Frequently Asked Questions

As this project is not the usual development we have prepared the following Frequently Asked Questions. If you have any further enquiries please get in touch at info@stirchley.coop and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Where?

We are purchasing the derelict land on the corner of Hunts Road and Pershore Road to the right of the British Oak pub.

Who is involved?

Stirchley Co-operative Development (SCD) has been developed over the last half-decade by local workers co-operatives Birmingham Bike Foundry, Loaf Bakery & Cookery School and Artefact Projects along with local housing co-operatives, Federici and Gung Ho. We are employing Accord, a housing association with a track record of building cost-conscious ecological co-operative housing, as a consultant on this project.

We are buying the land outright from Seven Capital and will not be part of their development around Hazelwell Lane.

While we are a co-op, we are not affiliated with “The Co-op” supermarket chain.

How will it be managed?

The building will be owned by SCD whose membership is comprised of and restricted to the residents and businesses occupying it.

The building will be run on Somerset Rules for Co-operative Societies with a constitution agreed to by all members. Regular meetings with votes fairly distributed will decide on issues as they arise.

This co-op structure means we will never be a buy-to-let development as individual flats are not for sale and cannot be privately owned.

Effectively, once the mortgage is paid, the building is owned and run by the tenants, for as long as they remain tenants.

Where’s the money coming from?

Roughly half of the building costs will come from Homes England, the government body that subsidises the development of affordable housing (similar to “council houses” of old). The other half will be a mortgage from an ethical bank or building society. Rents will cover the mortgage, maintenance and management costs.

In the period before construction we’ve received funding from Power To Change (through The Big Lottery Fund), to help us get started. This fund has helped us develop as a new co-op through training, facilitation, and capacity building. We’ve also received a grant from the Homes England Community Housing Fund, a government scheme designed to foster community led housing developments, like ours. This fund enabled us to employ the various professionals needed to get our plans ready for submission.

This support is comparable to that which a start-up business might receive.

What is “affordable” and how is that achieved?

Affordable Housing” is an official term for housing that meets certain criteria such as charging rents below market rates. We are registered with Homes England as a provider of affordable housing and will have to abide by their criteria.

In addition:

  • Accord, our partner, specialise in affordable housing, both in the construction and running of the building.
  • Energy efficiency, from insulation to solar panels, will keep running costs down.
  • In the event of SCD generating a surplus, any profits will be reinvested in the building, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

We are not providing “social” or “sheltered” housing where support is given to vulnerable adults. This is simply housing that is kept affordable to those on a minimum wage, many of whom are key workers.

Can anyone live there?

There will be criteria for living at SCD, the main one being you must be in need of housing (ie, not be a home-owner) and agree to the mutually agreed rules of the co-operative. Within reason, we will prioritise people already living in the local area in need of decent affordable housing.

Anyone can apply to live in the housing provided by SCD and there will be an application process for any prospective tenants. If you would like to be informed when applications are open, please send an email to info@stirchley.coop.

Anyone who becomes a tenant also becomes a member of the co-operative and has democratic input (via voting) into the management of the building. There is an understanding that members should contribute a small amount of time to the overall running and management of the project.

As a registered provider of affordable housing we will be accepting applications from the Birmingham council waiting list which will be dealt with through the same process.

While we would welcome students who wish to commit to our plans in the long term, we are not providing “student accommodation” as it is generally understood.

We will be providing a number of wheelchair accessible flats and hope to take into consideration people with a variety of access needs. We will also be child and family friendly.

Community cohesion is important to us and we will encourage and help members new to the area to get involved in the many groups in Stirchley, aided by the community-focussed activities in the business below.

What businesses will be operating from the ground floor?

The ground floor of the building is being designed around the needs of the three founder workers co-ops, allowing for changes of occupancy over the 50 years of the building’s minimum lifespan.

  • Birmingham Bike Foundry is a cycle repair shop. It will house a workshop and retail areas.
  • Loaf is a bakery and cookery school with a kitchen, shop and classroom.
  • Artefact Projects is a community art space housing exhibitions, performances, meeting spaces and a cafe/bar.

All three will see their space and activities expanding significantly. In the event of a founder business leaving, future occupant businesses must be constituted as a workers co-operative.

SCD itself aims to establish a “centre of excellence” for co-operative businesses in the region, encouraging more workers co-operatives in Stirchley by offering advice and support. In the long term we are interested in undertaking further developments in the local area, particularly in housing.

How will this benefit Stirchley?

We see benefits coming in a range of ways.

  • Our building will be a long-term asset contributing to the regeneration of the area, sensitive to the past and ambitious about Stirchley’s common future.
  • We offer a sustainable alternative to private rental, tackling local housing issues by providing affordable accommodation and work space under common ownership.
  • Over the last decade we have helped drive locally led development in Stirchley, creating a commercial environment and customer base for new businesses to establish on the high street while respecting the history and heritage of Stirchley.
  • Stirchley has a 150 year history of co-operative organisations, from Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society (TASCOS) to the present day. We aim to create a “centre of excellence” for co-operatives in the Midlands assisting new and established organisations to adopt a sustainable co-operative model.
  • With the exception of disabled drivers, we will operate a no-car-ownership policy, encouraging cycling, public transport and car-sharing, helping to normalise car-free living in Birmingham and reduce congestion.
  • The building will be as environmentally conscious as possible within the constraints of the budget. Ancillary plans include community composting, a kitchen garden and roof-top bee-hives.

What will it look like?

You can view our plans on this page.

Our full plans have been submitted to Birmingham City Council’s planning portal and can be viewed at https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/planning with the reference 2019/10502/PA.

Please be aware that architectural renderings are simplified and do not show the details of the materials to be used.

Why is there no car parking?

With the exception of disabled drivers, we will operate a no-car-ownership policy. Stirchley has good public transport links with multiple bus routes, a train station (with another on the way) and at least two car-share services. There are three safe cycle routes to the city centre close by and Birmingham Bike Foundry will support residents with bike maintenance. 

This is in line with Birmingham City Council’s Parking Policy (p66).

We have found that the majority of people in need of affordable housing do not own a car and often see car ownership as a luxury. With other housing developments in the area providing integrated parking for those who need it, we foresee no problem enforcing this rule in the same manner as a “no-pets” rule might be enforced.

Why aren’t you keeping the existing buildings?

Sadly the existing buildings on the corner of Hunts Road are not in a decent condition and will need to be demolished.

When will this happen?

Subject to planning approval and the coronavirus pandemic, we aim to start construction in 2020 and be open in 2022.

How can I help?

As we do not have the muscle of a large corporate developer, we need to strengthen our case through demonstration of local support. It would be great if you could let the council know you feelings via comments on the planning portal and, if you’re local, let our MP and councilor know you’d like them to fight in our corner.

This page lists ways you can help and will be updated as things progress.

You can also help by spreading the word to people you feel would be interested and/or sympathetic to our project so they can support it.

If you have any ideas for getting the word out about this project and generating support, we’d love to hear from you! Email info@stirchley.coop