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Minister signals start of unique cohousing scheme in Barnet

2 March 2015

New Ground Cohousing Launch 01

Work has begun on a groundbreaking housing development in Barnet, north London – the UK’s first purpose-built, senior cohousing scheme exclusively for older women – developed by Hanover.

Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, signalled the start on site of the “New Ground Cohousing” development in Union Street, Barnet. The site will see 25 one- two- and three-bedroomed homes developed by Hanover for Older Women’s Cohousing (OWCH) of Barnet.

OWCH is a group of women aged from 50 to 80+ who got together to plan this first co-housing community of older people in the UK.

The completed scheme will encompass 25 flats – 17 of which have already been acquired off-plan by members of OWCH. Eight flats, part-funded by the Tudor Trust, have been set aside for OWCH members who are social renters, in partnership with charitable housing association Housing for Women who specialise in providing gender sensitive support services to women.

In a fully collaborative process, OWCH has worked with Hanover through the planning phase and with architects Pollard Thomas Edwards on the design of the completed scheme – in accordance with local environmental and HAPPI (Housing Our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation) Report recommendations. The aim is to create a contemporary, well-designed, low-energy building – including common areas and garden space – suitable for living in later years and blending sympathetically with the local conservation area.

The scheme is due to complete in February 2016, when Hanover will hand over management of the scheme to Housing for Women, a charity supporting women by providing secure, affordable housing and related services.

Tracy Lavers, Executive Director of Development for Hanover, says: ‘Five years ago the HAPPI Report championed the idea of interdependence rather than independence. It proposed self-supporting communities as an alternative to the more traditional forms of retirement housing and housing that positively reflects the hopes and desires we all have for our later lives.

‘The “New Ground Cohousing” scheme in Barnet is one of the first tangible outputs of Hanover’s enabling role in implementing that philosophy. It is a really interesting and innovative project, reflecting a range of tenures, and Hanover is fully committed to its success.
‘It has naturally taken time to get to this stage with this scheme – we are really at the outset of the construction stage of this project. All the hard work and planning to date by all stakeholders finally starts to come to fruition, though we know there will be challenges ahead.

‘We look forward with our partners in OWCH, and with the other stakeholders, to the success of this project.’

Christopher Graves, Director of the Tudor Trust, says: ‘This has been an extraordinary journey for the members of OWCH, and the Tudor Trust has been privileged to be part of that journey. Our trustees have supported the project in anticipation that this aptly-named scheme really will break new ground in demonstrating the social value of co-housing, especially for older people.’

Maria Brenton, a consultant for OWCH, adds: ‘It is a fine achievement to have come this far and we are grateful to Hanover. Even more important than construction, though, is the “virtual community” OWCH members have already developed as a basis for their life together in the new building.’

Jakki Moxham, Chief Executive of Housing for Women, says: ‘Our pioneering cohousing scheme gives older women the unique opportunity to live in a mutually-supportive community, but also have the privacy of their own front door. With specialist older women services, and 80 years’ expertise in social housing and gender support services, we are proud to be part of this scheme that enables older women to stay independent and active for as long as possible.’

Architects Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE) have designed the scheme, in collaboration with the members of OWCH. Patrick Devlin, Partner at PTE, says: ‘This has been an exceptional opportunity for us build on our work on the HAPPI report by putting together and refining a collaborative design process with an engaged and enthusiastic group of future residents. With the backing of Hanover and the guidance of Housing for Women, the members of OWCH have worked hard and creatively to achieve a design that reflects their values and identity.

‘With custom build and cohousing in the public eye, pathfinder projects such as this show what can be achieved with the right stakeholder commitment. The group’s investment in the design process will contribute significantly to the intentional and mutually supportive character of the finished development. For PTE, lessons learnt from the women of OWCH are already informing the range of our 3rd Age housing work, as well as collaborative design with other cohousing groups.’

The construction of “New Ground Cohousing” is being undertaken by Quinn London.