AMBITIOUS plans for an unusual co-housing project are set to be submitted to Colchester Council.

A group of retired professionals want to develop a community centred around Grade II listed building, Cannock Mill.

London Countryside Co-Housing Group – LoCo – bought the mill and two acres of surrounding land in Old Heath for £1.2million.

The group includes a retired doctor, diplomat, civil servant and several architects and they are all aged 55 upwards.

They want to create an eco-friendly community where they each live independently in their own homes, but with shared facilities.

Sue York, who chairs LoCo, said the scheme for Colchester had been positively received by residents.

She said: “We had two meetings and we feel people welcomed the idea and us.

“We are positive about where we are and how we are going forward.” The principle is the participants grow old independently, but with support and without suffering from isolation.

The nucleus of the group started in London. They initiated their search for their new home by casting their net within 90 minutes travelling distance from the capital – close enough for members to stay in touch with family and friends.

After visiting locations in Oxford, Kent, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire, the group settled on Colchester, taken not only with Cannock Mill but also the town’s history, vibrancy and the surrounding countryside.

They say they want to be part of the community, joining choirs and art groups, and want to make the most of the town’s facilities.

The mill site already had planning permission for 23 homes.

The group is seeking permission to build a terrace of 17 two and three-bedroomhouses and six flats.

All the homes will be designed and built to the Passivhaus standard, which means they will need almost no energy to heat them.

They will be highly-insulated, with a ventilation system which directs warm air back into the homes.

The site will include its own allotments, with the community’s carbon footprint also reduced by sharing resources such as cars and possibly bikes.

The 19th-century weatherboarded Cannock Mill itself will become a social space, with guest rooms, a workshop, communal lounge, kitchen and dining areas.

A planning application is due to be submitted this week.

If it gains permission, LoCo hopes to start work early next year, for completion by the end of 2017.

So far, 11 people have signed up to the project, but another 12 are needed.

Co-housing is a new concept to the UK, but has become increasingly common in Europe and the USA over the past 20 years. There are about 20 co-housing schemes in the UK.

For more information, go to