All posts by Sian Richards

Transport Diaries and Active Travel

I’ll start off with a little disclaimer. This is a personal story of one MUCH member’s journey towards reducing their carbon footprint through ‘Active Travel’. It might help us shape a future MUCH transport policy, but more importantly it might act as a bit of encouragement to any readers considering making the same lifestyle choices.

Once upon a time when I was a single working mum bringing up two daughters on my own, with ageing parents living 100 miles away and the father of my daughters living 50 miles away in the opposite direction, I used to drive quite a lot.

But family life and personal circumstances changed, at the same time as awareness of climate change grew. My parents died, my daughters grew up and left home, sometimes I cycled to work. I swapped the family sized estate for a small hybrid – plenty big enough to carry me and my camping equipment. I went on holiday to Europe by train a few times. I used the train more in the uk. Of course that is a lot easier for someone like me living in south Manchester – I have lots of transport choices, own a car and a bike and am fit and healthy enough to walk and ride to lots of everyday destinations.

Before I retired in 2020 (just before lockdown) I was only driving about 3000 miles a year. The overheads of owning a car as well as paying train fares meant it was starting to look more economical to sell the car and join the local car club or use traditional car hire.

But then covid struck. And I kept the car as my security blanket. Like many others, I left home as little as possible, and reverted to using my car when I did. Mainly for grocery shopping, and a few brief meetings with more distant friends and family members. I applied for my bus pass, and paid a small amount to extend it to metro and rail journeys within Greater Manchester.

I still have the car, but now it is sitting, neglected, on my drive. I’m back to walking with my shopping trolley to the shops once a week or so. I’ve been discovering I can cycle to places I used to drive to.

This July I kept a travel diary of my journeys. Out of a total of 24, most were made on foot, or by bike. I used my car for a short but distant camping holiday, and went into the city centre by tram once. Before each journey I considered whether I could make it under my own steam (or to use the currently popular term – Active Travel). I’ve discovered I often can if I just plan ahead a bit!

Sian, August 2021

MUCH Open Meetings over Zoom

In December 2020 and January 2021 MUCH held two online open meetings for people who had contacted us to get more information about membership of our cohousing project.
The meetings were intended to help people find out:

  • what cohousing really means
  • where we are up to
  • more about joining
  • how to keep in touch for the future

They also offered an opportunity to:

  • meet, or re-meet, some MUCH members
  • meet other prospective members
  • ask questions about anything
  • help people decide whether MUCH is for them

Thus, the purpose of the sessions was to update participants on our current progress with design, sites, and finance, to catch up with what is going on in our lives, to share and answer questions and to offer clarification on our developing partnership and business models.

At the moment there is a lot of interest in co-housing and its values from people who would like to rent or share the ownership of their homes within the proposed project.

Many older people, especially older women, find themselves on low incomes as they age. They may also not have a home to sell in order to become a leaseholder within a co-housing company such as MUCH.  We regularly receive enquiries from prospective renters.

Unfortunately, government housing policy is currently skewed towards housebuilding and high value sales rather than towards housing supply for low income and vulnerable older adults.

Some housing associations/registered housing providers (RHPs) are of necessity driven by market forces and may find it difficult if not impossible to secure funding with which to underwrite social rental. Market rental is an option though this can be expensive.

In this context, MUCH decided to write to participants with the following explanation:

“As you consider your next steps, we want to clarify our ability to provide rented or part ownership properties in our development. As we said in the meeting this is an ambition for MUCH. However, it is unclear whether we will be able to deliver this.

As you will be aware, housing is becoming more expensive and we will need to find the capital to build any apartments which will then be owned by a landlord, or part owned. We are working with a Housing Association to develop the project, but they have made no commitment to fund the development of rented or shared ownership units. We have so far been unable to identify any other funders for these models of ownership or tenancy. We will continue to pursue these models as we feel that they would allow us to develop a balanced community, and meet housing needs that owner occupation does not meet.

If you would need to rent or part-own, you should take this into consideration in deciding your next steps. If you want to support the development in the light of the information above, please let us know.”

As a result, MUCH has a vision to uphold and a determination to move towards it, but there are still significant obstacles in our way.

We were pleased with the level of debate and enquiry from the open meetings. Each participant who chose to remain engaged with MUCH was allocated a personal “buddy” with whom to stay in touch.

We will hold more Open Meetings on a regular basis throughout 2021.

If you would like to receive an invitation contact us at muchmanchester@gmail.com

Design Council: A public vision for the home of 2030

A Public Vision for the Home of 2030

Two members of MUCH took part in a half day workshop, in Manchester, as part of the Design Council’s project ‘A public vision for the home of 2030’.  A report on the project has recently been published.

The participants at the Manchester workshop came from a variety of backgrounds, including architects, planners, academics, other housing professionals as well as individuals involved with community led housing.

The report identified 6 priorities for creating good homes.

  1. Being fit for purpose
  2. Giving people agency
  3. Addressing the climate crisis
  4. Connecting people and their communities
  5. Meeting the needs of every life stage
  6. Representing something different

These feature to a greater or lesser degree in many types of community led housing, and not surprisingly confirm that mainstream housing development often does little to provide what people actually want.

During the workshop we worked in groups, and it was interesting that only one group came up with ideas for a single home, while all the other groups recognised that the local neighbourhood or community was as important as the individual home.

Sian

July 2020

Virtual working

Despite some worries about having to get to grips with new (to all of us) technology, I’m pleased to say MUCH are having regular practice sessions, ironing out our various connection glitches, learning to signal that we want to speak, mute ourselves when we’re not speaking and hoping that our next proper General Meeting will do much better than 2% actual business!

Credit to Sarah Woodard for this chart that seems to have become our new worklives!

End of the year

As we look back on 2019 and look forward to 2020, it’s good to remind ourselves of what MUCH have achieved in the last 12 months.

We signed a partnership agreement with Great Places, our Housing Association development partners.

Paddock Johnson Partnership have been selected as our architects and we had an initial design workshop with them to explore and expand on our Design Criteria.

Florence Collier of humblebee.eco came to talk to us about building to the Passivhaus standard.

We’re updating our Mem&Arts, now with help from solicitors who specialise in community led housing.

A Consensus Decision Making workshop provided a refresher and spurred us on to work harder on making our decision making processes both more effective and more efficient.

We’ve met with councillors, and council officers, attended GMCA Co-operative and Community Controlled Housing Project meetings and GM Housing Futures events.

Several prospective members have met with us for coffee, some have joined us for a shared meal and some have attended one or more MUCH monthly meetings.

We’ve visited OWCH in London, the first CoHousing scheme for the over 50s completed in the UK. We’ve visited other CoHousing schemes both home and abroad. We’re talking to another South Manchester CoHousing group.

And we’ve looked at more sites. Some are too small or too big. Some are too expensive. Some turned out not to be available for development. Finding the owner is sometimes difficult.  Some are unsuitable for development for other reasons.

So although we still don’t have a site, we have been busy talking to lots of people, and learning, and continuing to lay down the virtual foundations of our CoHousing!

Wishing all our readers a Happy New Year,

Sian (member of MUCH)

 

A nod to CoHousing from Kevin McCloud

I follow a website called House Planning Help, a source of many articles about self build, quite often low energy, sustainable self builds.

In this article, Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs has some advice on new ways of building to address the climate emergency. He even refers to the impact of sharing resources, which of course is something we CoHousing people are very aware of. While we at MUCH may not be planning on sharing a trampoline with our neighbours, we’re definitely intending to share cars, washing machines and gardening tools.

Sian (member of MUCH)

MUCH members get involved in community arts!

ChorltonArtsFestival-logoOne of the things members of MUCH like to do is sing.

Come and see some of the members of MUCH performing with Open Voice choir as part of Chorlton Arts Festival 2019. Our gig is on Saturday 21st September at 7:30 pm, in St Clement’s Church, Edge Ln, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9AE. We’ll be sharing the bill with the fabulous Ordsall Acappella Singers. Free event.

One quarter of the The Mad Donnas is also a MUCH member. The Mad Donnas are sharing the bill with Serina Wain (singer) and Richard Easton (author) at South West Manchester Cricket Club, Ellesmere Rd, Chorlton  M21 0SG  on Monday 23rd September at 7:30 pm. Free event.

There’s lots more happening too – have a look at the Chorlton Arts Festival Programme and start filling in your diaries.

Sian

NEWS – Funding and Partners

We’re very excited to announce that we have finally received a signed contract from Homes England for the Community Housing Fund. This will support the development of the early stages of our project, and help us identify a site, work up our business plan, obtain legal, environmental and sustainability advice and appoint an architect. We raised a glass a while ago when we heard that we had been successful in our bid, but it’s only now that the paperwork has been finalised!


This has meant that we are also now in a position to sign a partnership agreement with Great Places who are one of the largest home building housing associations in the North. We have been building up a strong relationship with Great Places over several years, and they are keen to bring their expertise in housing development to work with us to create housing that will meet our needs.  Signing a partnership agreement with Great Places brings us a step closer to realising our dream. We are clear about what we want, and Great Places are committed to helping us achieve it.

MUCH are continuing to recruit members to join this South Manchester group. If you are interested in joining us, and are, or approaching, fifty or older, then please contact us at muchmanchester@gmail.com to find out more.

Living the dream …………………….…. in Barnet

Six of us went to visit the OWCH site, New Ground, in Barnet on the 1st of May. We were fortunate to be accompanied by 2 partners from Paddock Johnson (our newly selected architects). We arrived and were met by four members of OWCH and Maria Brenton who organizes a lot of their publicity and advice offer as well as a few other interested individuals including a reporter from the Guardian.


It was a great opportunity to see the way the co-housing group have delivered their scheme and find out at firsthand how it is to live there. We were able to visit a number of flats and speak to lots of the women residents. At the end of the afternoon we all came back together and were able to raise any further questions we had over a cup of tea in the common room .

The site is inspirational to visit and, it appears, to live in whether as a tenant or a home owner. The gardens are maturing and the build is well designed to sit on the boundaries of the land offering every flat views onto the main gardens and creating a variety of smaller garden nooks and crannies where the laundry, drying area, parking and other communal amenities are located. Although all of the flat units are built to one of three standard designs there is no feel of being in a housing block or institutionalized setting. All the flats have balconies over or direct access to the main gardens.

We were interested to hear that OWCH, despite its best endeavours, felt very limited in its ability to influence build decisions as the programme rolled out. However the individual flats are beautiful, welcoming, bright, well heated (hot and cold) and even the smallest felt spacious. Three years after taking ownership, each flat now displays the individual style and preferences of each member of OWCH that lives there. It was enticing to see how people had made their homes so unique within the basic design.

There were many architectural aspects of the building which caught our imagination and that we have taken away to discuss further and indeed we had an interesting initial debrief with our architects at a wonderful nearby tea room before we all set off for home. In particular, over and above the need to have a comfortable individual living space, we noted the proximity of a very good range of local amenities, the challenges of being private and secure whilst open to engaging with the local community, the specific challenges to maximize use of shared spaces throughout the building, the importance of creating spaces which act as a natural enabler to promote friendship, combat loneliness and isolation and the need to offer a wide a range of strategies to support predictable ageing requirements from the start.

What was abundantly clear was the pride and affection which the residents of New Ground have for their home and the way in which, despite the challenges they have already met and continue to address, they feel that living as part of an older persons’ cohousing community enhances the quality of their lives.

Anne