Passivhaus Affiliate

Cohousing scheme gets green light for 23 Passivhaus homes

Cannock Mill Cohousing scheme in Essex had been granted planning permission for 23 Passivhaus homes and another low energy scheme for K1 Cambridge Cohousing has received outline planning permission.


Cohousing communities are created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home but residents come together to manage their community and share activities. Cohousing is a way of combating the alienation and isolation many experience today, recreating the neighbourly support of the past. This can happen anywhere, in your street or starting a new community using empty homes or building new.

UK Cohousing Network

A large cohousing development aiming for Passivhaus Standard, designed by PHT member Anne Thorne Architects, at listed Cannock Mill, Colchester in Essex has been granted planning permission. A milestone achievement for the Cannock Mill Cohousing group, who are now hoping to see progress of their Passivhaus project. The development consists of:

  • 17 new houses aiming for Passivhaus Standard
  • 6 new flats aiming for Passivhaus Standard
  • Conversion & renovation of existing listed Mill building into community common house to meet, eat and share leisure activities. 
  • Small areas for private gardens.
  • Communal gardens (including allotments), shared parking spaces, and refuse bins.
  • Improvements to the Mill Pond & restoration of the dam bringing it back for use as part of the SUDS scheme


The Passivhaus cohousing scheme aims to promote sustainable living with friendship and resistance to loneliness. 2 fundamental reasons Cannock Mill Cohousing group aim to keep their carbon footprint as light as possible:

  1. They care about the environment and wish to leave planet earth intact for future children and grandchildren
  2. No one wishes to be paying vast energy bills in retirement.

The group, originally named LoCoHousing Group, has been working for almost a decade to get the scheme off the ground, starting in London looking at sites within 90 minutes of the capital at all points of the compass. Colchester was decided upon as a great place; it's vibrant and energetic, its history gives a real sense of place and it is surrounded by countryside.

We are delighted that planning permission has been granted. It has been a long and arduous year since we bought the beautiful Cannock Mill site and now we can look forward to building our dreams. We have really enjoyed meeting our new neighbours in the Old Heath area and have already welcomed two Colchester people to our group, so we hope more will come to join us.

Jane Blackburn, Chair of the Cannock Mill Cohousing group


Anne Thorne, lead architect for the scheme, hopes the government-backed self-build and custom house-building bill, which seeks to increase the self-build housing market and is passing through parliament, could encourage cohousing developments, by requiring councils to create a register of people interested in building locally and to take that into account when allocating land.

There are over two acres, with Cannock Mill and a separate Victorian mill house. The scheme ensures that buildings close to the Mill respect its historic qualities and renovation of the mill pond itself is part of the solution to the site's difficult ground water conditions.  The new build flats and houses will be to the highest Passivhaus eco standards and to Lifetime Homes standards making them long-term housing for all.

Anne Thorne, Architect, and Cannock Mill Cohousing member

The scheme’s development cost is estimated at £6-8 million. Jane Blackburn concluded "We firmly believe that cohousing is the future and now we can build our own futures in Colchester."

Another low energy cohousing scheme recently received outline planning permission in Cambridge for approximately 40 homes. The K1 Cambridge Cohousing group are adopting Passivhaus principles, combined with a custom build aspect – Home owners have the opportunity to customise their individual finishes – which provides the community with a real sense of involvement in the creative process. TOWNhus is building the homes using the Trivselhus system from Sweden.




Further information

Cannock Mill Cohousing

Cannock Mill Planning Application

K1 Cambridge Cohousing

UK Cohousing Network

11th August 2015

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