Church Grove community self build

Several southeast London families are moving Church Grove, a Community Land Trust project with a strong self build element – a project co-ordinated by community housing group the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS).

Originating 15 years ago as a concept, the project has witnessed people from the local community come together to plan, design and self build elements of the 36 home development in London.

With RUSS taking a pivotal organisational role, the Church Grove scheme has seen a range of local volunteers driving all stages of the process. As such, the residents were involved with forming a group, acquiring land, raising funds, supervising architects and contractors, getting planning permission, and building and landscaping together as a community.

Residents were given the choice of self build or self-finish, and most residents undertook some work on their own apartments, as well as helping with group work with other volunteers on communal elements, such as the community hub (see images below).

Being a Community Land Trust ensures the Church Grove homes are, and will remain, affordable, and the scheme includes homes of various sizes and tenures. These include full ownership, part rent/part-buy, London Living Rent and social rent. This means the homes are available for everyone, including lower-income families.

Resident determined how their housing is managed, and remain involved with the process through regular meetings in the on-site community hub.

The principal architect was Shepherd Epstein Hunter, with contributions from Architype and Jon Broome Associates, and the design teams worked with the future residents to co-designed the development. Community led housing projects tend to have a long timeline, and four of the original group of would-be residents left the project as their circumstances changed during the timeline.

The Chair of RUSS, Anurag Verma, said: “This has been a momentous and challenging project, but this community-led organisation has succeeded in creating a sustainable neighbourhood and unique housing model. This shows what can be achieved when ordinary people work together with a shared vision and determination.

“The project has been led by the community from the outset through the design, planning and building processes. The result is 36 homes with four tenure types, fully tailored to the needs of the residents. We hope that other community groups will be inspired to learn from this model and create their own housing to meet their needs.”

As the capital’s biggest community-led self-build housing project, the block has been supported by many people and companies on its journey, including the Greater London Assembly, the London Borough of Lewisham, the Cooperative Development Society, Triodos Bank, and Big Issue Invest. A new public riverside garden and play area is being built as part of the project, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust.

About RUSS

RUSS was set up in response to the lack of suitable affordable housing in London. It continues to work to create new neighbourhoods for the local community with an emphasis on local volunteering. It has been awarded permanent planning permission for its Community Hub, which was used a centre for education and training for the self builders and other community volunteers involved on the site.

You can support RUSS’ work by donating

Image credtis: Andrea Vladova, Ellie Koepke

Share this onShare on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter