Planning permission has been granted for 9 houses designed by Hockerton Housing Project.
The earth-sheltered homes will be built on a greenfield site on the edge of a rural village. It is (rightly) not easy to get permission to build on such sites, and the owner had to take the case through to Appeal after the local Council refused permission.
One way to get planning permission on greenfield sites is to demonstrate outstanding architectural merit through an innovative design. This is notoriously difficult as the bar is constantly being raised, and features such as new technologies, complex shapes, height, and overall size add to land, design, build and running costs.
Our approach is the opposite. Our designs are simple and have exceptionally low running costs. However, we argue that we remain innovative so long as measures such as SAP and Passivhaus do not recognise our use of super-insulated thermal mass as a heat store.
The Appeals Inspector for this application recognised the many benefits of the form of our design but felt it was too simple in its aesthetic to get planning permission on the basis of architectural merit, and there was insufficient innovation in his view. That raises questions as to whether planning policy deters affordable housing in rural areas, but there is a positive in that the affordability of our design and the wider scheme remained pertinent to the final judgement.
Permission was granted on the basis that the greenfield site is not isolated and as such the homes would support the economic and social vitality of the village due to their energy saving credentials, size, appeal and affordability to young people and downsizers. Both the Council and the Appeal also recognised that the homes, with their earth-sheltering, related landscaping and reed beds will improve the biodiversity of the site.
The Daily Express has featured Hockerton Housing Project to illustrate the benefits of sustainable co-housing developments…
As my car bumps along the potholes of the dirt track, the setting that unfolds before me is idyllic. Sheep graze lazily in the field to my left and a dozen or so chickens cluck like gossiping washerwomen as two young children excitedly collect eggs from the henhouse.
In the distance there are beehives while ahead ducks glide effortlessly across the still surface of a lake as a heron swoops in. Nearby a couple of men wearing fleeces are engrossed in conversation.
Though you may imagine that I’ve arrived in a sleepy country park or farmyard this in fact is a snapshot of life at one of the many so-called co- housing projects that are springing up all over Britain…
It’s an unconventional way of life that certainly wouldn’t be right for everyone but it’s impossible not to admire what they stand for at HHP. I can’t deny that as I drive back up the dirt track and out into the rat race again, I can feel my own stress levels kick back in.
Read the full feature, including an interview with residents Bill and Lou, here.
How can your home achieve a better Environmental Performance Certificate?
Do you want a greener life at little extra cost of effort?
Saving energy in the home is a book written by Nick White in association with HHP. Nick has been a member of HHP since the start of the construction of the homes in 1996. He contributed to the self-build and has led the development and marketing of the Project’s on site ‘eco-business’ since 1998. Now with this book, Nick offers you straightforward and achievable strategies for reducing your energy bills and living a more environmentally aware life. With lots of useful tools to assess your energy and carbon use, Saving energy in the home gives practical advice on everything from heating homes to managing those teenage consumers.
On 21st March HHP provided the live location for Radio 4 programmes ‘You & Yours’ and ‘World at One’ as part of budget day.
Why? Well due to the expectation that the budget would include a number of ‘green’ measures to combat climate change. HHP were part of a panel of people asked to comment on the budget and in particular on any announcements by the chancellor to promote reduction in carbon use (or indeed what he did not annouce!).
Simon Tilley representing HHP gave a lukewarm response, welcoming insulation grants for pensioners, zero stamp duty for zero carbon homes, and support for renewables – but unhappy that aviation was not adddressed and that gas-guzzlers got away with meagre increases in VED.
Hockerton Housing Project has scooped an award in the National Energy Efficiency Awards run by UK CEED in partnership with EDF Energy . The event was also sponsored by defra and The Independent .
Nick White & Trudi Macagnino on behalf of HHP collected the top prize in the residential construction and renovation category this week (6 December) at the Science Museum in London.
Judges commented: “This is a commendable project that demonstrates how community leadership can achieve inspiring living spaces in absolute harmony with their surroundings”
“Hockerton Housing Project is an eco-community which grows much of its own food, generates its own power and enjoys massive energy savings. Over the past few years, the project has helped to spread the word that sustainable living is within everyone’s reach. To date, more than 10,000 people have visited to see it for themselves. The families have their own water collecting system and environmentally friendly sewage system – and their lifestyle produces other eco-benefits, such as the reduction in waste from food packaging.”
There was a special supplement about the awards & winners in ‘The Independent’ on 11th Dec 2006.