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Community Gardens

Into horticulture, fresh fruit and veg, and sustainable projects? A novice at gardening or equipped with a green thumb? Manchester has many community-driven groups who provide classes, organically grown produce, pots, plants and events, aimed at supporting local businesses and helping the people who live nearby.

Platt Fields Market Garden is in Fallowfield. Run by MUD – Manchester Urban Diggers – the group aims to find sustainable solutions to problems with local food systems. As a non-profit, they work to provide all kinds of workshops to the community, and advocate for space to grow for all.

MUD encourages volunteering on site. Whether planting, tending, developing new skills, the team are warm, friendly, and accommodating. They provide delicious meals with the produce grown, and people can buy veg packages for home-cooking.

Hulme Community Garden Centre is closer to the city centre in Hulme. Established 20 years ago, their planting brings a diverse range of wildlife into the site, aiming to connect residents of the urban area with nature. Also non-profit, they like to share their experience with all, as do MUD, and also provide a wide range of plants for purchase. They’re always willing to share their combined knowledge of plants with all.

Several other projects run across the area, from the Incredible Edible Projects in Levenshulme and Fallowfield to Gleaning (an age-old practice of saving surplus crops to prevent waste) in many farms around the city (with transport required).

Manchester is full of green spaces and opportunity for all who wish to take part in gardening in all its forms, and actively encourages sustainable living. For anyone interested in cultivation, the city is a wonderful place to live and get involved.

Isabel (RISE intern) July 2020

Social Care Future

The “Social Care Future” conference was held on 14th and 15th November 2018, in Manchester.

MUCH was invited to take part in the session entitled “Shaping a better future with older people who need long term support” at the People’s History Museum.

The focus of this session was on alternatives to institutional options and more traditional models, including housing options. It allowed the audience to consider ideas and models and identify appealing options, with help from Vic Raynor from the National Care Forum and Jeremy Porteus and Claire Skidmore from the Housing Learning Information Network.

The session used a Dragon’s Den format, where a number of organisations ‘pitched’ their alternative approaches to a panel, explained the benefits to individuals, local communities, health and care services.

The pitches:

Evermore’s motto is “Live life in full colour” and it plans to change the world’s view of ageing by abolishing institutions and creating spaces that provide physical, mental and emotional nourishment. The communities are based on the small household model and provide a family-style environment for older people who are on their own and finding it increasingly difficult to cope without help. One bedroom apartments open onto the household’s communal living room and kitchen, with a team of staff members who each clean, cook, manage the household budget and act as advocates for residents.

MUCH are building an intentional CoHousing community for over 50s. The vision is of active citizenship, decision making, and living together in a supportive way. The community will consist of individual apartments, together with communal spaces to cook, eat and socialise together, as well as shared outdoor space and laundry facilities. MUCH believes that the co-housing approach will help improve and extend older people’s health, combat loneliness and isolation, and postpone or even prevent the need for residential social care, sheltered housing, extra-care.

PossAbilities Homeshare  matches up older householders with a spare room who need a little bit of support – shopping, gardening, cooking, with younger people who are able and willing to provide 10 hours of help per week, in return for a room. This can help them save up for a deposit on their first home, or help fund their studies. After careful matching, including face to face interviews, Homeshare draws up an agreement of expectations and responsibilities on both sides and provides 24 hour backup support.

Belong Villages provide a range of services from apartments where people live independently with emergency support, to households with 24-hour support for customers, including specialist nursing and dementia care. Each household is an ‘extended family’ sized community for 11 or 12 residents, with bedrooms opening onto an open-plan, shared communal space. Each village has a bistro, hair salon, exercise and therapy spaces which are open to all residents of the village as well as to the wider community, which allow customers to continue enjoying normal activities.

Manchester Care and Repair provide a number of services, from handymen who carry out small jobs and install fall prevention measures, ‘home from hospital’ services to help transition from hospital to home again, and assistance in claiming welfare benefits. They provide a cost effective means of avoiding hospital admissions following falls, and allow earlier return home than might otherwise be possible.

After each pitch was made the panel questioned the presenter, then, while the panel deliberated, the audience were given an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of each approach in small groups. In their summing up the panel congratulated all the teams who took part on the work they were doing, suggesting that while people generally wanted to be part of a community in later life, they did not want to live in ghettoes of ‘old’ people.

While the alternatives pitched offered different degrees of support and management it was clear that only in the MUCH CoHousing approach did members collectively decide how they would manage and run their community, and support each other to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Two of the pitches were from organisations who provide support to people in their own homes, and the other two were from organisations who provide an interesting variation on residential care and support.


Following on from the last post about sustainability, this time we’re going to focus on Passivhaus. Some people love them, some people hate them, but there’s no doubt that they deliver huge environmental benefits.

According to the Passivhaus Trust  “Passivhaus buildings achieve a 75% reduction in space heating requirements, compared to standard practice for UK new build.” and importantly “Evidence and feedback to date shows that Passivhaus buildings are performing to standard, which is crucial, given that the discrepancy between design aspiration and as-built performance for many new buildings in the UK can be as much as 50-100%.”

Passivhaus homes are designed to maintain internal temperatures within a comfortable temperature and humidity range throughout the year, with only a small amount of space heating needed.

Insulation, triple glazed windows and air-tightness keep heat in or out.

A Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery system keeps air clean and contrary to popular belief, windows can be opened!

Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery System MVHR systemsThe  Green Building Store have answers to some popular questions about MVHR.

As well as individual homes, schools and offices, some residential developments of up to 68 homes in the UK have been PassivHaus certified. They include:

“Before granting planning permission, Leicester City Council made Passivhaus certification an essential requirement for all 68 homes on the Saffron Acres development. The different orientations of the plots made this an even greater challenge because it meant that a variety of fabric specifications would have to be used for insulation. All 68 plots achieved Passivhaus certification, making Saffron Acres the largest Passivhaus residential development in the UK”.

“All 51 homes at an affordable residential scheme in Rainham, Essex have received Passivhaus certification. The development consists of a mix of family homes and apartments, arranged in two rows of three-storey homes, a row of two-storey terraces and an apartment building.“



“Our multi award winning eco cohousing community at Forgebank consists of 36 private homes, community facilities, workshops/offices/studios and shared outdoor space. Our cosy and comfortable homes meet Passivhaus and Code for Sustainable Homes (level 6) standards, and we benefit from renewable technologies (solar, biomass and hydroelectricity).”

Food for thought when planning a CoHousing development?


With global warming being blamed for what appear to be more episodes of extreme weather, and an increasing focus on how our lifestyles are damaging the environment, more people are starting to agree that we must change the way we live in order to slow down climate change, and look after the environment .

We hear the phrases ‘living sustainably’, ”eco homes’, ‘zero-carbon cities’, ‘the 2050 emission reduction target’ but what do they mean?

Most people acknowledge that ‘living sustainably’ means different things to different people.  For some it’s about what they eat and where they buy their food.  For others it’s about how they travel, both in their day to day lives, and for leisure.  Then there’s energy, using less, and making sure as much as possible is from renewable surces.  These are all lifestyle choices that we can make in a stepwise fashion.

According to Wikipedia, “a zero-carbon city runs entirely on renewable energy; it has no carbon footprint and will in this respect not cause harm to the planet.”

From  “The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.”

When building new homes, the opportunity for the greatest impact is during the design stage.  “An Eco-house (or eco-home) is an environmentally low-impact home designed and built using materials and technology that reduces its carbon footprint and lowers its energy needs.”

It’s uncertain where this phrase originated, but it’s widely quoted. But by how much can a home’s carbon footprint really be reduced?


Community-led housing in the news

It’s been a while since we last posted anything on the website, but you can be sure that the group is still active!

We’ve continued to be very busy – looking at potential sites, visiting and talking to other cohousing groups, talking to policy makers, housing professionals and developers, recruiting new members and generally working hard on bringing this project to life.

Community-led housing is very much in the news these days. This includes many different types of development:

  • Community Land Trusts are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets.  CLTs act as long-term stewards of housing, ensuring that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area, not just for now but for every future occupier.
  • Co-operative and mutual housing schemes are all different, but part of what makes them successful is their ability to enable local people to develop housing in the way that is right for them.  A successful co-operative and mutual housing scheme usually has a community membership made up of the residents.  The housing organisation is democratically controlled by the community membership.
  • Cohousing communities are intentional communities, set up and managed by the residents.  Each household has a self-contained home as well as sharing some community space.  Residents come together to manage their community, share activities, and regularly eat together. The community can be inter-generational, or specifically cater for people who are older or for women or other groups. The community is governed in a non hierarchical way, often using consensus decision making. Cohousing groups often host wider community activities in the shared space and common house.

MUCH members have been clarifying what Cohousing is to councillors and housing professionals, and how it differs from Co-operative housing, and have also indicated the benefits that Cohousing schemes for older people in particular can bring to the city. These are described in Maria Brenton’s paper Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK?

MUCH members visit cohousing projects in and around Seattle

In May two of our members were travelling around Seattle and Washington State in America and found out that they were going to be there at the same time at the US National Cohousing Open House Day. They were able to go to visit three different projects, one, Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing, is an inter-generational project in an inner city neighbourhood of Seattle, another, the Songaia Cohousing Community, is a cluster of intergenerational intentional communities just north of Seattle in Bothell WA. The third is a senior cohousing project in Port Townsend across the Puget Sound from Seattle, called Quimper Village, probably the nearest in inspiration and implementation to what we are trying to do here in Manchester. As well as being made really welcome by everyone visited the experiences of those who had realised the three projects were all felt to be directly relevant in terms of learning from what they had all achieved so far. This builds upon what other MUCH members had already learned from projects that members had visited in Helsinki, Copenhagen and Berlin. We are aiming to create a new section of the website over this summer which will provide links to all of these projects together with resources which will be useful for members and potential members alike.

Update on MUCH activities

MUCH members have been very busy over the past few months, looking at potential sites, meeting potential new members and carrying on to develop our policies and practice to help make our cohousing project a reality. Members have also been looking at what is happening in other parts of the UK and Europe, including visiting projects in Lancaster, Leeds and Sheffield and in Copenhagen and Berlin. We are also talking to a local housing association, which has a reputation for innovation, about the possibility of developing a partnership for our project. In the future we are making a commitment to provide updates on the website each month (as a minimum). So please look out for further news in May.