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Hackney retirees’ £6.5m cohousing dream becomes a reality – but means they have to move to Colchester

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 October 2017

Barbara (front row on right) and Anne (middle row on left) with other members of the Cannock Mill Cohousing group. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing

Barbara (front row on right) and Anne (middle row on left) with other members of the Cannock Mill Cohousing group. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing

Archant

A revolutionary co-housing project hatched in Hackney and bankrolled by 40 people’s retirement cash has been set up – but it’s a bit of a commute.

Members of the Cannock Mill Cohousing group on the development site in Colchester. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing Members of the Cannock Mill Cohousing group on the development site in Colchester. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing

Four of the nine Hackney workers who drew up the original plan are getting ready to up sticks to a £6.5million cohousing development for their retirements.

But the nearest they could find somewhere affordable to set up their cohousing dream was Colchester. The 23-home Cannock Mill Cohousing project was “impossible” to build in Hackney due to land prices, the scheme’s architect told the Gazette.

“Despite the fact a lot of us wanted to downsize, sites were just too few and far between,” said Anne Thorne, 65. “And those that were available were quickly snapped up by developers.”

Anne, who has lived and worked in the borough since 1981, said the idea for the project was built up here in Hackney.

Barbara (second from right) and other members of the Cannock Mill project. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing Barbara (second from right) and other members of the Cannock Mill project. Picture: Cannock Mill Cohousing

“We were a group of Hackney residents who began talking about our elderly parents and all the issues relating to care for older people,” she said.

“We decided that we wanted to do something different for our own futures, and started looking for a place where we could make a cohousing project work.”

The group have sold 20 of the properties, which range from single-bedroom flats to three-bed houses, so far. Prices begin at £200,000 and go up to £600,000.

Some 40 people, aged 55 to 75, are expected to move in after construction is completed in October 2018.

One of the project’s founders, Barbara Simpkins, told the Gazette she will miss the “vibrancy” of the borough, but is looking forward to leaving behind an “increasingly overcrowded” London. The 70-year-old has lived in the borough for the last four decades.

“I will miss my friends and the people I’ve lived with all these years,” she said.

“But on the other hand I’m swapping that for things I can’t get in Hackney, such as open space and close proximity to the countryside.”

The move is also inspired by the idea of “living independently but together”, Barbara said.

“The main thing that brought everyone together is the desire for a neighbourly feeling,” she said.

The group is holding an event in Spitalfields on November 4 to advertise the three remaining unsold homes.

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