Thanks to Ian Murray’s newsletter, I found out about the Comiston Farmhouse co-housing project in time to join the group that will shortly be putting in an offer to purchase the site from Edinburgh Council. Our plans are to refurbish the house, demolish the outbuildings, and replace them with very high-spec eco housing together with communal facilities that we hope to share with the local community.
The involvement of the local community is crucial – understandably, neighbours have objected to previous submissions to the planning authorities that wanted to flatten the site, remove the trees, and put up low quality housing that would later have to be retro-fitted (no doubt at public expense) to bring them up to 2040 zero-carbon standards.
The Comiston Co-Housing Group held a public meeting in February to share our plans with the neighbouring Comiston / Oxgangs community and to gauge their response. Ian Murray very kindly joined the meeting and listened to the neighbours and their concerns. It is clear from what they said that Comiston Farmhouse and its surrounds are of enduring historic and cultural significance. The springs on the hill have a long history, being the original piped water supply for Edinburgh, dating back to 1674. One of the springs flows through a culvert running across the site of Comiston Farmhouse.
Across and behind the site runs a stately line of lime trees. The hopes of the group include carefully re-designing the site following permaculture principles, meaning aiming at maximising the benefit from all the features available on the site and in its surroundings. We are hoping for organic gardens, wood workshops and other facilities that we can share with our neighbours.
Clearly a re-development of this scale requires serious funding. The group itself will be able to fund something like half the development, through selling up our current houses. The other half will come from ethical funders like Triodos Bank and the Ecology Building Society. The group plans to form a “Mutual Home Ownership Society”, a legal ownership structure that holds the property in perpetuity, eliminating speculation for profit and supporting those on a low income to buy into the project at a manageable rate.
Similar initiatives are springing up in Leeds (Lilac), York (YorSpace) and Glasgow (Clachan). We are hoping that Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government will support the group as it explores a new way of addressing the serious housing crisis and the promotion of community to address exclusion and isolation.
Thanks again to Ian Murray and his team for their support.
The Comiston Co-Housing Group