Spades hit the ground on community-owned development bringing 39 affordable homes and 3 retail units to Stirchley, Birmingham.
On Friday 16th June Stirchley Co-operative Development (SCD), an innovative, community-led housing and retail development in South Birmingham, broke ground on their ambitious new, democratically-owned and run, building. Construction will now begin on 39 new homes and three fit-for-purpose retail units for long-established Stirchley community businesses.
I attended the event held at the Grade II listed former Edwardian swimming baths in Stirchley – saved & restored as a vibrant community hub. As well as the tasty food provided by local co-op bakery, Loaf, I was impressed with the short, but from the heart speech made by new Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr John Cotton:
“What’s been really important to me throughout my time in politics has been my co-operative values as much as my Labour values. The co-operative ethos is central to how we build stronger more inclusive communities in our country and certainly here in this city, so the development you’re launching today is a real beacon about what we can do elsewhere in Birmingham, and under my leadership I’m really keen that we find more opportunities for co-operative housing, for co-operative retail, and for communities to come together and build their own solutions and their own ways of building stronger neighbourhoods.”
Certainly, if we’re to address the dire housing situation, not just a lack of affordable housing and mortgage interest rate hikes, but the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) freeze that is driving already vulnerable tenants into more dangerous homes – that are more expensive to keep warm, then we need to replicate projects like SCD on a grand scale, and quickly. SCD hasn’t happened overnight though, the group’s first meeting was in 2016.
The project plans were unanimously approved by Birmingham City Council in 2021, and the site was purchased from Seven Capital in the summer of last year after securing significant funding from Homes England and the European Interreg NWE. Construction of the three-storey development is now scheduled to be completed around autumn 2024. Tricas Construction will carry out the build using the modular closed panel timber frame method developed by Black Country manufacturer LoCaL Homes.
The overall cost of the progressive development is set to be £10.4 million, which will provide:
● 39 affordable rental homes with laundries and common garden spaces
● Secure, sustainable and fit-for-purpose premises for three existing co-operative businesses that are currently renting privately in Stirchley
● A new community space including a pedestrian walkway, seating, a shared garden and cycle parking
● Closed timber frame panels, provided by Walsall-based LoCaL Homes, will reduce the overall carbon dioxide emissions and heating bills versus traditional built properties due to its fabric first design principles and high-quality factory fitted insulation.
Mike Doolan, Sales and Partnership Manager at LoCaL Homes said:
“We are excited to be part of this innovative development which will help to meet local housing need. This community-led project is setting an example for others to follow in the provision of affordable and energy-efficient homes. Our off-site manufactured timber frames will help speed up construction times and reduce the environmental impact of this development.”
The scheme has been welcomed by the Stirchley community, with the planning application receiving over 300 positive recommendations, including from local business owners, community leaders and elected officials.
As the site is close to public transport, cycle routes and parks, it will include over 100 secure bike parking spaces donated by the Commonwealth Games organisers, and car ownership will be restricted through membership agreements.
Bea Hughes, SCD board member and volunteer, said of the planning decision
“This is a massive step forward for Stirchley. The culmination of years of hard work. I’m excited to be helping build more public space for the community in this project. Free of cars and affordable for tenants. It gives us hope in response to the rising cost of living and the climate crisis.”
Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, added:
“This is a community-led development. It is the kind of proposal that allows Birmingham to innovate and be a leader. It’s about local people coming together to provide quality, affordable housing, to those in need, and create retail space to allow three businesses to expand and grow. This is a refreshing change from the normal profit-led developments by companies whose shareholders have no interest in Stirchley.”
Founded in 2016, SCD is made up of members from two local housing co-operatives and three much loved local businesses, including Loaf bakery and cookery school, Artefact art space and café, and Birmingham Bike Foundry repair shop. The not-for-profit, mixed-use development has received project support from GreenSquareAccord, one of the largest housing and social care providers in England, and substantial financial support from Homes England, Power to Change and Interreg NWE CHARM.
For further information and to register interest in joining the co-operative housing development, visit stirchley.coop