Transition Homes – find out more
Planning application submitted, validated and available for comment.
After a mere seven years from its initial inception as a project idea, the planning application for Transition Homes' 27 houses at Clay Park, Dartington has been submitted to South Hams District Council. In October we were assigned a new planning officer and have had positive discussions with South Hams planning department about our application.
South Hams District Council have now validated the application and made it available for viewing and comment on their website. We encourage you to comment on the application online. A decision is due by early May.
The mix includes 27 terraced houses of 1, 2, 3 and 4 beds, and a mixture of affordable rental, shared ownership and open market. The 8 market houses are required to cross-subsidise the affordable housing and make the scheme financially viable. 70% affordable is an exceptional proportion of affordable housing, especially considering how little has been provided in South Hams over the last few years.
The development also includes a community building, biomass boiler building, outdoor play area, lots of bike parking (and some car parking), renewable energy, food growing areas (allotments, orchard), coppicing and new hedges, and the UK's first community-scale composting toilet scheme to be approved by Environment Agency!
June 2015 - grant funding & compost toilet success
At Transition Homes we're celebrating a successful application to the Community Buildings & Housing fund, who have recently awarded us £35,000 of pre-development funding to pay for the final work required for our planning application, including planning fees of £11000.
The TH team started 2015 with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We'd previously secured a grant to pay for our not-insubstantial planning fees from the HCA's Community Led Project Support fund, which had a deadline of end-March, and were going all out to achieve this. In February, we realised we weren't going to meet that deadline due to specific requirements of the grant and difficulties in the South Hams planning department. It was quite demoralising to realise we were going to be £10000 short, but we ploughed on with the work and our final community consultation. Thankfully we were informed of this new grant and we put in an application as soon as it opened, and were successful.
Another issue we've faced is a long-running discussion with the Environment Agency about how we handle our greywater and poo. We always wanted to treat our greywater on site and have composting toilets. Planning policy states that where a development could connect to the mains sewer, this is what should be done - and we could connect to the mains behind Puddavine Terrace. However we've been trying to fight the case on environmental grounds, due to the energy and water which would be saved by treating it on site, and the benefits of retaining these nutrient-rich resources. After many months we were informed we'd have to discuss it with the permitting department of the EA as we'd have to obtain a license to treat our own greywater, which would involve annual fees of over £2000. Again, we were told mains sewerage was preferable - without giving a reason - and we were unlikely to obtain a permit. We sent them further information regarding the permit, and have yet to receive a response. We've done so much work with our drainage consultant Chris Weedon to develop the plans for our treatment system, and yet, we've accepted that it's not looking likely.
We are still fighting the case to have composting toilets, and are faced with a number of regulations on waste, with lots of requirements including having to lab test both the 'sludge' (compost) and the soil to which it's applied, every 6 months in perpetuity, and having to document the testing and how much compost we're producing, among other things, if they do grant us an exemption to do. We are now having a productive conversation, and hope a face-to-face meeting will help them to understand and support our proposals.
We're also having discussions with Western Power Distribution around our plans for renewable energy, due to upgrades required to the grid and a lack of capacity for any further renewables in the south-west putting a dampener on our hopes to install over 130kW of PV panels. Thankfully we have some great technical expertise in the form of Fraser Durham, who has been helping us to understand our options. We're waiting to hear back from WPD regarding our latest proposal, and looking to secure a formal offer from them so we can proceed.
Now we're bringing together all the information for the planning application. Our planning officer at South Hams has left as of the end of May, in a big shake up of the department. We're waiting to find out who our new officer is, but talks with the new head of the department have so far been very encouraging!
Every time we've set a goal for the planning application, it's shifted. We're lucky to have a team who are determined (stubborn?), and knowing the community backs the development helps us to maintain our motivation in the face of challenges. We're also inspired by other CLTs - both those who are just starting out, such as Cambridge Living Future Community who we're helping with information about funding and business planning, and local Broadhempston CLT, who have been on site for the last few months, framing and insulating, and who'll be getting their strawbales installed soon. We hope that the next update will say that the application is in, and invite you all to support it, to show South Hams that community-led, affordable, sustainable housing is what we need!
May - Transition Homes CLT is a registered charity
We're pleased to announce that the Charity Commission has accepted our application and awarded us charity status.
Resources from recent events
Posters shown at our recent Community Consultation and National CLT Network SiBi event are available online, along with other documents.
March 2015 - upcoming CLT Network event
We'll be holding our final community consultation at Dartington Village Hall on Saturday March 14th from 11am - 2pm, where you'll be able to see the site layout, house designs, energy systems and more which will be submitted with our planning application later in the Spring.
Established and fledgling CLTs from around the UK are invited to join us at a 'See it and Believe it' CLT network event supported by the National CLT Network, here in Totnes on Friday March 20th. We'll be showcasing what we've done and answering your questions - it's a great opportunity to network with other CLTs and find out more about sustainable development and natural building materials. Places are limited, but free - please book here.
November - successful funding bids
The CLT has recently been successful with applications for top-up pre-development funding to help us with our water & waste treatment, and landscape design following permaculture principles, from a Community Renewable Energy Grant provided by the Naturesave Trust, and from the Devon County Council Locality budget, through Councillor Rosemary Rowe. We are very grateful to both for their assistance.
We're now full members of the National CLT Network. Their website has many useful resources for start-up and established CLTs.
There is also a great map of registered CLTs across England and Wales, so you can find projects close to you.
Community Consultation - May 10th 2014
Dartington Village Hall, 11am - 3pm
As part of our design process and preparations for the planning application we held a community consultation drop in event. Over 80 people from the local area cam along to find out about the project and to offer support, to express concerns and to ask questions. We took two tours of the site, in spite of the showers!
As promised, you can view the content from the Community Consultation online. If you have any comments, please get in touch.
A short video from the event is online here.
Transition Homes staff recruited
Using part of the £50,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency we are delighted to have appointed Nicola Lang as our part-time co-ordinator, and Jessica Gotham as an intern, to assist in all the work needed to submit a planning application for about 25 low cost sustainable houses and a community hub on the Clay Lane site later this year.
Volunteer opportunities on Transition Homes development
Because construction will be with local natural materials such as straw and rammed earth, there will be opportunities for people to volunteer on the build and get some training in sustainable construction. They will be working alongside skilled local builders. Volunteering is empowering, increases skills, knowledge and future employment prospects and keeps costs low. There will also be opportunities to volunteer with catering and planting. We will be starting to recruit volunteers quite soon so look out for further information.
Read an interview with Transition Homes CLT for the REconomy project here.
- Using local natural materials and the least possible fossil fuels in the build and in the manufacturing and transport of materials
- Having high levels of insulation, generating energy on site and using grey water and rainwater harvesting
- Supporting residents to live a low impact lifestyle e.g. reducing need for car and energy use
- Enabling greater self-sufficiency, including providing space to grow food.
We are delighted to have purchased Clay Park, near Puddaven in Dartington Parish, near Totnes . We plan to build around 25 homes on the seven acre field as well as create space for allotments, woodland for coppiced fuel and a community hub building. The £250,000 needed to buy the site was loaned to the CLT by local supporters. We have already secured funding to pay the costs of submitting a planning application and are considering the best ways to raise the development funding. Banks such as Triodos, Charity Bank and Ecological Building Society have already expressed their interest in the project but we are also looking at the possibility of raising community investment as the best way to make this a really local project and part of a thriving local economy.
Take a look at this short report and film of the tree planting we did to celebrate the site purchase.
Because the site is not included in South Hams District Council DPD (Site Allocations Development Plan Document) for this area, we are consulting with the planners to secure their support for the development as an exception. The development will include shared ownership property and socially rented homes which we aim to keep genuinely affordable by keeping rents within housing benefit limits.
Public consultation event - June 2013
We held the first of these on 15th June 2013 at Dartington Parish Hall. As promised, you can take a look at the exhibition here.
After so many years planning and searching we are delighted to be getting so close to making this project happen, and would like to thank all our supporters for making it possible.