Ashley Vale

New ways of thinking are never straightforward,
Utopia didn’t get built in a day
What looked quite simple turns out to be awkward
You grasp it quite tightly but it flies away;
So here is a story of process and progress
Of ideas that trickle from paper to stone
Here is a ballad of progress and process;
One thing is certain: the idea has grown
From a scaffolding yard just left to the birds
To sustainable housing, a place you can live
To your specifications. Homes grow from words
To ideas to dwellings so now let’s all give
This new way of living unqualified cheers;
And make the noise loud so that everyone hears!

When a former scaffolding yard in Ashley Vale closed, releasing a large site in the centre of a residential area, local people wanted to see a development that would work for the benefit of their neighbourhood. A group of activists realised that instead of simply preventing a conventional housing development taking place it should take a positive role in presenting an alternative. Collectively, the self-builders financed the purchase of the yard and then developed their plots with different designs suited to their individual and family needs and took on joint responsibility for the management and maintenance of access and shared spaces. This is a fine example of good urbanism, showing that people with a common purpose can take control of the development of their own neighbourhood in an innovative and positive way. As a result, Ashley Vale is now regarded as an international exemplar for self-build projects.

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