We can report exciting progress on CW plans – everything is getting to feel more realisable now that planning permission has opened the way to the construction process. To anyone uncertain about the success of Cohousing Woodside, we would say ‘come aboard now and help us make this an attractive and neighbourly community on one of the greenest sites in North London! Talk to us about becoming a member.’
The CW Steering Group met with Savills (Hanover’s Project Manager) on February 24, the first meeting of this ‘Project Group’ since the planning hiatus. Project meetings will be a regular occurrence and provide a formal setting for discussion and negotiation of key CW interests.
A good number of target key dates have now been set, including the time frame when early buyer discounts will cease. We can also announce that CW will have capacity for up to three shared ownership units for those who qualify and that we will benefit from a relaxation of Hanover’s age-restrictions so that a proportion of our households can be younger than 55+.
All Cohousing Woodside hands will be on deck next Monday to witness the planning sub-committee decision for the St Luke’s application. We will be in the gallery on Monday, supporting Hanover. Because the application now comes with a recommendation for approval from the planning officers there is an fair chance, this time, that permission will be granted.
Anyone wanting to learn more about the proposals might like to turn up for 7.00 Monday night at the Council Chamber, The Civic Centre, High Road, Wood Green, N22 8L. The full report to committee can be found on the following link:
July 2013’s refusal of the previous application was mostly on the grounds that the plans had not met Haringey Council’s declared preference for more ‘general needs’ social housing. This is subsidised accommodation for local families as opposed to housing for older people. From the report, it looks as if the two parties have agreed a position on this point, with 12 units for families and 36 for people over 55. The significance of this lies in its impact on demand for education locally, where existing schools have no capacity. The Council is requiring Hanover to pay nearly £700k as a contribution to the expected ‘child yield’ from just under one third of the scheme.
Generally, it appears to have been accepted that the attractiveness and amenities of the St Luke’s site will be preserved as far as possible. The application is for 161 units altogether, all built to ‘Lifetime Homes’ standards, offering adaptability for declining mobility.. The density of development for the entire site is at the lower end of the Mayor’s requirements – much more could be built, but Hanover wishes to keep and enhance the desirability of the site as a place to live.
There is a planning requirement that St Luke’s be designated a ‘car restricted development’, with 100 car-spaces in a basement car-park, surface-level blue-badge parking and no permissible on-street parking. In recognition of this, there will be car-club spaces for three cars and investment in more bus-stops. Hanover is likely to offer free car-club membership for residents and £50 credit for the first year.
As part of the ‘Ready for Ageing’ debate in the House of Lords on 17th October Ros Wilkins, having declared her interest in Cohousing Woodside, once again advocated cohousing as a way of living that combines today’s aspiration for the autonomy of our own homes with being within a supportive community.
“It is a model well established in continental Europe, where senior cohousing communities are encouraged by various Governments also faced with rapidly ageing societies. They are based on a range of ages over 50 and are a self-help model—fundamentally a means of prevention, harnessing the energies of younger cohorts of older people to address their own futures and help others.”
She touched on the slow progress of OWCH over the past 10 years and attributes Hanover Housing Association’s insightful initiative to support senior cohousing as an example that others should follow.
“This model of cohousing deserves much greater official support and encouragement in a housing and planning system where the cards are totally stacked against it. Hanover’s enterprise in promoting it is to be applauded and lessons need to be learnt from the 14 groups around the country struggling to develop senior cohousing. The authorities must be shaken out of their torpor by the report of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, and start to take radical action. So much could and should be done. The Government could do much to offer incentives to developers and local authorities. For instance, they could provide public land from public housing sites.
Cohousing is obviously not the answer to societal ageing, but it is one answer, and one that makes full use of the assets of our older population.”
We had our first meeting in a new venue in Hornsey on September 8. It turns out to be an excellent place to meet, eat and socialize and we will hold our October, November and December meetings there too. Our next meeting, October 6, is one that we are encouraging visitors to make a special point of attending, now that the holiday season is over. We will be showing a film on cohousing experience in other countries for a discussion about its relevance to our own cohousing project.
Getting the benefits of cohousing
We have a valuable window of opportunity in the coming months before planning permission is granted to expand our numbers and develop the group more effectively. Early members will benefit from Hanover’s 10% discount or 15% retained equity offer. After a certain point, this will not be available.
Becoming a regular participant in the group meetings is not just a matter of ticking boxes – the whole point of cohousing is that everyone takes part in shaping the group’s way of life, agreeing policies and making important decisions that will have a bearing on the community experience for everyone. If we are all seeking the same thing – a friendly, neighbourly environment on a lovely site – putting October 6, November 17 and December 15 into your diaries is a must.
The summer has been quiet on the St Luke’s front. We can now report that a further meeting between Hanover and the Council has taken place since planning permission was refused. This was positive and amicable and both sides are revisiting the proposals. Hanover is potentially looking at a revised planning application in the late Autumn. This will be progressed by an acting chief executive, Rona Nicholson, as Bruce Moore, Hanover CEO, left the organisation as scheduled in early September. As far as we know, Bruce’s successor, Dame Clare Tickell, (for her twitter, see @ClareTickell) will take up post by the end of the year. According to the Hanover website, she was voted ‘most admired chief executive’ in 2009 by Third Sector magazine.
Bruce promoted the concept of senior cohousing in Hanover and we hope Clare will be equally enthusiastic. At its July meeting, Hanover’s Board expressed its formal support for continuing the Cohousing Woodside development, among other cohousing schemes.
Joan M Smith of Fortismere Avenue N10 attended the planning sub-committee meeting on 8 July, where she addressed the councilors eloquently, then wrote a valiant heart felt letter in support of housing needs for the over-55s. This was published in the local paper Ham & High in their 25 July edition.
Read it here online on Ham & High’s site
The OPINION letter is on page 24. You can skip the initial advertising video after a few seconds. Click on the page to zoom in.
The developer of the St Luke’s site is Hanover Housing Association. It is a charity specifically aimed at providing retirement housing and continuing care facilities for an older age-group. As landlord of the St Luke’s site, it has stipulated that there should be one householder over the age of 50 years in each unit of our proposed cohousing community. This age requirement represents a relaxation of Hanover’s normal rules, but, even so, it raises issues for a group like ours. We are faced with two opposing views in establishing our prices, for example – one, that the downsizing older population is a reliable source of demand that boosts market values, or, two, that any age-restriction in housing depresses its market value.
Hanover recently announced that it is marking its 50th anniversary by ‘inviting 10 think-tanks from across the political spectrum to suggest new approaches for policy-makers and service providers’. They are asked to reflect on the implications of an ageing society where older people are ‘fitter, more active and more aspirational than previous generations’. Bruce Moore, Hanover chief executive, writing in the Guardian in early April, recognised that current models of retirement housing may no longer be appropriate for the baby boomer generation who have spent their lives exercising choice. This ‘requires us to question whether there is still going to be a place for age-specific housing’.
There is a debate to be had in Cohousing Woodside along these lines. Currently required to be ‘age-specific’, we know that this is a condition that was unwelcome to earlier members. This is softened by the fact that younger family members are welcomed alongside those of 50+ who qualify for membership. We are far from anything resembling a retirement community – even if retirement-age goalposts were also not constantly changing. Will Hanover eventually change its orientation to celebrate its own 50th birthday? Would we choose to specify the 50+ age-range if we were given the choice? There are arguments for and against and it is undeniable that people who have reared their own families, often welcome an environment that is not dominated by other people’s kids. It is clear that, in later life, one can be out of step with one’s neighbours if they are all out at work and you are not. We are determined that Cohousing Woodside will not turn into a ‘retirement community’ but will enjoy a broad mix of younger and older ages, workers, non-workers etc that feels right and balanced.