top of page

Bridge Farm Co-housing Street: Planning submitted following an organic community design proccess

We have recently submitted an outline planning application for a community-led, one-planet co-housing scheme at the fascinating urban community agriculture hub and beacon for positive change that is Bridge Farm in Bristol.

Bridge Farm comprises a Grade II listed farmhouse, a number of outbuildings and barns clustered around a charming linear farmyard, and an adjoining 3.8 acres of open, partly sloping, south facing land that is cultivated and enjoyed by the community. The land is designated for community-led housing in the emerging local plan for Bristol City.

GreenTrace Architect won a design competition in March 2022 that led to our appointment for the concept design and planning application. You can read our blog on the design competition here.

The proposal consists of 12 new low-impact homes, a Common House and Energy Hub; arranged to form a lively pedestrian street alongside the charming existing (Grade II listed) farm yard, and set amongst 7 acres of community growing space and wildlife habitat. In summary, the design focuses on:

  • Restricting development to ensure enough land is safeguarded for regenerative agriculture and biodiversity.

  • Small, compact, affordable, low impact homes with shared indoor and outdoor amenities

  • Continuing the linear farm-yard street character to form a public pedestrian street between the proposed rows of houses and a new, safer route to the school

  • Recognising that self-build is key to a sense of place & community

  • Retraining green infrastructure for the benefit of the public

  • Making the most of the south facing slope for solar panels

Organic Development

A key factor in creating successful communities lies in the design process; people should be part of the design decision-making from the outset if they are to truly cherish a place. An organic place is shaped slowly from multiple perspectives from the bottom up. This way, there is an energy and enthusiasm that keeps the community together.

Bridge Farm will inevitably be an organic development. The farm is evolving from the bottom up; from the efforts and visions of a diverse community hoping to live a sustainable lifestyle together in the city. And this is how it should be. Because it is clearly evident that a place is successful when it is built, nurtured and invigorated by the people who live, work and play there. Or as Christopher Alexander (author of the seminal book ‘A Pattern Language’) puts it:

"human environments are successful only if the people are directly responsible for shaping it.”

This is why we find this project so infinitely interesting, and Josh is delighted to have played a role to reveal a vision for a self build co-housing street at the site. We say 'reveal' instead of 'design' because Josh has aimed to facilitate the design process in a way that encourages a common vision to emerge from the diverse aspirations of the community group. To achieve this, the concept of organic development has been a useful design tool. The diagram below was created during the design process in order to help the Bridge Farm community envisage how development for housing would evolve organically over time. The exercise helped us to consider how lines of movement through the site could connect key nodes of activity and subsequently encourage a layout of buildings that would seem most appropriate for the site and enhance the sense of place by responding to these lines of movement and activity.

Community Involvement

Gathering the input of many members of the community has been a key aim of the project. Various methods to record feedback and views from the community have been implemented, including leaflets, votes, games, wishing trees, design reviews, community days, outreach and other communications. The diagram below aims to illustrate the various ways in which the community have been involved in the project.

A community is a mosaic of peoples, traditions, beliefs, and institutions. Design needs to listen to all parts of this mosaic and find a balance; a common thread that keeps it together. The diagram below was created to capture the varied aspirations of the community. Words in larger font represent common threads, or trends of opinion within the community.

This exercise helped us to establish the overarching vision for the site as:

“A site that is welcoming to the public and a provider of educational opportunities, social richness, economic exchange and healing – with the goal of fostering more harmonious and low impact living in an urban environment; a beacon for positive change.”

Once the vision was established, the design could evolve through multiple iterations with input from the Bridge Farm group, wider community, and various consultants. Whilst there were inevitably some disagreements within the group, it is hoped that the outcome is seen as a result of an organic and open design process, and therefore represents a common vision of the community.

You can comment on the planning application on the Bristol Council website by clicking here. Any comments of support greatly appreciated. It truly is a fascinating project with the best of intentions for people and planet.

118 views0 comments


bottom of page