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Hook Norton Community Housing

A GreenLab pilot demonstrator of how a smart, local energy system can be integrated into a rural community housing project.

The Project

With our population growing, we need to ensure we have enough homes for all. However, many new housing developments build homes which are not affordable for everyone, and which don’t take sustainability into account.

Hook Norton Low Carbon are tackling this issue head-on in their own community, designing and developing a set of homes in their Oxfordshire village which are specifically designed to have a minimal carbon footprint, as well as being affordable and accessible to all members of their community.

This housing project began when local members of Hook Norton Low Carbon, one of our Low Carbon Hub CIC Community Members, decided they wanted to do something with an area of overgrown and neglected land in Hook Norton. They came up with the idea of using the land to develop affordable homes for local people.

The first step in bringing this idea to life was to check that the local community supported the housing project, and what they would want to see included.

In March 2018 the group delivered a community housing survey to over 1000 homes in Hook Norton, with 533 completed.

It was clear from the community survey that there was a desire for community housing, and that there were some key elements that local residents of Hook Norton wanted to see in a new housing development:

  • Shared community spaces
  • Green, outdoor spaces
  • Sustainable building practices
  • The homes to fit in with the look and existing community of Hook Norton village
  • A variety of ages within the residents, allowing different generations to mix
  • Some or all of the houses to be affordable to allow for diversity of residents.

With the requirements of the housing development fully fleshed out, it was starting to come to life. Hook Norton Low Carbon began the process of setting up a Community Land Trust, which would allow the development and management to take place – ensuring that the homes remain affordable and community-owned for the long term. The Hook Norton Community Land Trust became an official entity in July 2019.

Charlie Luxton Design were chosen as the architects for the project. The cost of the architecture practice was covered by an OxFutures Green Fund grant, matched funding which is available to innovative low carbon start ups – this funding also allowed the group to employ staff to work on the project, commissioning site reports and surveys, and more.

Community input has remained crucial throughout, and their ideas for the design and layout of the housing project were presented to the community, who were able to offer their input and shape the final designs.

This final design was submitted as part of the full planning application for the housing project to the local authority in January 2020, and was successful in May 2020, meaning it can go ahead!

With planning permission granted, the next step for Hook Norton Community Land Trust to raise the funds to allow the build to take place. This will include opening a community share offer in order to raise funding for the build to take place. Once building is underway, a formal housing register will be opened to allow anyone to apply to live in the houses once completed. It was originally anticipated that the build would begin in the summer of 2020, to be completed in 2021, but Covid19 delayed this plan.

The Low Carbon Hub are also working on designing a microgrid for the housing project as part of Project LEO, which would allow the new housing development to be powered autonomously. This would connect the solar rooftop panels, but also allow electric vehicles to be connected – meaning that they can be used as energy storage (effectively batteries) when not in use. This could provide a decentralised system of locally generated energy and allow the community to be more energy independent and environmentally friendly.

Give the OxFutures team a call today on 01865 246009, or visit our funded projects page to find out more about our legacy projects.

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