Planning Permission Granted for London’s Largest Ever Affordable Self-Build Housing Scheme


render of proposed scheme

Community self-build group, the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (a.k.a RUSS) has unanimously been granted planning approval for an innovative 33 home scheme on a brownfield school site on Church Grove in Lewisham.

The 800 strong Lewisham-based Community Land Trust (CLT) teamed up with renowned sustainability architects, Architype and Jon Broome Architects to develop a pioneering scheme, which seeks to enable the skills of self-builders to deliver an ambitious fabric-first, high performance design; thereby tackling London’s housing affordability and accessibility challenges.

The homes range from one to four-bedroom properties. Fourteen of the properties will be available on a shared equity basis; 12 homes will be shared ownership; six rooms across two shared homes will be for affordable rent, and five of the homes will be for social rent (with the occupiers nominated by Lewisham Council).

Prices will be significantly lower than equivalent homes in the locality. This has been achieved by:-

  • Working in partnership with Lewisham Council to facilitate the site on a 250 year lease. The land will be held in a CLT, so the homes will be valued based mainly on the value of the building; not the building andthe land.
  • Architype has designed the homes so they are simple and cost effective to build. It is also proposed that the residents will do some of the construction work themselves, bringing the costs down further.

The design will incorporate external walkways with shared and private gardens to encourage neighbourhood interaction, as well as a shared garden and roof garden to facilitate food production. A community hall, office and kitchen will also be included to accommodate community meetings, performances and physical activities.

The scheme offers an alternative response to the current housing crisis in London, tackling not only the shortage and cost of homes but also the quality. Homes will be 10% greater than area standards in London and the ‘fabric first’ approach will drive down life-cycle costs. Residents are expected to enjoy low energy bills; for some as little as £70 a year.

The project is a return to Architype’s successful self-build roots, reflecting its early pioneering projects such as ‘Diggers’ self-build in Brighton and ‘Hedgehog’ in Bevenden, inspired by the late Walter Segal.

Project Architect, Sarah Ernst said: “This project has been a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with Architype’s self-build roots and develop a resilient new approach to affordable living. The design was developed through co-design workshops with the residents group to understand their priorities, and there will be further opportunities for the residents to customise their homes internally and externally as the scheme develops. We hope that this model becomes a precedent for other CLTs looking to build affordable homes.”

Lewisham’s Mayor Damien Egan is a supporter of the project. In 2017 he 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.”

RUSS Co-chair Anurag Verma said: “We’re delighted to have secured planning permission. 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.”

The homes should be completed in 2020.

RUSS Entrance Final view1 2 RUSS THREE B 2 RUSS TWO.2B 2