Carrowbreck Meadow Passivhaus is a small scheme with 14 units within woodland in Norfolk and was completed in 2016. It is the largest Passivhaus scheme in Norfolk. The objective was to create an inclusive development through a highly environmentally sustainable scheme that has a mix of tenures and that provides affordable housing for the local community that exceeds planning requirements.
This development meets full Passivhaus certification, 43% of the homes on the development are affordable (shared equity) and the scheme is tenure blind.
Broadland Growth, a partnership between Broadland District Council and NPS Property Consultants, took the development forward. It was set up to generate income to support council services for Broadland District Council and “to raise the bar in providing sustainable homes in Norfolk”. (4) NPS is part of the Norse Group owned by Norfolk County Council.
Carrowbreck Meadow is on land owned by Broadland District Council. Property consultants, NPS, were instructed by Broadland Growth Limited to devise and deliver a housing development in the grounds of Carrowbreck House, Hellesdon. The project required the team to work closely with Broadland District Council (BDC) to create a well-designed development that links in with existing communities and protects the natural environment.
“The project had to be sensitively managed to overcome several planning challenges associated with trees, ground conditions, open space requirements, refuse/servicing, archaeology, highways and viability issues to ensure the scheme could be delivered within a very tight timescale and within the cost estimates.” (3)
The housing design is a contemporary take on a traditional local typology, the ‘Norfolk style’ that references local barn architecture and the houses have been carefully clustered so that that they are sensitively embedded into the surrounding woodland. The Passivhaus standard is internationally recognised as a leading low energy build standard. The scheme has created comfortable healthy homes that are affordable to run, eliminating fuel poverty.
The scheme is on target to return £1,200,000 to the public purse including land value, fees, equity and profit. This is over 30% of the Gross Development Value. (2)
The land was already owned by the council.
The architects involved the local community within the construction of the site through apprenticeship schemes. The scheme also used staff from the joint partnership and resources from the contractor and Town Council to provide a woodland path to connect Norwich City and Drayton woods. A woodland management plan will be created involving local residents.
According to Matthew Rooke, Area Planning Manager and Officer dealing with the application,
“It’s a successful example of how a collaborative approach can deliver innovative housing in an attractive woodland setting which brings about social, economic and environmental benefits for and the local community”. (1)
What are the risks and challenges for initiating and also maintaining this initiative?
Although the scale of the project is very small, it was challenging to get planning approval because the site is located outside the defined settlement limit for Hellesdon and therefore was parting from the adopted Development Plan policy:
“Whilst the site had been put forward as part of a larger site allocation through the Local Plan review process, it was not adopted and carried no significant planning weight. The team therefore advanced a number of strong material considerations and factors to justify the grant of planning permission for the application".(3)
Passivhaus developments are technically complex but can be appropriate for small sites. They are of particular value for low-income households because energy costs are so low. This scheme shows how carefully the contribution of local authority land has enabled a Passivhaus development to achieve a higher proportion of affordable housing than comparable developments in the area.