Brixton Green is a community benefit society set up by Brixton residents in 2008, as they felt Brixton people should be at the forefront of any redevelopment of Somerleyton Road. Over 1,200 Brixton residents became community shareholders, representing their sense of ownership and commitment to this new approach. We are proud of the work we have done, which has been carried out openly, and since 2013, in partnership with Lambeth Council.
What is Brixton Green?
- Registered community benefit society: We started in 2008 and registered as a community benefit society in 2009, a year after it was set up.
- Non-profit & voluntary: Brixton Green has no paid staff. Our chair and trustees give their time to the project on a voluntary basis.
- Democratic & inclusive: We set up as a community benefit society to ensure a proper, inclusive, democratic structure was in place.
- National community share pilot: In 2009 we become one of the Department for Communities and Local Government and Cooperatives UK’s ten national pilot schemes for community shares. They provided support and legal advice to help ensure we had a robust, democratic structure. The £1 community shares represent a stake-holding in Brixton Green, and are not a way of investing for a financial return.
- Owned by Brixton people: Anyone over 16 years old who lives or works in one of the five wards of Brixton can become a member of Brixton Green (community benefit society) by buying a £1 share. One share per person. One vote per person.
- Over 1,200 members of the Brixton community: Over the past seven years all our volunteers have worked hard.
- Board elected from the community: Only members can be elected to the board. This ensures the trustees are accountable to the membership (who have to be local people) and ensures the trustees keep to their contract with the membership. The board can chose to co-opt a few trustees who have useful skills.
Over the past ten years we have all worked hard on a voluntary basis to make sure a wide cross section of our community are aware of the project and able to become members. We have distributed over 60,000 leaflets, held many community events (some attended by over 1,000 people), held workshops in schools & community groups, run a series of deliberative workshops, held many consultation events dealing with all aspects of the project and carried out door to door discussions in the immediate area of the project. Over 1,200 members of the Brixton community have become shareholders, including one of the founding members of the Southwyck House Resident Association.
Owned by Brixton people
Brixton Green has achieved the rare success of keeping a wide cross section of the community involved in a long term project. Many community projects succeed in getting short term interest, but few can maintain democratic representation over the long term. Our view is that the democratic representation is essential and our rules set the high bar that at least 10% of our membership has to vote at our annual general meetings. We have achieved in excess of this at each of our AGM’s since we started. Few community organisations (or local political groups) can boast such success – especially working on a voluntary basis and with such a large membership.
In 2013, after 5 years of campaigning, Brixton Green convinced Lambeth Council to develop the road in partnership with the community. This was a hard slog. There were dozens of meetings and a lot of lobbying and work to prove what the community wanted was viable. It was touch and go at times. But we succeeded. Early next year construction is due to start.
Somerleyton Road is important to the Brixton community. It divides our town. The only access to the 1,600 (approx) homes in the Moorlands Triangle is via Coldharbour Lane or Somerleyton Passage (an unwelcoming alley). Somerleyton Road sits in one of the most deprived wards in the UK. The aim of local people is for a development that helps connect our town, provide truly affordable homes, jobs, sustainable development and improves quality of life.
Shaped by Brixton people – What does The Somerleyton Road Project propose?
- Between 234-304 environmentally sustainable homes, all to be rented: 40% of the homes will have genuine low cost rents, the kind of rents that the Council sets. 50% of all the homes will be Affordable Homes, as defined by the government:
- At least 60 of the homes will be part of an extra care scheme for older people. It is an opportunity to demonstrate best practice and make sure that older people can continue to live at the heart of the community;
- The homes will be built to meet, and if possible exceed, the London Housing Design standards, with an aim for 100% of the homes to have dual aspect.
- A Housing Cooperative: Each resident to be a member of the cooperative,
- Children’s Nursery: The proposal is to provide childcare and a community support resource for parents,
- Public realm improvements: The spaces between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves. There will be opportunities to grow food, to sit and relax as well as to interact and share the space with residents from Moorlands, Southwyck House and Loughborough Park. There are also some very exciting discussions around making the street itself come alive by have a performances, festivals and activities,
- Community facility: including café, rooms for health visitors and a flexible hall built in a way that its use can be maximised throughout the day.
- Convenience store: People living in this part of Brixton felt that a convenience store located near the Somerleyton Road passageway would be a good idea, especially if we have more elderly residents living at that end of the street.
- Hair training salon: a key community hub.
- And great organisations coming to Somerleyton Road: We’ve convinced some great organisations to locate on Somerleyton Road.
- The Ovalhouse Theatre will be moving to the Coldharbour Lane end of Somerleyton Road: Already a successful theatre organisation and looking to expand to fulfil its potential for meeting the demand for young people’s projects, rehearsal space, community use, training and affordable units for small scale creative enterprises.
- Creative workspace: Changing work patterns are influencing the demand for office space, particularly with a focus on demand for new space in less central locations offering lower rents.
- One of the best Chef’s school in the UK will be opening a satellite school and training restaurant on the site: Responding to Brixton’s reputation as the larder of London and a food destination, this Chef’s school places 98% of their graduates straight into work in all types of catering, and business management, ensuring that local people can take advantage of the jobs and business opportunities available in the sector. The initiative came from residents on Moorlands Estate. The concept is for the training kitchens to be visible from the street, inspiring other young people to come forward.
- Street gym: This would provide space for the popular youth-focused street gym currently operating as part of the pop-up activities at Number Six. Blockworkout (a great business set up by some young entrepreneurial Brixton residents who were previously involved in gangs) has been successful in dissolving territorial borders for young people.
The Somerleyton Road Project (No private developer)
- The Somerleyton Road Project has a steering group which includes Lambeth Council, Brixton Green and the Ovalhouse Theatre.
- Rather than have a private developer deliver the project, Brixton Green encouraged Lambeth Council to develop the site directly themselves.
- Lambeth is getting the funding for the project, and this will be repaid from the rents over time.
- Lambeth have employed Igloo who provide their development experience, but receive a fee not a share of the profit.
- Some great architects, who are each known for their specific expertise, are working on the project, including a local Brixton architect. It’s looking fantastic – see below:
- None of the 1,200 members of Brixton Green can profit from their shares. We are a voluntary, non-profit community benefit society. Brixton Green is not a private developer.
- The project will pay its own way over its lifetime, and will not be a cost to Lambeth taxpayers
- There will be no ‘poor doors’. The social and market rent housing will be mixed throughout.
- There is an ambition for a high level of environmental sustainability in the build, and use of resources.
- The layout and access to services is being designed and structured to make it easier for people to look after each other.
- The scheme includes real job opportunities for local people.
- The aim is to make sure that the maximum benefit is gained for the wider community from the development.
250 year lease to a new overarching community body
- The whole development (apart from the theatre) will be leased to a new community body for 250 years.
- The board of this new body will be elected from the residents, wider community, non-residential occupiers (e.g. the chef’s school and nursery) and Lambeth Council. This structure makes sure this public asset continues to benefit the community throughout the 250 years and its management is publicly accountable.
- The objectives of this new overarching community body are being developed from the community’s feedback during the many engagement events/workshops we’ve held and they will continue to be developed during the next few months.
Brixton Green’s role
- Brixton Green will not be the new overarching community body and have never sought to be.
- Brixton Green was set up to help make sure the community were at the forefront of the development. We’ve succeeded in doing that and continue to work to make sure the community remains at the forefront.
- When the new overarching community body is up and running, Brixton Green will have completed its role for Somerleyton Road. From then on, the task of making sure the project meets the community objectives will be the responsibility of the new overarching community body.
Brixton Green is fighting against gentrification
We have worked hard to find a viable solution where public land can be about people, not profit. Local authorities have a duty to get best value and there is the temptation for them to go with a private developer. It was a huge task to convince Lambeth Council to take a new approach from 2011 to 2013.
This project is not just important for Somerleyton Road, if we can prove a viable model it will be important for the whole of London. Public assets used to build homes for local people, provide jobs, empower local communities and improve their quality of life. Not sold off to developers.
There are plenty of private developers in London who are creating developments with ‘poor doors’ or no social housing. There are plenty of developments which cause all but the richer members of the community to move away from their family and friends.
Number Six (a meanwhile ‘pop-up’ space)
Brixton Green had previously leased Number Six from Lambeth Council, on a short-term basis, until the building is demolished to make way for the new development. Brixton Green had agreed with Lambeth to turn the old kitchen building into a space, which could be used constructively by the community during this period, until it is demolished. It took a lot of effort to turn this near-derelict building into a vibrant space. We asked other organisations to manage the building on our behalf because, as a volunteer run organisation, we did not have the capacity to manage it. We recognise that there were a number of changes in management since it opened which have perhaps been confusing for groups wanting to use the space.
We are committed to making sure local people get jobs and skills from the project. Building starts next year, but we are working now to make sure we get real skills for our young people, not just tick boxes. The Green Man Skills Zone taking over management of Number Six is part of this. We want to make sure we have a group of young people ready to benefit from the apprenticeships.
Our trustees are happy to meet anyone to discuss the Somerleyton Road project. Please feel free to contact us either send us an email to email@example.com or speak to one of our trustees.
This statement of progress was from the Board of Brixton Green, 24/06/2015. It was updated on 16/03/2018.