As a part of our fact-finding mission to get ourselves fully clued up on the best way to redesign Oakfield Terrace, the Core Design Team recently went on a day trip roaming around the north-west, checking out design ideas and ownership models, looking at the work of other CLTs and cooperatives.
Our first port of call took us across Liverpool to Toxteth where we were welcomed by the lovely people of Granby Four Streets.
As we were shown round and told the story of the area, the resonances with our own were all too apparent. A forced decline, Housing Market Renewal and compulsory purchase orders that decimated the community all sounded very familiar, as did inadequate compensation that left many needing to take out a new mortgage in order to buy a new home.
The timescales were different – Granby’s story can be traced back to the 80’s, and although it’s taken time to change minds and bring the powers that be on board, things have now well and truly started to shift and they’ve got a lot of exciting stuff in place. Their monthly market is well established in the minds of people from the local area and further afield. Eleven houses are finished; Granby Workshop (www.granbyworkshop.co.uk) makes amazing tiles, doorknobs and other beautiful items and offers jobs for local makers; AND THEY HAVE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WINTER GARDEN.
“This reminds me of a better version of Kew Gardens”
We all fell in love with this.
And then we fell in love with it some more…
“It’s like a tardis…”
Taking up the space of two terraced houses that were too run down for the interior to be saved, this gorgeous space still looks – from the outside – like two regular houses, but step inside and it’s a beautiful space that’s been created for the community to use and enjoy.
We were also given a fantastic sense of how the Granby houses are being renovated, thanks to the generosity of Samuya who let us all troop inside her place. Particularly striking was the sense of space generated when the interior wall of the front room was knocked through and converted into an arch.
We really didn’t want to leave, but after a cuppa and some biscuits in the Winter Garden, we bid our farewells, and – after a quick drive round the neighbouring commercial development of the Welsh Streets (where the wide pavements were striking) – we headed off to Salford and the Vimto Gardens Housing Cooperative.
“It was a really good opportunity to live so close to the city centre, and to get a house not a flat”
Here, Sarah and Peter kindly invited us into their home, where – most of us – got our first taste of an upside-down house (where you go upstairs from the front door to get to the living room and kitchen). This actually felt surprisingly natural, a whole lot less weird than I thought it would, and it was a real privilege to get to wander through another stranger’s house and ask them what it was like to live there.
Leaving Vimto Gardens behind, we then drove the short distance to Prestwich where we visited the Village Greens Organic supermarket, and got to look behind the scenes at another cooperative run food retailer (with the bakery being a pretty sweet example closer to home).
“Things might cost a little more, but people appreciate it’s not going to shareholders”
Whilst the food was a little more expensive than you’d see in somewhere like Asda, it was interesting to hear how people from the area, who didn’t necessarily have a lot of money, would still choose to shop there: they liked to support local suppliers, they enjoyed the contact with the staff, and the food that catered for specific diets (vegan, gluten-free, etc) was another selling point.
There was also a really positive ethos in the shop when it came to waste – they were trying to move towards being entirely plastic free, and had a “Free Box” that they put any fruit and veg in as it started to turn so as to avoid waste. Customers are also encouraged to buy in portion sizes that they actually want: half a loaf, three mushrooms, one apple, etc – which both makes the food more affordable and, along with their policy of no “Buy One Get One Free” offers, ensures less food ends up in landfill.
It was inspiring to see how small changes add up to mean that things are done in quite a fundamentally different kind of way.
“Local people will come to a shop if it’s there.”
Whilst at Village Greens, we also got to sit down and have a chat with Dom, who was one of the original instigators of the shop, as well as someone who had retrofitted his house to maximise its energy efficiency.
The process of doing this had taken about 4 and a half months, with the majority of the work being done externally, and in such a way so as to not spoil the look of the house. And, after doing that, his energy bills were – more or less – halved…
Thinking back to the awful insulation and the single glazing that has been installed in some the places I’ve lived in over the years, it was hard to not feel some pretty strong pangs of jealousy.
“It’s no longer freezing cold if you get up to go to the loo in the middle of the night!”
We’re now moving into the final stages of the design, the Core Design Team will meet just one more time.
Before that though, we have our community drop-ins; anyone is welcome to come along to these and share their thoughts on how best to redesign the High Street.
They take place every Thursday and Friday until the 22nd March, at NowHere, the CLT HQ, 189 Oakfield Road (three doors down from the bakery).
More info is on the website here: www.homebaked.org.uk/now/news/lets_talk_about_oakfield_terrace
And finally, Jemma and Peter from the Core Design Team introduce themselves below.
This is work done on a house that has been in use for some time. New features (e.g. better insulation or solar panels) are installed whilst many of the original aspects of the house are maintained.