Transition Homes news 2013-2017
December - Planning permission granted for Clay Park
We have at long last officially received planning consent for the Transition Homes scheme at Clay Park, Dartington. Some of you may be under the impression we already had it – but although we knew it had been approved by South Hams Council in February, it has taken this long to sort out the planning conditions and get all the paperwork signed off. It's a huge relief and many thanks to everyone who played a part in getting us to this stage, including the nearly 100 people who wrote letters of support for our planning application.
What's being built?
As a reminder, the consent is to build 27 houses to a very high eco standard with low running costs, using local natural materials (straw and wood) as far as possible, and providing some much needed good quality affordable housing for local people. The houses will be a much better standard than most, on a site which is quite challenging to access and service, so it is going to cost a bit more than average to build. So 8 of the houses will be sold on the open market to help cross subsidise the others, which will be a mixture of social rented and shared ownership. To reduce water consumption, all the houses will have compost loos and we'll produce our own electricity on site from the solar PV arrays. Also to save water and energy, there will be a shared laundry so people do not need their own washing machines.
Not just houses...
Living a decent life is not just about a warm comfortable house, it is also about feeling part of the place and sharing activities with neighbours. Inspired by co-housing 'common houses' Clay Park will also have a community hub – a space for meetings, parties and so on with a kitchen, office and loos. The development will occupy about two thirds of the seven acre field with the rest used for an orchard, wild flower meadow and vegetable growing. With a grant from the Postcode Lottery Trust we have already started work on improving the hedges and the biodiversity of the site.
We haven't been twiddling our thumbs waiting for the planning consent! We have been working closely with our architect Barry Jobson, project manager Oliver Del Mar and other consultants (lots of engineers!) to sort out all the fine details.
- choosing the best and most affordable foundations given we are not using concrete which releases a huge amount of carbon dioxide in manufacture
- detailing the timber frame design
- tweaking the house design to provide the best layouts
- choosing an efficient heating and ventilation system, given that the houses won't actually need much heating
- agreeing the road layout and materials used for the adopted and unadopted roads with DCC (a condition of the planning application)
- balancing the street lighting requirements of the bats foraging along the hedges with the highways department requirements (we think the bats will win)
- the detailed design for the community building having consulted on what potential users would like
What about paying for it all?
South Hams District Council have contributed £190,000 towards the costs which we are spending on the detailed design work and extra surveys before we start building (unexploded ordinance anyone?).
The Big Potential, a grant pot that is part of the National Lottery, has funded consultants from Triodos Corporate Finance to help us raise the funding to build the scheme. We need funding in two stages.
The first is development finance, i.e. a loan to cover all the costs of building the development. At the end of the development we will be able to pay back a lot of that from the sales of the open market houses and the equity we sell in the shared ownership houses.
The second stage of finance is to cover the gap between costs and sales. This will be converted into a long term loan that we will pay back from the rents that we collect. Obviously we are committed to keeping the rents as affordable as we can so the amount of long term loan we can service is limited. At the moment we have a gap between the total likely cost and what we can afford to pay back from sales and long term loan. Hence we are busy applying for grants from the Homes & Communities Agency and eyeing up the new fund the government has announced for community led housing. Demand for these pots of money always far exceeds supply so we have to keep our fingers firmly crossed.
When will the building start?
We need to have raised all the finance, met the (pre-commencement) planning conditions and selected the builders before we can actually start. The first step will be to create a new access to the site onto the main road. While we are doing that one lane of the main road will have to be closed – and that cannot happen during the summer holidays. We now know it's unlikely we can do everything we need to in time to have completed the access before June – so all being well – we will start in September. We have not selected the builders yet but we're starting to talk to local firms who are excited by the prospect of a different style of build, and with the capacity to take on what is quite a big scheme.
Have a very happy festive season and we are all looking forward to making real progress in 2018!
October - Notice of our AGM
Join us for our AGM on Tuesday November 7th at 7pm at Dartington Village Hall, where we’ll be voting to elect two new Trustees to the Board. AGMs can be a bit dry, but we'll have some local mulled cider, tea and nibbles, and there will be time for asking questions and talking about our plans.
Please come and meet the team, and if you’re a member, vote! If you're unable to come, you can send us a proxy vote form (click here to download). If you'd like to become a member, you can join on the night or find out more here.
Meet our co-opted Trustees who we're voting to elect:
Tom Winfield: I am a carpenter and engineer interested in the integration of modern timber fabrication and traditional handcrafts in the design & build of rural housing. As someone currently renting in Dartington parish, I have a real and immediate interest in anyone trying to get access to land and housing, especially those trying to do so in a ‘sustainable’ way. Because of this I want to support Transition Homes CLT in delivering the Clay Park project and hopefully other innovative local housing initiatives in the future. I am particularly interested in development of rural, community-led, self-build and custom build, especially co-housing, affordable housing, and tiny homes and more widely, ruralism and the good stewardship of woodlands.
Ruth Sutcliffe: I grew up in social rented housing so understand what a difference quality affordable housing can make first hand. Most recently I have been living almost 8 years in intentional community (Bowden House). During my time there I have been very involved with membership processes and policy making, project managing small builds on site and most recently setting up and developing a housing co-operative to take ownership of the manor house at the centre of Bowden Community. I was involved in all aspects of this project including managing planning and refurbishment of the grade 1 listed building, financial project management, raising funds and overview of ongoing project co-ordination. As well as being a director of Bowden Housing Co-operative I am also a director of the freehold company at Bowden (Bowden House Ltd).
Hedge-laying at Clay Park
Published on: November 2nd, 2017
On Friday 27th October, as part of Devon Hedge week, Transition Homes organised an introduction to hedge-laying workshop at Clay Park.
It was a beautiful sunny and mild day, much better than expected for late October! 12 people joined Martin Stallard, who specialises in hedge laying and stonework, to learn the basics of traditional hedge-laying using hand tools. Martin explained the benefits of managing hedgerows in this way including creating habitat for wildlife, and demonstrated how to use a billhook - then everyone paired off and (with frequent questions to Martin) tried it themselves.
Having worked up an appetite we enjoyed a hot lunch from the Kitchen Table, and in the afternoon continued with hedge-laying, completing a substantial section of our southern boundary. Quite a lot of material is removed during hedge-laying, and it looks quite dramatic however next year we expect substantial new growth as there is plenty of sunlight along this section. The hedge will be laid again after 7-10 years.
Afterwards Myrtle Cooper of Wild & Curious led a group on a foraging walk of Clay Park, discovering various edible delights in the hedgerows and meadow, and we enjoyed cups of watermint, ground ivy and nettle tea made over the fire.
Both events proved so popular that we had a waiting list, and we will be running more hedge & foraging events in the spring, including renovation of a stone-faced bank (traditional Devon hedge bank) and creation of a new section of Devon hedge, alongside other conservation activities. Preliminary dates for the hedge work are March 7th - 9th. Please drop us an email if you're interested.
We are grateful for the funding from Postcode Local Trust, supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, which paid for Martin and Myrtle's tuition, and bought tools and gloves for workshop participants.
Work session at Clay Park, Sunday 10th September. 2-5pm, volunteers welcome!
Visit Clay Park during this year's Open Eco Homes weekend for a tour, Sunday 11am-2pm (tour at 1pm).
We'll be at the Eco & Community Homes Fair, Saturday October 21st, Totnes Civic Hall, 10am-3pm.
FREE hedgelaying and foraging training, Friday October 29th, 10am-4pm at Clay Park. Booking essential!
Open meetings June 28th & July 8th 2017
The CLT is holding open events in June and July, which are an opportunity to find out about Clay Park and ask questions, to contribute your ideas, and discuss how you can get involved.
- Weds June 28th, 7.30-9pm at Totnes Methodist Church, or:
- Sat July 8th, 11.00am-12.30pm at Dartington Village Hall
We're inviting people from Dartington, Totnes and the surrounding parishes to get involved in the CLT by becoming a member, a Trustee or a volunteer. This is an opportunity to be part of an inspiring project creating a low impact, resilient community of sustainable and affordable homes in Dartington - and to develop further schemes.
If you are interested in getting involved, please come along to one of the open meetings or if you can't make it, email us on email@example.com.
Join the CLT
Anyone living or working in the community can join the CLT as a member (it only costs £1). Members play an active part in the CLT’s work, supporting and guiding the work, making sure it is community-led and electing the board of Trustees. Find our more here.
Become a Trustee
We’re looking particularly for people with experience of financial management, and of running voluntary organisations, but would welcome anyone who has skills/experience and time to contribute. Find out more here.
There is plenty of work to do! If you’ve practical skills to help manage the site before construction, can help with events/workshops, or have experience in communication, marketing or sales (particularly around housing), fundraising, building community, or graphic design, or can generally spare some time to help progress the Clay Park scheme, we’d love to hear from you.
Clay Park Community day - April 1st 2017
Join us for a spring celebration of nature and community at Clay Park, the Transition Homes site.
FREE family friendly activities, talks, demonstrations, and refreshments - including foraging, hula hooping, crafts, traditional skills demonstrations, tree identification, nature connection, teas & cakes, and games. Bring a picnic and games (and wellies if it's wet!).
Also find out more about Transition Homes and our plans, including upcoming free community workshops & conservation activities.
Here's our Facebook event - please invite family & friends!
Directions: Please note there is no parking at the site. The ground can be uneven and wet. Please wear suitable footwear - wellies if it's wet! We regret the site's not yet suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs.
Location: Clay Park is off the A385/Ashburton Rd, between Puddavine Court and Clay Lane, and opposite the Jehovah's Witness hall/Puddavine Terrace. Postcode: TQ9 6EU. There is a public footpath sign at the entrance to the site.
Bus: The Stagecoach Gold and 88 services stop outside Puddavine Court.
By car: If coming by car, the nearest carpark is at Totnes station. Clay Park is 10 minutes walk from Totnes station, with pavements on each side of the road. If you are dropping people off there is a layby on the opposite side of the road. Please take care when crossing the road - there is a pedestrian island just up the road.
On foot: From Dartington, take the NC2 foot/cyclepath towards Totnes to lower Dartington drive, then turn right out of the drive on to the A385. From Totnes: follow the footpath along the A385.
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.
View the materials exhibited at our community consultation event.
- 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.