AFTER a decade of planning and negotiation, the creation of more than 50 eco-homes could start soon.

Bridport Cohousing says a development in the group's funding strategy means it is now well on its way to breaking ground - and the group has assured the public it will be able to make its 53 eco-homes 'even more affordable' for local people.

Bridport Cohousing says it now has ownership and full planning consent on the seven-acre site in North Allington, next to Bridport Community Hospital.

Once built, it will be the biggest cohousing scheme in the country, says cohousing member Lin Scrannage.

With tenders from construction companies currently under scrutiny, the group says it looks 'highly likely' that after a decade of planning and negotiation, the homes will start to be built by the end of this year, enabling 53 households to gain access to what it says will be affordable properties in Bridport.

The development, to be called Hazelmead, will feature homes built to Passive House Standard - homes which require little energy - and have a ‘common house’ on site, which will provide extra amenity space to all the residents.

This is one of the unusual features of the cohousing scheme, which provides private homes and gardens but also gives access to shared resources. Residents will be able to cook and share meals together at the common house and there will be a children's playroom, lounge, office space and a laundry.

Cars will be parked around the perimeter of the site, giving car free streets for children to play in, and the group says there will be a large shared area of green open space on site for some community food growing and for leisure activities.

"The idea of cohousing is to promote a neighbourhood with community at its heart and which is actively engaged in making its own decisions and managing its own organisation," the group said.

The cohousing development of one bedroom flats and two, three and four bedroom houses had always been for rent or sale at 80 per cent of open market value, but, a recent submission for grant funding from Homes England via the Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP 2016 to 2021) means it can now offer 26 of the homes for social rent through its partner housing association and 14 of the homes for leasehold sale will be available for shared ownership between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of the open market value.

On November 17, Bridport Cohousing will host an afternoon event for the public in the town hall which will give information about the project and answer any questions about what it might be like to live in cohousing.

This will be followed by a Q&A session about Shared Ownership Help to Buy and renting from their partner housing association.

It will be a free event, between 2-5pm, ticketed via Eventbrite and will be an opportunity for local people who are interested to find out more.

Bridport Cohousing says it is currently looking for new members, and is particularly interested in attracting young people and families to join the project. "The town and surrounding villages have a lack of affordable housing and many younger people are having to live with parents, pay high private rents or having to leave the town altogether because they cannot afford to buy or rent a home of their own here," a spokesman for the group said.

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