Devon group plans Totnes co-housing community

Childhood memories of "neighbourliness" have prompted a group to plan Devon's first co-housing community.

Totnes Cohousing Group wants to build 25 properties beside the River Dart, with residents sharing vehicles and meals.

The plans include a common house which would be used like a town hall and facilities such as a laundry room.

Pat Sykes, from the group, said: "Co-housing is very strongly in favour of doing things together."

She said: "I grew up in a terraced street so I've always liked the idea that neighbours are around you.

'Conflict resolution'

"I've also always wanted to live in an eco-house and most co-housing is full of renewable energy and energy saving measures."

Ms Sykes and the 13 other members of the group want between 25 and 30 eco-friendly houses to be built, including some as affordable housing.

The residents would share the common house as well as a garden and orchard to grow their own produce.

But Ms Sykes said the group, which has spent four years planning the development, is aware that living in a community could be challenging.

Image caption The plans have been four years in the making

"We have been having training in group development, conflict resolution and good decision-making, as well as how to be sociable and care for each other."

Cars will also be shared and limited on the site to keep the streets vehicle-free.

Laura Keely, from the group, said: "Nowadays there are far more cars on the roads, people don't know their neighbours. In co-housing you can design car-free streets."

Co-housing is relatively common in places such as Scandinavia and America and according to the Co-housing Network there are 10 communities in the UK, including one in Cornwall and one in Dorset.

The Totnes group has a number of families interested in signing up to the scheme, but is keen to recruit more.

Ms Sykes said: "We're going to need a mix of housing and people of different ages and gender to create a balanced group."

The Totnes development has outline planning permission but will need full planning permission before it can go ahead.

If it gets the green light the group is hoping the homes would be built and ready for occupation in October 2013.

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