Construction of the RUSS community housing project in Church Grove finally got under way at the end of last year, writes Eleanor Margolies.
The RUSS project involves building 36 new homes on a derelict site alongside the Ravensbourne river, between Ladywell Road and the Wearside Depot.
The flats will be a mix of different sizes and tenures, ranging from single rooms in a shared flat to 4-bedroom family flats available through shared ownership, with three flats specifically designed for wheelchair users.
The landscaped surroundings will include raised beds for communal food growing and a new playground, and will make this part of the river accessible to the public for the first time in over a 100 years.
The flats at 12 Church Grove are the first project by RUSS [www.theruss.org], a community land trust founded in 2009 with the aim of creating sustainable community-led neighbourhoods and truly affordable homes.
RUSS founder, Kareem Dayes, who grew up nearby in Walters Way, in Honor Oak, said: “My parents built their home as part of a pioneering Lewisham Council project 30 years ago, and this inspired me to set up RUSS to see if the next generation could deliver something similar”.
Exhibitions and talks on the history of self-build in Lewisham were held in the building when it was opened to the public for London Open House in 2019 and 2021.
Following a public procurement process, RUSS signed a development agreement with Lewisham Council in 2016 for the Church Grove site formerly occupied by the Atlantis Engineering Company and foundry (1896 -1969) and Watergate School (until 2003).
In 2019, a group of more than 90 volunteers built a community hub in one corner of the site, using recycled and donated building materials.
The hub is available for use by local community organisations and as a shared workspace (dependent on current Covid 19 guidance).
The all-electric, car-free flats are designed for a low-carbon future with eco features including solar panels, an air-source heat pump to produce hot water, and rainwater harvesting.
Future residents have been involved in the design process and will have the opportunity to contribute their ‘sweat equity’ towards the cost of their homes through taking part in construction work such as carpentry and kitchen installation.
The homes are due to be completed in spring 2023.
* There are still some homes in Church Grove available to people with a Lewisham connection. Find out more https://www.theruss.org/apply-for-a-home/
* You can follow construction progress on the site webcam: https://api.t-lap.se/66eb49/* RUSS has been shortlisted for The Open City Social Stewardship Awards https://open-city.org.uk/blog/announcing-the-shortlist-for-the-open-city-stewardship-awards