A GROUP with a dream of creating an eco-friendly community can finally move in to their new homes.

More than a decade ago ambitious plans were put forward to create a unique co-housing project.

The development includes 23 new eco-houses and flats as well as the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Cannock Mill in Old Heath Road. Colchester.

Cannock Mill Co-housing is one of only a handful of purpose-built co-housing communities in the UK and a first for Essex.

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

The group included a doctor, diplomat, civil servant and several architects and they are all at or coming up to retirement age.

They wanted to create an eco-friendly community where they each live independently in their own homes but with shared facilities and providing mutual support.

Cannock Mill itself has become the common house and includes space for the group to share meals and leisure activities as well as offering a guest accommodation and a cycle store.

The energy-efficient homes are built from sustainable materials to Passivhaus standards, which means they need hardly any heating.

Phil McGeevor, chairman of Cannock Mill Co-housing Colchester Ltd, a company set up by the group to organise the project, said: “We have been working together for more than ten years to make our dream of living in a shared community a reality and we are delighted to be moving in this month.

“This is the best Christmas present we could have hoped for.”

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.

After visiting locations in Oxford, Kent, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire, the group settled on Colchester.

A planning application for the development was submitted to Colchester Council in 2015.

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

To find out more about the venture, visit cannockmillcohousingcolchester.co.uk.