Leeds housing focus: ‘We’re trying to create a village in houses that are ecological’

VILLAGE PEOPLE: Paul Redgrave, Anne Hall and Sylvia Landells of Shangrileeds.
VILLAGE PEOPLE: Paul Redgrave, Anne Hall and Sylvia Landells of Shangrileeds.
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ShangriLeeds is a new co-housing group hoping to replicate LILAC’s success.

Its six core members are currently on the hunt for a site in the city to build their ambition of 20 houses with a common house, children’s play area, allotments and an orchard.

And their plans have been attracting support, with 34 people so far registering an interest in living at the new community.

The group has been working with developers on a bid to Leeds City Council for land between Meanwood and Chapel Allerton and will learn next month if they have been successful.

Money has so far come from members’ savings and the sale of their properties but once a site has been found, the group can apply for grants and loans from supportive banks and building societies - of which there are a few.

Group member Paul Redgrave said: “We’re part of a growing movement of people wanting to do something a bit different to their housing.

“We started with six of us but now we have 34 people signed up - people of all ages, some families, older people, younger people. We’re keen on being a multi-generational group.”

He added: “There is a real crisis and shortage of housing and we want to be part of getting more good housing.

“The current way people build houses to me means isolation and loneliness - they’re major features of our society.

“We’re trying to create a village - to know your neighbours and create an intentional community, in houses that are more ecological.”

A major hurdle for ShangriLeeds - and other co-housing groups across the country - is obtaining land for their projects.

The group has had several failed attempts to buy land, as it is forced to go up against big-name developers and their deeper pockets.

Paul said: “It’s difficult and frustrating. There is a conflict between local authorities under central government directives to maximise receipts from selling land and their desire to support community-led housing. There are various grants around so there is encouragement for us nationally and locally but it’s quite difficult to actually try and turn it all into reality.”

Fellow member Sylvia Landells said: “We have to do something about housing in this country. It’s so in demand.

“We’re planning on setting up a community land trust which is in the middle between buying on the open market and the private rented sector. LILAC has shown it’s not just a pipe dream and we want to emulate that.”