use for the build. Our circular economy consultant will be writing a circular economy strategy for the project, helping us to identify materials within our bio region we can reclaim and integrate into our build.

  • We are progressing with the development of our allocations policy and excited to begin the process of learning who will be taking up residence in our Sea Mills community.

  • And lastly, we’re thrilled to have secured a large amount of funding from a new funder, which will help us to continue this incredible project in Sea Mills.

We still have to grind through the system, and the planning officers still need to go through our application fully, but we go into it with a much more hopeful and optimistic view now. As always, if you have resources, skills or knowledge to share and would like to support this work, please do get in touch. We are always in need of people who can come alongside us and actively help to bring our vision to fruition.


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