The Cannock Mill Cohousing blogs have dried up somewhat in the second half of 2015. This is undoubtedly because we have been frantically busy since gaining planning permission and dealing with a welcome higher level of enquiries about membership. The influx of new members and indeed prospective members attending our meetings has motivated us to have a special workshop this month to re-evaluate how we all work together and to continue to build our community. The working title for the workshop has been ‘The third stage of the rocket’ and I think you can see where we feel as a group that we are now heading.
While a lot of the motivation for blogging has been to provide ammunition for our social media efforts and to give us a solid presence on the web, so that we can attract new members, we are now seeing other reasons to talk about what we are doing.
This week, we are starting a sensitive aspect of the development, namely the removal of some trees from the Cannock Mill site. This is not something that is done lightly, nor without regret, as the site benefits from its trees and its general greenness – we have been much taken with our ability to host a small flock of sheep during the planning process.
The modern planning process is very thorough and, as you can see from the information on the Colchester Borough Council website, (including tree survey and drawings), there has been extensive discussion with the Council’s tree officers. We have employed consultants to assess the trees individually and indeed we have modified the design of our build in order to preserve what we are told is a 200 year old oak tree. You can see it revealed after demolition of some outbuildings that, as late additions to the property, were frankly a bit of a mess.
We need to do the works to the trees now so that there is no disruption to the birds’ nesting season this spring. In order to carry out the work, we had to carefully plan and provide a statement of how it will be done to ensure the safety of everyone and everything concerned. This is particularly important where a tree is close to a neighbouring property.
While some of the trees have to be removed to make way for new homes, others, particularly some poplars, are coming to the end of their lives and we need to address the danger of falling branches and indeed tree collapse.
So a key reason for blogging now is not to attract members but to make sure we provide information about what we are doing to anyone interested in the Cannock Mill site. Also, perhaps, to inform other cohousing groups about the difficulties of new build on certain sites. We have hand delivered a letter to our neighbours in Colchester (You can see a copy by clicking here: 20160106NeighbourTreeLetter) and this blog is part of our more general coverage.
Activity on our cohousing site has recently included the demolition of outbuildings and I was personally worried when I heard a report of a neighbour asking whether we were about to demolish the Mill itself. Of course, nothing could be further from our mind, but that was a spur to make sure that our publicity over work to trees was at a higher level.
The next significant event on site will be an archaeological investigation. We employed our own archaeologist to provide a report on the site and the Council, having commissioned its own archaeologist to do a similar evaluation, decided that as part of the conditions for allowing planning permission we would have to have a dig on 5% of the site. This is quite extensive and indeed expensive, and although close to the Mill we might expect to find something, we think the sloping site is unlikely to have been used extensively in times past. However, we await the results with a mixture of excitement: just in case we find something; and worry: in that, if we do find something, our project will be delayed.
If nothing else, the archaeological outcome will give us some more material for a blog – I’m already looking at the title ‘Having a dig at cohousing’.
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