Where is Sussex Street?

The full address of our site is 70-72 Sussex Street, Norwich NR3 3DE. It is in the northern quarter of Norwich, just a short walk from the city centre and inside the medieval city walls. Sussex Street itself is a Georgian and Victorian residential street, and is a conservation area.

Our site used to be the location of Sussex House, but following bomb damage it changed to commercial use, first a mason’s yard and latterly an industrial unit.

Close by to the west is the river Wensum, and running alongside it is Marriott’s Way, an off-road cycle path on a disused railway track. To the east, Magdalen Street is a district shopping area with a rich mix of independent shops, ‘pound stores’, restaurants and food stores.

The University of East Anglia, hospital and research park are all an easy distance from our site by bike, car or bus.

What does ‘cohousing’ mean?

In short, it’s a close-knit neighbourhood where we meet regularly to share meals and exchange news, but also have our own private space.

By meeting up we get to know each other and build trust, so that we are willing to help each other out with tasks and look out for one another. Once you know your neighbours it’s easier to share with them. You might take in a parcel for someone who’s at work, lend your tools or check in on someone who’s unwell.

Cohousing schemes aim to be a ‘village in the city’. They generally include shared facilities, for example gardens, laundry, workshop, dining room, recycling bins etc – cared for and paid for together as a community.

What about ‘custom build’?

Custom Build is the new term for housing that is built by the people who will live in it. We may not literally build it ourselves, but we will determine, design and commission it. There may be opportunities for residents to choose and finish their units themselves, but this is not a requirement. Custom build is like Grand Designs – but on a more affordable, group scale.

Will it be eco friendly?

We’ll build to the highest level of sustainability that we can afford. Our group is hoping to reach Passivhaus standard, which means a very high degree of insulation and air-tightness, resulting in extremely low energy requirements, and consequently low bills.

Our group wants to build low energy and sustainable housing for a mixture of reasons. Some members want to use less energy for ecological reasons, others to reduce their outgoings, most for a mix of the two.

Tenure, cost, timescale?

Tenure: a proportion of the units will be affordable, either rented or shared ownership, depending on how these are financed and other decisions. The majority of units will be ‘open market’ and sold to buyers with mortgages.

Cost: too soon to know, but because of the extras – communal facilities and building quality – they are likely to be more expensive than similar houses and flats nearby. Running costs will be cheaper though.

Timescale: a couple of years is a very rough guess.

Outside space

As we looked at possible sites, we found that there is a trade off between the amount of garden space available and closeness to the city centre. Our site is close to the centre of Norwich. Consequently the amount of outside garden space is limited – this is one of the compromises we have made.

If you have green fingers there are opportunities to get involved in Norwich Farmshare, which is less than a mile away, or rent an allotment, or perhaps develop a community garden close by. On the site itself there will be room for balconies or patios only, plus a very small amount of communal garden.