Ladywell’s RUSS community land trust hopes to start on site next year

The biggest self-build housing project in London’s history, designed by Architype, has gone in for planning.

Construction of the £8.6 million project for 33 low-cost homes in south-east London could start next year. It should be completed in 2020.

The Church Grove project in Lewisham was the brainchild of Kareem Dayes, who grew up in the Walter Segal self-build community Walters Way in Honor Oak Park.

He set up the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) as a community land trust in 2009, with the mission of creating sustainable neighbourhoods and genuinely affordable homes using a replicable process. It now has 700 members.

RUSS got its first site, a derelict former school and industrial site with poor access in Ladywell, from Lewisham council on a 250-year lease in 2016.

Architype led a community design process and Jon Broome Architects was community facilitator. Broome, a former Architype director, worked with Segal on his original 1970-80s Lewisham schemes, as did Architype’s Bob Hayes.

All 30 houses were allocated to eligible local people through a ballot. The homes range from one to four bedrooms. A dozen will be shared ownership; 14 shared equity; six rooms across two shared homes will be for affordable rent; and five of the homes will be for social rent.

Councillor Damien Egan, Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Lewisham has a radical housing tradition and RUSS’s self-build community land trust builds on that history. Most importantly this is a development that will keep homes affordable in perpetuity.”

This is possible because the value of the land is separated from the value of the buildings.

In addition, the energy-efficient homes have been designed to be simple to build and maintain. Some of the construction work will be done by the residents.

Dayes said: “We’re delighted we have got our detailed planning application in for the site. It’s been a long journey, but after eight years of community effort, huge levels of support from Lewisham council, the GLA and many other bodies this is a really important milestone.

“Our members have worked tirelessly to get here; and we are now confident that we can achieve our dream of delivering genuinely affordable community-led neighbourhoods right across London. This is the first of, we hope, many similar projects.”

RUSS CLT residents' group this summer

RUSS CLT residents’ group this summer