Yorkshire is currently leading the country in community led development.
Places like LILAC in Leeds are revered across the country for their successful pioneering of so many aspects of how new homes, places and communities could, and should, be.
Community based organisations like Leeds Community Homes, Yorspace, Harrogate CLT and many more around the county are showing that the ‘You get what you’re given’ approach of the big speculative house builders isn’t the only option for new homes and new places.
Government has just run a competition called Home of 2030 which has engaged young people, the general public, manufacturers and the professionals. The Government’s aim for the competition is affordable, efficient, healthy homes for all.
The response to the public engagement and the young people’s competition was shocking. Their descriptions and drawings of what homes and new places should be like were light years away from those the speculative housebuilders deliver.
The results are in now from the professional design competition and out of over five hundred expressions of interest and hundreds of entries, igloo, with our collaborators architects Mawson Kerr and sustainability specialists Useful Simple Trust, were one of six winners.
All six echoed the demands of the public and the young people.
For places that help to heal the planet not to destroy it, with homes that are suited to all ages and suitable for working from home and home schooling, and for places that, like LILAC, are healthy to live in and help generate strong communities.
If all these voices are aligned, why is it that the new homes the system delivers are identikit boxes on car-dependent estates that surveys show between two thirds and 80% of us would never buy?
The answer is that changing systems is really difficult. Big corporations lobby Government incessantly, and Government takes power away from local government and communities, forcing them to accept what the house builders give them.
It takes a huge effort by ordinary people getting together to demand better and, the truth is, many of us have other things we’d prefer to be doing, particularly when the odds are stacked against us. We know because it is a fight igloo engages in daily as we try to build great places and influence the industry to do the same.
We all know the famous post war poem. It might say in this context; They came for Wellhouse Lane, Penistone and I did not speak out, because I didn’t live there, then they came for Kingsley Drive in Harrogate but I did not speak out, because I didn’t live there, then they came for my neighbourhood and there was no-one who would speak out for me.
Which is why victories like LILAC are so important and why the test of the Government’s commitment to delivering great, healthy places, and communities, for young and old and that protect the planet, will be in whether they can get the six winning Home of 2030 designs built. And not just once.
Across the country people, including landowners and local government, are saying ‘Why can’t we have the kind of great new places designed for this Home of 2030 competition in our town or city’.
In Europe, these kinds of places are the norm. You see them in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia all the time. Places like Amsterdam’s Eastern Islands, or Vauban in Freiberg in southern Germany or Western Harbour in Malmö in Sweden are now decades old and streets better than almost every housing estate built since then in the UK.
In Finland, every year there is a Housing Fair, visited by hundreds of thousands of Finns hungry to see the latest and best in housing and place design. The latest one, the fiftieth, just finished in a place called Tuusula, about half an hour north of Helsinki.
In all those places and countries, if you want to build your own home, on your own, with help, or as a community, the system makes it happen for you.
In this country, in contrast, what happens at LILAC is the exception. It doesn’t need to be that way. Our politicians have the tools they need to make better new places happen. They just don’t know that they do, or they don’t want to.
Until that changes, or until we change them, it will be left to a few small developers like Citu with Kelham Island in Sheffield and the Climate Innovation District in Leeds, and igloo with The Ironworks in Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds, and to amazing community based groups like LILAC, Leeds Community Homes, Yorspace, Harrogate CLT and others who won’t take no for an answer, and who know a better world is possible, to fight for the right to make the world a better place.
Chris Brown, Executive Chair and Founder, igloo Regeneration