Cambridge Cohousing has broken ground on its Orchard Park project, marked with an open day attended by future residents. The ceremony marks the beginning of a 12-month build schedule on the newly named Marmalade Lane site, previously known as K1.
The name was selected to mark the historic jam factory that stood on a nearby site, and which will be the name of the street running through the development. The cohousing community will be the first of its kind in Cambridge, and is due to complete in July 2018.
Planning permission for the project was granted in late 2016 for 42 mixed-use, customisable properties, ranging from one-bed apartments to four-bed family homes.
The project, which began in 2013, was backed by Cambridge City Council in an attempt to develop better-quality housing for the city through new delivery routes. The project supports sustainable living, with a large shared garden, communal kitchen and other joint facilities.
Working with the council and Cambridge Cohousing, TOWNhus has created a flexible custom build model that they hope will have longevity after Marmalade Lane completes.
The concept involves purchasers selecting a shell system before following a step-by-step customisation approach, which is then built out by the contractor. The external façades of the homes have shared uniformity with limited finishing options from a palette, while the interior floor plans can be specified by the purchaser.
TOWN’s directors, Jonny Anstead and Neil Murphy, said of the model: “The upside to an approach like this is if you get involved early, you get the maximum choice for customisation.
“Yet there are only so many ways you can adapt a property using this model, meaning any unsold homes can be treated like normal, open-market units which we can then specify ourselves.
“This means that the developer is not reliant on 100% sales prior to commencement. This makes planners much more confident that the development won’t become a gap-site.”
The scheme is being financed through equity, with the total cost likely to reach £8million. Purchasers have bought units at the going rate for the location, using standard high street finance schemes.Early adopters of the scheme were also given an additional discount.
The properties have been sold on long leases of 999 years, with the cohousing group holding the freehold.
There are currently seven units left on the site, with some shared ownership units being released later in the year.
Words: Jen Grimble Pic credit: Darcstudio; Onur Pinar
This type of custom build scheme provides security to developers. If units are unsold, or sales fall through, the developer will not be left with complete one-offs that are then unlikely to appeal to anyone else. It provides assurance that the units can be resold and it also gives confidence to planners. This custom build approach makes for an easier win and anyone following in TOWNhus’ footsteps will find they have a better chance of success, since council’s will have already observed the benefits of such an approach.