Not far from Worcester is a stunning Grade II mansion house, 50+ rooms, stable blocks, 2-bed detatched gatehouse, 21 acres of woodland plus huge walled garden. Lowimpact.org, plus other like-minded organisations, would like to secure it as an intentional community plus venue / HQ for eco businesses and courses.
It has so many things going for it as a space for a new community and eco-centre: accessible but private, rural but not too far from main transport hubs, 3 miles on a flattish road to the nearest (very nice) town. It’s in a reasonable state of repair, has new heating system and solar on the roof, not susceptible to flooding and, most importantly, all discussions with the planning authority indicate it would be fine to turn it into multiple accommodations with associated eco / educational business.
The whole site could be purchased conditionally – i.e. on condition planning is granted – for £800,000 (secured for 10% of that i.e. £80k!) and our intention would be that all loan stock is paid back from residential and business rent asap, so the site can fully belong to a specially-formed cooperative, and be run on a collaborative basis. For what you get, £800,000 really is not very much money, and we’re sure there must be benefactors out there who would love what we could achieve with a base like this. But we have to move very quickly!
To be clear, we are asking for loan stock from prospective members (i.e. people living on-site), and also from non-members, to secure the property. When and if the project is up and running as a community and eco-centre, members will pay a rent to the co-operative and all loan stock will be paid back.
We already have 2 expressions of interest at 100k. Contact [email protected] if you have money to invest – ideally 100k or over – and like what you see. If we manage to buy the property, we’ll be looking for members later on, but at the moment, we’re looking for potential investors.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Peter January 13th, 2016
Wow, what a great opportunity, well worth looking into!
Beware of the physical beauty though (thinking of a community that I think is cursed by the buildings beauty). It can attract the wrong people, though I’m sure Dave would set this up and run it well. Or at least make sure it was run well ?
Now, I’m sure there’s some loose change down the back of this settee…
2Jo Henderson January 13th, 2016
Great idea. Am in Devon so wouldn’t work for us, but best of luck. Just be aware of the very important need for a thorough survey. Don’t want to find yoursleves in a crumbly old pile that needs a fortune spent on it. Will look forward to updates…
3emma slow January 13th, 2016
Really hope the right people come together and this happens – such a great set-up for what you’re intending.
4Greg Dance January 13th, 2016
I’m no property valuer but this seems too cheap!
A grade 2 is tricky to make eco type upgrades to and of course excludes any external wall cladding or other visible enhancements.
What mains services does it have?
Bottled gas or oil heating are prohibitively expensive to run and I expect all grants for ground sourced and wood chip heating systems have been or will be Tory’d out of usefulness.
Is there any danger of HS2 roaring nearby or fracking licences been or being granted? (I don’t mind wind farms or solar arrays)
5Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
Heating is via an existing biomass boiler. Mains elec. backed up by solar array (don’t know the size yet).
Yes, no visible exterior changes for Grade 2, but lots of rooms already set up for accommodation – they ran courses there, so lots of people stayed. Can be turned into units / living accommodation easily enough.
Yes, it’s very cheap – I think they’ve refused a lot of people because the owners want it to continue to be some sort of educational facility, which doesn’t suit everyone – especially developers who want to turn it into luxury flats.
6Nick Drummer January 13th, 2016
Looks like a fantastic place, and about 10 miles from where i grew up (and still have a place). I’d like to stay in touch but not in the market to buy into anything at the moment. Have you started a crowdfunder and facebook page? Or are you looking to keep it more word of mouth?
7deborah January 13th, 2016
I’m definitely interested, have some capital to invest and know 2-3 others who might also be interested, based in and around Kington. Please let me know next steps. Thanks very much.
8Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
Hi Deborah – send your contact details, current situation plus anything else you think might be relevant to [email protected]
9Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
Word of mouth should be enough I think. We’ve employed people, found people to rent farmhouses in France and even given away properties this way before.
10celeseah January 13th, 2016
Ive been in property and corporate finance for over 25 years, this does seem awfully cheap, old buildings may need additional work and could have limtations too re listed buildings, however if you get the right people involved you may be able to do any works a a much lower rate, ie my partner is an electrician and multi skilled builder we are both passionate about conscious self sufficient living …
11Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
Yes, the owners want it to be an educational centre, which doesn’t suit the luxury flat brigade. But it suits us. I don’t know if that’s enough to put most people off (although it might be) – but apart from that I can’t work out why it’s so cheap.
12sheleagh123 January 13th, 2016
Ooh, that looks like a dream. I would have to get a second mortgage and change my life, I’m tentatively interested.
13walkforthefuture January 13th, 2016
i dont have 100K but i think its looks a wonderful opportunity , the type of which i have been searching for for many years . would love to be involved in some way if at all possible . i have established a couple of not for profit educational biusnesses. Tribe of Doris and Imayla and still have a burning desire to establish an all year round facility . Deasy Bamford
14Roana January 13th, 2016
Could you share more about the educational centre and the work opportunities, business plan, etc, please?
15Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
We don’t have anything to share at the moment. We have a small window of opportunity to buy the place, so we’re just looking to get a small group of people together who might want to be founder members of a co-op and invest some loan stock so that we can buy it. We’ll need to get expert advice and a model for how it might work before anyone parts with any money though. Even if this place falls through, we might then have a group of people who might form the basis of a co-op to buy another place. But for now, we just need expressions of interest from people who might like to invest, so that we know if it’s a possibility or not.
16Helene January 13th, 2016
No moanies to invest but very interested in living in a green, multi-generational community. How to stay on the ball with this one?
17Dave Darby January 13th, 2016
Hi – if this starts to roll, we’ll be blogging loads more about it, so just check here occasionally or subscribe to blog. Priority is getting the readies lined up to buy it at the moment.
18Paul Jennings January 13th, 2016
Shared and tweeted.
19petrica vizitiu January 13th, 2016
that looks awesome
20Libby January 13th, 2016
Hi, I too live in Devon – perhaps in time a similar could happen here?
21Sharon gimpel January 13th, 2016
Shared and liked! Good luck! Wish it was closer to Stroud.
22jim mcewan January 13th, 2016
In a heartbeat! Im unemployed at the moment but I am a joiner and id work for food and accommodation to help you develop your project. be glad to hear from you!
23pearl January 13th, 2016
I know someone who has been looking for community living for the last two years.
24livingrdreams January 13th, 2016
another stroudie here ?
25livingrdreams January 13th, 2016
So interested – in Stroud ? Will share.
26Bertie Nichols January 13th, 2016
Hi, please keep me updated about these plans? I’m looking to become a resident of a Community Living Project and would be keen to invest if the right plan came along?!
27stella January 13th, 2016
I’m older, very experienced homeopath, organic grower, many textile and other skills, and have less than 100K but some capital just now, veyr interested to know more about this project and perhaps get involved. How would I begin?
28Mark January 14th, 2016
29[email protected] January 14th, 2016
Yes please how do you become someone who lives at such a great place??? I dont have money to invest but I pay rent now so Id love to give this wonderful idea my money instead!!!!
30pauline glynn January 14th, 2016
it is something I am very interested in but at the moment haven’t the readies to invest, but further on down the line if you have purchased the property, I would be keen to learn more about becoming a member of the co-op.
31Rebecca Elatha January 14th, 2016
If finance is sorted and plans go ahead, I would love to volunteer to help set up this amazing project!
32Wendy January 14th, 2016
My son would be interested. He is a musician, carpenter and runs bushcraft courses. Very Community minded. He is in Slovakia at the moment with wife and child. Would like to know if there is land attached and details of house etc.
33Debbie Robinson January 14th, 2016
Hi, we would be more interested in a co-op to buy land to build under One Planet – along the lines of Lammas. I have a degree in Environmental Science – [ geology to meteorology], practicle experience of growing. My OH is a welder/ fabricator. This looks like a beautiful building, but existing buildings are more expensive & harder to retro-fit with ‘green’ alternatives. On top of the estimated £80k each to start, I would expect that it would require at least £10k each on top to covert each ‘ dwelling’, and potentially much more.
34Floss Morgan January 14th, 2016
This is a fantastic opportunity for any family that can afford it .
The buildings’ beauty I would see is an attribute – while I understand the issue about beauty attracting the wrong kind of people, my experience of growing up in a community within a beautiful grade 2 listed building does not support this.
My experience is that economic and geographical factors have greater influence over the ‘digger to dreamer ratio’ of eventual members.
The beauty of the building I believe will be advantageous for moral long term. Remember Gaudi was a socialist, a better one than many Russians responsible for the iconic 70s monstrosities.
35Anne-Marie Brownlee January 14th, 2016
Hi there, I’d love to be part of this community but sadly don’t have any capital as currently doing up my own house. I’m an events manager by day and if I could be of any assistance on the venue/events side then I’d be really happy to get involved. Please keep in touch.
36Skully. January 14th, 2016
If you want to be Eco-Friendly, you are going to struggle to do that in a building like this. Despite it being a hansom looking house, these places are renown for being money pits, not just in the cost of repairs, but in heating, lighting and generally keeping them liveable. Add to that it is listed, so you will be restricted in what you are and are not allowed to do the the building. I agree with others that say you would be better off finding some land that is suitable to build an eco village on, so you can build your own, purpose built housing and infrastructure. Trying to mould all you need onto an already built house is going to be very hard, costly and frankly not worth trying.
37Peter Green January 14th, 2016
I agree… sadly. It’s that beauty again that bites us on the a**! And again, my personal experience of living in a listed mansion, is one of the residents chasing their own backsides to keep the money coming in to feed that ‘pit’ and then they have nothing left to give to the community. They tend to be so tired and irritated they head for their beds rather than participate in communal things… Sorry to ***s on the strawberries.
38ImagicI January 14th, 2016
Nice project. Can def see the revolutionary potential. Nice one.
For me to consider investing, the coop development plan would have to include creating a village community and allowing 1/2 acre parcels of land to be sold with permission to build a low impact dwelling on it. I would then invest in 1/2 acre.
If this was my project I think I would also include renovation costs in the overall startup cost which would then entitle/founding membership. So if a person(s) can give their labour as an alternative to having to pay someone to do the required renovations then that would be their investment as well as entitling them to be a founding member. I guess it also depends on the skills of the different founding members. Interesting point from above.
The question then arises, would each member have equal power of attorney or will it depend on level of investment.
I can see that you might be thinking 8 people is a good number of people to start the project and a good number to achieve consensus.
One of my recent ideas was
Consensus of dissensus i,e everybody agreeing to allow each other to just do their own thing. Guattari + my thoughts.
In terms of the startup capital/founding members what is the minimum investment.
Ive shared this post which has led to it being shared again. So was wondering in case I am asked.
39ImagicI January 14th, 2016
* I would then consider investing in 1/2 acre. Sorry.
40Yinka Lawal January 14th, 2016
I would be interested.
41Michael Day January 14th, 2016
Got the Money….. but you need to be REALLY CLEAR what people you really want…… Families or Singles? New Age or Eco? You can not be Cavalier……X
42Deborah Stolzenburg January 14th, 2016
Hi Dave I’ve lived in a couple of coops over the past 16 years and the place looks amazing, sadly I’m a mere gardener so have no money to invest..I did however just want to share something that popped into my head when you talked about founder members also having what looks like large amounts of loan stock…this could become an issue and conflict of interest when your up and running and have member that don’t have the same investment…however, if you were looking for an artistic permaculture gardener/ bee keeper mindfulness meditation enthusiast then I’m your gal! Good luck ! PS you are in touch with Triados bank of course?
43Neil Armstrong January 14th, 2016
Looks a great place & very good amount of land very suitable form permaculture & or forest garden, maybe community supported agriculture etc.
44Dave Darby January 14th, 2016
Hi everyone. We were swamped with emails yesterday, and we’re slowly ploughing through them. It says clearly in the article to email to express your interest, so we have to deal with those first. Please don’t send emails any more though – we’re struggling to reply to the ones we’ve had so far.
We’ll blog again when we have anything to report.
45Lynn jones January 15th, 2016
I am currently seeking my house and will have the money as soon as I do. I’m s builder and gas lamp engineer and would love to be involved in this – it had a biomass boiler !! Amazing ! I know z lot about renewables and Eco building !
46yet-another-eco-warrior January 15th, 2016
You need 2 sets of people – investors and movers-and-shakers, because the best movers-and-shakers have no money and are experienced in making a little go a long way. But the investors want a really good social return. I wouldn’t invest £100k in “yet another” eco community showing people how to build straw-bale houses and make compost because it’s been done so many times before, and everyone that wants to know those things can already find out really easily. Likewise how to weave your way to enlightenment, visualise your way to wealth and (the rather inane) learn how to live in community by following the example of the community members. You need what the business people call a “USP” – what’s going to make *this* community of eco-warriors different from, and better than, all the ones that have come before? Also having a “USP” will make it easier to choose residents. If there’s only a vague vision then the residents will just end up being the project manager and all his/her mates. If there’s a very clear vision then the residents will end up being acknowledged national or international experts in their fields, and then the centre will *really* attract visitors because there will be something very clear, and very valuable, to visit for. Currently the vision is too woolly and ill-defined to attract investment because it is too easily mis-used simply to provide cheap accommodation for the project leaders and their friends and families and has little promise to make a real difference to the world.
47ImagicI January 15th, 2016
I think that the vision is something that is created by interested parties. Could be a centre of excellence for curing psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies.
48Rattbag January 15th, 2016
I’ll agree that it’s more of a challenge to make a building like this eco-friendly, but it’s not impossible. I bought an derelict Victorian house in a conservaton area and refurbished it to in excess of code 4 – lots of internal wall insulation, new windows, new roof and floor insulation, MHRV, LED lighting throughout etc… It took a lot of cunning design, and I can see why the professionals think these “hard to treat” (their phrase!) properties are “too difficult” but this proposed project has the benefit of passionate and principled backers who will go the extra mile to ensure high standards of workmanship and attention to detail. I would love to see this succeed to put the “hard to treat” myth away forever!.
49Dave Darby January 16th, 2016
Yes – I’m involved with that kind of land redistribution. I think you could be right about the building too. But it’s luxury flats otherwise.
50Dave Darby January 16th, 2016
Yes, I lived at Redfield for 13 years. Very similar looking place to this one. I always wanted to burn the place down, collect the insurance money and build straw-bale houses. But don’t tell anybody. But it’s luxury flats otherwise – heartbreaking.
51Dave Darby January 16th, 2016
Yes – tyranny of structurelessness and all that. this is just an initial foray to see what interest we can get.
52Dave Darby January 16th, 2016
Oh ye of little faith. http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/our-message/why-we-do-what-we-do/
53Dave Darby January 16th, 2016
Here’s a message to all the people above, who’ve emailed and on FB who say that they’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this. Get a group of friends together, decide what kind of community / co-op you want. Go here – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/lowimpact-topic/housing-co-operatives/ – read the introduction, go to further information for how to do it. Basically, it’s pooling your resources, finding a property and talking to someone who has expertise. You can do it – there are people to help you. You don’t have to do all the work yourself.
(imho) – just make sure the founding documents ensure that a) it’s co-operative forever, b) it has an asset lock so that future members will never be able to make any money out of it, c) everybody pays a rent to the co-op, so that people with no money can join, and d) when the mortgage / loanstock is paid off, rent is continually payable, to build up a fund to purchase more properties. Those are key I think, if we don’t want it to be corporate at some point in the future.
54yet-another-eco-warrior January 16th, 2016
Hi Deasy, this project needs a vision, and we both have one (we met at Doris last Summer by the way). You’re into bringing people together and overcoming cultural barriers and conflicts through music and the arts, which also takes you into the realm of ritual – and I’m into bringing people together and overcoming cultural barriers and conflicts through the creation of new rituals, which also takes me into the realms of the arts and psychology. As a spin-off from my interests I’ve also studied and researched the abuse of ritual such as “brainwashing”, “mind control” and other ritual methods of gaining power over people. I explored this as it’s clearly important to know what to avoid, and my experience is that a lot of people engaged in ritual are also, albeit unconsciously, engaged in the process of self-aggrandisement and power-mongering. So how about a vision of “Research, Application and Education in The Arts, Ritual and Psychology for overcoming national and international conflict and cultural barriers.” I know the Rothschilds would invest in such a project, and there are a few other billionaire-run trusts who might be interested. I’ve also spent some years involved in workers co-operatives and a couple times came close to getting housing co-ops off the ground. Shall we go for this?
55Kamala Todd January 17th, 2016
I am really interested in this . We want to sell p and become part of an eco community just like this 07896310779-or 01684566462 Kamala dave todd Malvern
56john walter January 17th, 2016
Just selling up in Totnes. Looking for a new project. Will have £100K. How can I get involved
57ImagicI January 17th, 2016
Of course there is also diggers and dreamers
58janey walter January 17th, 2016
I am Johns wife…. definitely interested….. have money to invest….. can we come and look at it, talk to you….. are you creating dates/times etc for interested people to visit???? Very exciting!!!
59rarna January 17th, 2016
I wish you the best of luck with this project, it looks like an amazing building and lands too. And I truly think that these old buildings would be perfect for eco-projects, as they were designed with sustainability in mind, and usually used the grounds to supply the needs of the house.
I’m afraid I don’t have money to invest, and live in Wales, but I would advise you to make sure you write up a good contract of intent, so that any who do invest are 100% clear, and bound by the contract on what may or may not be done with the property in future.
Also, get in touch with the Woodland Trust, they set up their venture around 15 years ago and have gone from strength to strength, and may be able to help you with funding ideas, contracts and so on.
love and light ?
60julie tomkins January 17th, 2016
Shared. All the best with this venture, to all those cold water throwers, passion and a desire to follow through with a dream is what will set this project up and on its way…im not far, in Malvern, church mouse I’m afraid…but if ever Ernie turned up trumps, id be there in a second. Don’t give up.
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
61James Dennis January 17th, 2016
…http://www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk/communities/existing/bowden-house-community… Perhaps you know of it, but I thought it might be of interest.
62tonytheartist January 18th, 2016
Best of Luck, I am an artist living in leicester doing an MA interested in artistic communities / people being creative etc, used to visit alternative communities like crabapple and laurieston and did occasional bit of wwoofing a long time ago! My feeling is the community needs to be built around the eco business and be good to have a mission statement based on that – not something i know much about but support. Global warming as now moved to the top of the political agenda or should have! Got to think of a good name – names are important. All the best – Tony
63yet-another-eco-warrior January 18th, 2016
This is a Call To Action, not cold-water-pouring: Don’t forget the planners are interested in this project: Last time an opportunity like this came up in my life (Mongewell Park, Oxfordshire 20 years ago), me and a little group of hippy friends started making suggestions to the planning dept. that some kind of vague eco-arty-community thing might be good. We were flattened by a consortium of billionaires who wanted to open a boarding school for orphans from the israeli-palestinian conflict. They had architects plans for the accommodation and teaching blocks, road engineers plans for the new roundabout needed on the dual carriageway for safe access, and a 5 year business plan showing exactly how the business would be sustainable, how many jobs and at what salaries would be created for the local community, etc. Not only were they totally “together”, but they also had a good cause that made our vague “eco-climate-change-activist” waffle evaporate from embarrassment. If you want this place you can’t afford to sit in front your computer bitching that people aren’t encouraging your dreams. You need to get off your arses, get together, and make the dream happen … because if YOU don’t, somebody else will.
64Suzie January 18th, 2016
I used to manage the site and in 2014 when it closed down there was no biomass boiler just gas mains. Solar panels are just to boost hot water system. Happy to help out if I can but I am not an investor
65Dave Darby January 18th, 2016
Sorry, you’re absolutely right. Scarlett went to visit the property, brought back photos, including this one – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/doifhd.jpg – which I thought she said was a biomass boiler, but I’ve checked and it’s not – it’s gas, as you say.
66Ibrahim Hublou January 20th, 2016
Councils are difficult, politically entrenched, sellers that often put restrictive conditions on the properties they sell (hence they’re not supposed to be the owners anymore). Conditions that go further than preserving historical features. We once wanted to buy a police station but the Council put as condition that if we were to resell all or a part of the estate within 5 years after the sale they would receive half of the revenue. Strange free market indeed. We didn’t intend to resell that quickly but hesitated as a lot of investment would have been needed to convert the place. It got snapped up by an investment company and has been empty for the last 2 years. They can afford to do that as long as speculation prices go up. It’s quite likely they’ll sell “as it”, without any improvements to the building, once the 5 years are over. We still pass by the building on occasion. It would have been a nice project. How knows in a couple of years?
We’re setting up an estate agency in Croydon: “Croydon Crest Property Services”. 306 London Road, CR0 2TJ. Should be up by March 2016.
Could it be nobody of the ‘community intended buyers’ asked what the Council wanted with the building? If an old lady sells her house she loves to hear a young family, just like hers many decades ago, made an offer.
Councils like to hear private investors will fork out the cash, do all the efforts, wrestle nicely with their bureaucrats, pay for every fee or tax due to get somewhere,… to develop something that will benefit the Council coffers in the end: taxes as business rate or income tax or…. If one deals with the authorities this is the picture one has to have in mind. They won’t sell you something at a one-time-cost but will always have their interests in mind – for ever and ever.
Maybe it would have been worth to take on from start a solicitor. If paid well they do provide valuable advices and can make moves to prevent unanticipated disappointments. Especially when dealing with entities like Councils it might very well be worth hiring a solicitor to go along. We work mainly with Morrisons Solicitors LLP (http://www.morrlaw.com/).
When I read on http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/455
“The present house was built in 1866-69. It was sold to Birmingham Council in the mid-20th century for use as a field studies centre.” and Dave Darby replies on the website “the owners want it to be an educational centre, which doesn’t suit the luxury flat brigade. “… then I would think someone has to look at the deed of the original sellers to Birmingham Council as it seems to have a clause that determines what the estate can be used for.
===> If people really want to obtain this property: do hire ASAP a lawyer before the Council manages to get out of the destination the original owners gave to their estate when selling it.
67deborah February 2nd, 2016
Hi there. We are a small group from Presteigne and Kington who are seriously searching for other properties. We’ll be seeing one this Friday and there’s another we’ll be looking at later on closer to Hereford. So, we’re recruiting other interested people with some capital to invest. Do please get in touch if you’d like to but sooner rather than later; good properties go fast around here: [email protected]
All best, Deborah
68deborah February 2nd, 2016
Hi Yinka. We are a small group from Presteigne and Kington who are seriously searching for other properties. We’ll be seeing one this Friday and there’s another we’ll be looking at later on closer to Hereford. So, we’re recruiting other interested people with some capital to invest. Do please get in touch if you’d like to but sooner rather than later; good properties go fast around here: [email protected]
Our group’s main goals are more eco than new age, about sustainability, and the arts.
All best, Deborah
69deborah February 2nd, 2016
Hi Bertie. We are a small group from Presteigne and Kington who are seriously searching for other properties. We’ll be seeing one this Friday and there’s another we’ll be looking at later on closer to Hereford. So, we’re recruiting other interested people with some capital to invest. Do please get in touch if you’d like to but sooner rather than later; good properties go fast around here: [email protected]
Our group’s main goals are more eco than new age, about sustainability, and the arts.
All best, Deborah
70janey walter February 2nd, 2016
Me too would like to hear more as we are in the proccess of leaving our home and will have money to invest, and, this is the sort of thing we will be choosing to invest in and be part of
71Ian Convery March 2nd, 2016
We are just waiting for the sale of a property to go through so will have the required funds in a few weeks. We currently live in a self build co-op in central London and built our home 20 years ago. If we could pick up our lovely house and move it somewhere rural, we would. I’m a landscaper and carpenter with a keen interest in eco-tech and sustainable living, also my partner and I are long standing allotment holders. Can turn our hands to most things and having been through a collective build project we have a very pragmatic approach to how things work. We’d be very interested if the plan is still viable in a month or two. Otherwise, if anyone reading this is interested in developing a low impact, off gridish co-housing development, let me know. Oh, and I love to sing!