The exciting part about developing a Tiny Homes project in the early days is the moment when you get the word out that you’re doing it. It’s at that point that you really understand that you are part of a movement that has such a wealth of support and good will.
The Tiny Team working on the project at Fair Housing for Frome is about to grow, following the webinar that was broadcast on 20th March and is still available to view on our Facebook page. The purpose was to share our vision and progress, grow the group and draw more interest to the concept. Attendees were from all over the country and came bringing all sorts of different inspirations and experiences. But the common motivation seems to be that current housing and planning rules are out of date for many, and people are joining together to swap ideas and build the foundations of change.
Alison Murdoch who started the Tiny Homes project for Fair Housing for Frome likened it to the David and Goliath story. “I think we have this Goliath of a housing system at the moment which is pretty much run by one strata of society… There’s a sense that people who really don’t understand other people’s needs are dictating to us, creating estates full of houses that don’t live up to environmental standards and aren’t future-proofed at all.” Alison feels that many people don’t think it’s possible to change that system but she has high hopes for the broad-thinking folk of Frome who she says have much more of the “David mentality”.
Alison, who owns The Good Heart café in Frome, had been at the heart of organising the Tiny Homes event for 2020 in the Cheese and Grain. As the group started to plan the event, they began to see how popular the concept was. She said “That’s when we realised that it’s a national phenomenon. It’s like shoots that are just beginning to come through the earth. ….. I think we are really on the cusp of a national movement here and Frome as ever is right at the beginning of it.”
Sadly, the sold-out event had to be cancelled like many other public gatherings in 2020 which is why we put together the online event a year after it would have happened.
We invited speakers to the webinar who shared their expertise with the audience. Attendees heard from our project enabler Jackson Moulding of Ecomotive and Snug Homes who has just completed a small home (just above minimum space standards) eco-build and has experience of creating the successful Ashley Vale community-led housing development in Bristol. He has seemingly endless enthusiasm for alternative ways of developing housing and has inspired us to progress through lockdown.
Jackson has travelled to see Tiny Homes communities in the US, Japan and New Zealand and shared pictures of these with the webinar audience. He says that the benefit of Tiny houses is ‘…doing a self-build on a small scale seems much more approachable for some. Obviously it’s not without its complications because Tiny Houses don’t fall within the planning rules. However there is something really amazing about building small and I think the Tiny House movement gets a lot of attraction because you can get more creative.’
James Shorten a planner of Terra Perma Geo who lives in a community, shared his planning advice with the attendees and Rebecca Brewin and Neil Light showed the progress of Rebecca’s Tiny Home journey – a custom built cosy wooden waggon that she is looking to site in or around Frome. Our guest host from Totnes was Prana Simon who is putting together a national Tiny Homes website and is a great example of members of the wider Tiny Homes community backing the movement and helping to spread the word.
Rory Supka and I organised the webinar and presented our plans and ideas for the community. We know we can’t develop it without outside support and have already benefited so much from local people’s encouragement, the support of the Fair Housing for Frome board and Jackson’s expert advice. We hope to offer a diverse, sustainable and affordable housing site which has the backing and involvement of Frome residents.
James Shorten’s planning experience with local authorities and community groups was keenly listened to by Tiny Homes supporters present at the webinar. He stressed the importance of understanding community structures and the inclusion of whole site management plans when presenting this kind of housing to planners. He said that as well as working out exactly what kind of dwellings would be on site, “…it’s as important to understand how the whole site works together. In the planning world we are now interested in seeing biodiversity net gains from sites.” He went on to outline how vital it is to consider renewable energy and food for the community and to enshrine the principles of site management at the planning stage.
During the Q&A, James emphasised, “The challenge of getting Tiny Homes accepted as a valid entity or concept within the UK is the most important task I see at the moment.”
Luckily, Fair Housing for Frome is willing to accept the challenge and as new members are currently signing up to the group, we hope to benefit from a wide range of skills which will help develop this pioneering thinking.
You can catch up on the Tiny Homes webinar event here on your YouTube channel https://youtu.be/Ved7BDjxt7I
Polly Lamb – Director – Fair Housing for Frome – March 2021