In 1994, residents of Perry Common in Birmingham formed Witton Lodge Community Association in response to an announcement that their homes (908 of them) would be demolished. In 2023, Witton Lodge Community Association now owns and manages over 200 homes for social, affordable and market rent, including Sycamore Court, a 40-apartment Independent Living Scheme. They have worked with other partners and housing associations to bring over 900 family homes into the area, standardising the rent and regenerating the area.
“While buildings are important, it’s about people,” said Linda Hines, local resident and Chair of the Association. Linda reinforces the important distinction between redevelopment and regeneration; “Redevelopment is bricks and property. Witton Lodge goes further and focuses on regeneration, which is about people. There’s nothing done for the community without the community,”
Witton Lodge are much more than just a landlord – they provide jobs and skills advice to the local community, organise a wide range of environmental projects and help people to live healthier lives. A big part of this is Witton Lakes Eco Hub, a dilapidated parkkeepers that was renovated into an eco-hub.
Back in 2009, Witton Lodge Community Association and the local community saw the old parkkeepers cottage as an opportunity for redevelopment and to build (previously lacking) community facilities in Wyrley Birch, Birmingham. The cottage was owned by Birmingham City Council at the time, who were looking to dispose of it. Witton Lodge Community Association were able to acquire the parkkeepers cottage through a community asset transfer, on a rolling lease.
Witton Lakes Eco Hub was built during the Covid-19 pandemic and opened in April 2022, although a long time in the making. The hub has a 60m2 hall, two meeting rooms, a café and a cycle hub. Outside of the hub is Velvet Community Orchard, where produce is grown by local volunteers.
The hub was developed and retrofitted using a fabric first approach, prioritising the energy efficiency of the building from the design and development process. Witton Lodge Community Association used low-cost, low-tech methods, including timber scaffolds and insultation and clay blockwork, and triple-insulated all windows. The hub is fitted with air-source heat pumps – a renewable energy technology that extracts heat from the air to heat the hub and hot water. Witton Lodge was also able to secure commercial sponsorship from a local company to install a a small photovoltaic array, a type of solar energy.
This fabric first approach is paying off. From the opening of Witton Lakes Eco Hub in April 2022 until December 2022, energy costs were 45% of those of Perry Community Hall, a similar building with solar energy panels installed.