South Dartmoor Community Eco-Affordable Housing project is a proposal for an innovative affordable housing development on the outskirts of Ivybridge that embeds renewable energy, energy efficiency, healthy living and green transport in its design.

We aim to create a development of community-owned, eco-affordable, future-proof, 2050-ready homes for residents of the South Hams.

If you have a local connection and would like to live here you can register interest. Those in housing need will be prioritised. We also welcome support for the planning application from the local community.

Register Interest Support Application

The Project in Detail

  • Through our energy advice work we see a lot of people in poor housing, we think affordable housing should be built better.
  • We’re in a Climate and Ecological Emergency, it is imperative that houses are built differently and use zero fossil fuels.
  • We’ve been working on this idea since 2017, we submitted the initial planning application in December 2020. After lengthy delays, and new information, we have redesigned the site plan and resubmitted our application in June 2022.
  • We’d like to build in a field on the outskirts of Ivybridge, which has been allocated as a potential site for affordable housing.
  • We’ve undertaken a lot of surveys on the site.
  • There is access onto the Ivybridge-Bittaford road, it is close to bus stops and the train station.
  • There will be 33 Passivhaus homes, highly efficient design, super-low heating bills for tenants. 
  • A mix of 1,2,3,4 bed houses and flats some of which will be accessible, all will be for social rent to local people.
  • There will be rooftop solar PV, and possibly battery storage.
  • We aim to minimise the impact of additional vehicles in the area with shared e-bikes and an EV car club to reduce the need for car ownership. 
  • We plan to enhance the biodiversity on site, eg with more hedges and ponds.
  • There will be outdoors play spaces, maybe a shared tool shed, we’ve incorporated many of the ideas from the community consultation ran in Aug 2020.
  • We have partnered with Teign Housing, they are an experienced local housing association who also built the Christow community passivhaus project. 

In 2017 we were frustrated with our lack of a large renewable energy project to develop, so the SDCE board of directors held a visioning day to consider what the needs of the local community really are and whether we can help. All of us agreed that the lack of affordable housing for local people is a prominent issue in our area and that the current housing developments being delivered are often poor quality, too dense and not built with sustainability issues at their heart. We therefore began exploring the idea of whether SDCE could find some land to develop an exemplar community housing scheme using green energy, integrating sustainable transport, and delivering very environmentally friendly, 100% affordable housing.

A housing project is not dissimilar to a renewables project.  It also requires identifying a site, securing the land rights, obtaining planning and other consents and raising finance.  We see it as a logical place for a community energy company to redirect its efforts, when the door is closed for renewable energy developments because of the lack of a viable business model and high cost of connecting to the grid. 

Embarking on this project is a significant leap forward for SDCE and is a chance to secure the long term sustainability of the organisation. The project could be replicated by other organisations up and down the country. We want to share our learning as we progress, and the development will have huge community benefit for the people who end up living in the properties.

We have been working on this project for 5 years, since we first had the vision for a new way of doing housing in 2017. In that time a lot has changed: electric cars are more common, planning conditions have changed, the Covid pandemic has changed the way we all live, Brexit has increased construction prices, and despite hundreds of homes being built in Ivybridge we still have a housing crisis in the South Hams. 

We are still proposing an innovative affordable housing development on the outskirts of Ivybridge that embeds renewable energy, energy efficiency, healthy living and green transport in the design of the project. 

For those with low or modest incomes, housing, energy and mobility represent a considerable proportion of their total expenditure and frequently one or more of these elements will prove unaffordable, forcing them to make compromises or to do without. 

The principal objective is to deliver 30 residential dwellings, all for social rent. To achieve this we plan to demonstrate exemplar energy performance through the delivery of ultra-high performance building fabric and efficiency measures, the provision of a significant volume of onsite generated renewable energy, and to maximise its on-site usage through shared electric vehicles (EVs) and if possible a smart controlled microgrid.

The scheme will be in keeping with the council’s strategy for sustainability in the built environment and is a blue print for the type of housing we should be building in a Climate Emergency. Given the rural character of the site, the scheme will be ecologically sensitive in design, and result in enhanced bio-diversity.

The key elements of such a project would be:

  • Dwellings built to passivhaus standard
  • High quality build to minimise long term repair and renewal costs
  • Healthy houses, free of toxic and allergenic materials, volatile solvents etc.
  • Renewable energy generation and storage onsite, import of electricity will be minimised
  • Pool of shared EVs along with e-bikes to provide a range of mobility options
  • Sustainable drainage strategy and minimal rainwater runoff from site – We have carried out months of detailed analysis, we’ve designed and redesigned the drainage, sadly it is not possible to use the most sustainable drainage here because the groundwater levels are too high.
  • Social rent in perpetuity

The principal benefits of this development would be:

  • Long term availability of high quality, healthy accommodation at an affordable price
  • Cost of energy will be minimised by roof top solar PV for householders
  • Use of on-site EV (electric vehicles) car club and e-bikes will be charged on a per hour basis, depending on the vehicle used​.

What has changed in our planning re-submission?

Here are the key changes in the 2022 plans compared to the 2020 plans:

  1. Community Hub has been omitted
  2. Flats have been reduced to two storeys, instead of three
  3. Three additional homes are available
  4. No ponds
  5. Allotments have been combined, rather than distributed through the site
  6. Some properties are now east-west facing
  7. Dedicated nature space has been created at the north of the site
  8. We have partnered with Teign Housing to develop the homes

More information about the rationale for these changes and the benefits can be found on the relevant pages.

Our engagement with people in Ivybridge has demonstrated there is a need, and current ‘affordable’ housing is not fit-for-purpose.

We know there is a large amount of ‘so called’ affordable housing allocated in the Ivybridge and Ugborough parishes already. But we would argue that the housing currently being built is not fit-for-purpose. Typically, house builders produce homes connected to the gas network that do not meet the 2050 energy efficiency standard and will need to be retrofitted in several years at great cost to homeowners. Current UK policies have us on a trajectory to 3C of global warming, the IPCC reports are clear that we need to limit warming to 1.5C, so we know we need to take bold and decisive actions now.

This development will provide affordable, healthy housing, energy and transport and will continue to be available and affordable for rent only for the foreseeable future.  It is a legacy project.  This is what people in Ivybridge have told us we need, in our earlier engagements.  The offering from the housebuilders is substandard and does NOT meet our needs as a community.

We know from our experience of delivering energy advice to vulnerable householders that many people living in newly constructed houses are still in fuel poverty, with very high energy costs. We believe it is time to update the definition of affordability.  It should be addressing the lifetime cost of the property and not just the selling price.

A full Housing Needs report has been undertaken which shows a clear need for these homes in the area. We also have had many enquiries from local people in housing need who would like to live on this site.

The elephant in the room – hundreds of new houses being built in Ivybridge – who do we need more?

Ivybridge has changed dramatically in the last few years since we first embarked on this project, 100s of new homes have been built on the east and west of the town, so you may be thinking – why does Ivybridge need even more houses?

Despite promises from the big developers to build 30% affordable housing, they have managed to get away with building less than 20% affordable homes. And in reality ‘affordable’ is rarely real-life affordable, our research shows that what is desperately needed is social rented housing for people who already live in the area.

Many local residents are concerned about pressure on healthcare and schools, which are both already over-subscribed. But the priority for the homes at Springfield Orchard will be people who are  ALREADY living or working in Ivybridge who ALREADY have places with the local GP and their children ALREADY attend the schools. They ALREADY drive in the area, so will not increase traffic in the town, in fact we aim to reduce car use by providing an EV car club.

The site is designated as a Rural Exception Site in the South Hams, on the edge of Ivybridge but just within Ugborough Parish. This means it had already been allocated as a good potential site for affordable housing for local people. The site will be just visible from Dartmoor National Park if you are on top of Western Beacon, the picture below shows how small our site is in comparison to the Palm Cross development in Modbury.

View from Dartmoor in 2020

SDCE has an Option Agreement with the landowners, if we secure planning permission we will exercise the option to buy the land from them.

The site is semi-rural, with agricultural buildings on the southern part. It was previously used as an orchard and market garden. There is hard standing, a greenhouse and sheds on the southern half. The aerial view shows the site bordered on 3 sides by trees/shrubbery/hedgerows, and there are some  fruit and other trees on site. The topographical survey reveals a slope from the north to the south of around 13 metres.

Since beginning this project, new developments have crept up to the edges of our site to the west and south, and it is less rural than previously.

Site Outline

It has been a slow and steady journey to get to this point. 2020 and 2021 were full of challenges and new learning, and we’re delighted to have got this far:

March – The idea is conceived at the SDCE Board’s Visioning Day. Work goes on in the background to develop the idea and secure funding.

January – We were awarded a £9000 grant through the My Community; Community Led Housing Scheme to enable us to undertake feasibility work into a potential development site on the edge of Ivybridge. 
March – Exclusivity agreement with landowners signed.
Feb – We held a community engagement event to introduce the idea of SDCE considering a housing project, which was attended by over 40 people. The feedback was all very positive and we received 42 responses to an online survey regarding local housing needs and design.

July – Option agreement with the landowners signed.
August – First briefing meeting with the nearest neighbours.
August – Sustainable Design Collective appointed for pre-application stage, subject to receiving funding.

January 2020 – Homes England grant of £87k awarded to take us to planning submission.
March 2020 – Planning pre-app submitted to South Hams District Council.
May 2020 – First ecological surveys start on site.
June 2020 – Pre-planning response received from SHDC
July-August 2020 – Community consultation runs; including webinar, online survey, and local press articles. SDCE board meet to discuss responses and accept suggestions.
Autumn 2020 – Design team work up plans, lots of surveys take place on site, drainage is complex on the sloping site.
Autumn 2020 – Applied to the Rural Community Energy Fund, and were successful. Granted £39k for a techno-economic feasibility study to model the energy systems on the site.
December 2020 – Full planning application submitted to SHDC!

​January 2021 – The application was been validated and open for comments
March 2021 – SHDC missed the planning determination date and changed our planning officer several times.
April 2021 – The results of the techno-economic study were in and still somewhat inconclusive. The low heat demand on the site ruled out the need for a district heating system, and even made individual air source heat pumps seem a bit unnecessary. Sadly a micro-grid and batteries would also still be a costly option.
Spring/Summer 2021 – The focus of the project shifts slightly as more evidence of the local housing crisis appears and the need for local social rented homes grows.
Summer 2021 – Gradually planning consultee responses filtered in, overwhelming majority support from the local community. And some confusing responses from the planning consultees, such as ‘it looks too urban’ alongside ‘make it look more less like a lane and more like a typical road and curb’. Whilst we grappled with how to deal with these planning comments, increased pressure on our other projects, and how best to proceed with a zero carbon energy system, we knew we needed more experience and support to make this happen for our community.
Summer 2021 – We started working with Steve Watson from Middlemarch Community Led Housing, he was an incredible addition to the team and got us back on track.
Summer 2021 – After much deliberation SDCE decided that we did not want to become a Registered Provider, and we began to interview several housing associations. In the UK social rented homes can only be delivered by a Registered Provider, our best option was to form a partnership with a suitable HA
Autumn 2021 – We began formally working with Teign Housing to develop the project as a financially viable solution to the housing crisis in our area.
October 2021 – We secured a second grant from the Community Housing Fund to enable us to finish the additional surveys which had been required by SHDC and DCC and revise the site plan accordingly.
Winter 2021 – Our architect at Sustainable Design Collective co-ordinated the project and brought together the design team.

Early 2022 – Further drainage and geo surveys take place. We talk about drainage over and over and over!
Spring 2022 – Several of the team catch Covid and work is delayed, which meant we had to apply for an extension to our grant funding.
June 2022 – New drawings are complete and we resubmit the planning application.

We have undertaken a lot of surveys on the site, it has been a very expensive process which would not have been possible without funding. The new round of reports from all the surveys accompany the planning re-submission will be available to view on the Planning Portal in May 2022. Our architects are Sustainable Design Collective and have been excellent to wok with coordinating the surveys and reports. We would definitely recommend them!

Here is a list of the surveys and which consultants we used. All our consultants were chosen fairly and we secured several quotes before selecting our chosen consultants:

Ecology – GE Consulting PEA – Phase 1 Habitat Survey 

  • Biodiversity Net Gain Assessment
  • Bats (May, July, September)
  • Dormouse (June to end Nov)
  • Reptiles (September)
  • Ecological Impact Assessment Report

Topographical – AD Horner

  • Detailed topographical survey with elevations

Utilities – Maptech

  • Utilities survey (desktop)
  • Services and CCTV survey (for drainage design)

Tree Surveys – JK Tree Consultancy

  • Tree Survey and protection plan

Landscape architect – Rathbone Partnership

  • Landscape design
  • Landscape character report
  • Landscape Visual Impact Assessment

Geological, drainage and transport – John Grimes Partnership

  • Ground conditions survey, Phase 1 contamination and soakaway, boreholes
  • Flood Risk and Drainage reports and design, include foul drainage
  • Transport assessment

Noise – ACT Acoustics

  • Noise Report

Lighting Strategy – MMA Lighting

  • Lighting Strategy

Housing Need – Sustainable Design Collective Ltd

  • Local housing need report


There is one main entry point to the site, from the southerly boundary adjacent to the B3123. The road adjacent to the site is a 30mph zone. There are good sight lines for vehicles exiting the site in both directions, as the road is reasonably straight. Road surface levels will make entrance and exit fairly level. The current access to the site is too narrow and will be incorporated into a private garden and parking spaces for Springfield Cottage. A new entry to the site is proposed that will be wider and allow separation from Springfield cottage.

Within the site there will be a principal access road from which visitor and private parking will be accessed.  There is provision for large vehicle turning towards the top of the site to allow emergency vehicles to get within 45m of all properties. 


There will be parking on site, with a total of 75 spaces for residents and visitors, although we would like to reduce this as we many potential tenants have told us they do not own a car. There will be wiring provision for EV charging at every space, although not every space will have a chargepoint installed yet. There will also be some rapid charging facilities for general public use. 

Our architects are Sustainable Design Collective, we wholeheartedly recommend them!

Click on the pictures to look at some of our plans. The full portfolio of detailed drawings and plans can be found on the SHDC Planning Portal.

We have had to make some significant changes to the look of the houses, because it would have been too expensive to build them as we had originally hoped. The cost of building materials has significantly increased, so we have had to lose some of the elements, such as the meadow roofs. But we felt that the most important thing at this time is to provide the affordable and sustainable homes which local people desperately need.

​So they will have a more typical look, and not all the homes will be south facing, which was as a result of a comment from Devon County Council to improve the ‘street scene’. They thought that having some homes facing the main access road would improve the feel of the site. The East-West facing homes have all been modelled in PHPP and can still achieve passivhaus standard, although it is not quite as easy as for the south-facing homes which can make use of the passive solar gain 

The houses will be set within a naturally landscaped site, with easy access to plenty of shared green spaces, including play areas and wild areas. There will be a small orchard, allotments, ponds, and more. There is a well at the centre of the site which will be adjacent to a small new orchard, these two element give the site it’s name.

Healthy and Sustainable Construction

The passive design strategy will be enhanced by the use of natural and re-usable materials in the construction and finishes used on the buildings. This, taken together with an off-site pre-fabricated ‘kit build’ construction system, (delivered wind and watertight) will ensure efficient operation and construction to the highest standards. Prefabricated elements will reduce both the energy used in construction and minimise embodied energy as well as resulting in fewer vehicle movements to and from the site.

We are aiming for the houses to be built to Passivhaus standard, the great thing about passivhaus design, is almost any style of house can be designed as a passivhaus – although some styles are certainly easier.

  • Passivhaus homes (highly energy efficient construction, with very low running costs)
    • Passivhaus design will model exactly how much energy will be used in the building for space and water heating, extensive case studies have shown how reliable PH is and they overwhelmingly perform as well if not better than designed.
    • Passivhaus means that the house will be highly insulated, which will also keep it cool in the summer. The house will be very air tight, so no heat can be lost through drafts, this also means that it must be constructed very well with excellent attention to detail, otherwise the house could fail the air test. There will be an efficient and quiet mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) system which ensures a plentiful supply of fresh clean air to all rooms. 

A passivhaus designed home will provide very low cost of living for the occupants.

More info on passivhaus construction

Back in 2017 we had a vision for a small development of passivhaus homes all connected up by a smart microgrid which controlled the flow of electricity from the PV, and the EVs and the grid to the homes. 

We’re still trying to make the microgrid work, because we believe it could have a positive impact on reducing the energy bills. But, we will not prioritise it over the provision of affordable local housing.

Microgrids are still very innovative and not very common, which means they are expensive! And often the cost of building all the infrastructure required only makes a microgrid worthwhile on a site which will use more electricity, or a block of flats for example where all the homes are much closer together.

How we hoped our microgrid could work here

We’ll update this page whenever we have new info to share on the microgrid part of the project. If you’d like more information about our technical investigations of the microgrid please contact us.

The south facing site is a great location for solar PV  to generate clean renewable electricity, we expect to install around 280kWp of PV. Generating clean electricity on site will help to keep the energy bills low for the tenants, our SDCE energy advice team will always be available to advise tenants on how to make the most of their solar electricity.

The roofs will be angled to maximise solar PV generation. Any excess not used by the homes, will be used to charge up the electric cars, or potentially be stored in a battery. We are exploring how much can be generated on site and whether we will be able to export electricity back to the grid. 

This work was funded by our Rural Community Energy Fund grant. We are working with Buro Happold and Communities for Renewables.

A passivhaus uses 75% less energy for space heating than UK new build requirements, because the houses are so well insulated and can make the most of the passive solar gain (technical term for sun coming in through windows).

We now know from the results of our technical feasibility study that ground source heating would not be cost effective here, because of the high installation cost of the infrastructure. So we are keeping it simple, which also means less embodied carbon in the construction!

It looks likely that we could use a thermostatically controlled simple electric room heater, although there is still potential for air source heat pumps for water heating.

But of course if the tenants don’t want to switch on their heaters, they could invite the neighbours round for some dancing which would also warm up the house for free!

Shared car club

We strongly believe that our transport habits need to change, and we need to drastically reduce reliance on fossil fuels for moving around. We intend to provide a pool of electric cars and bikes, which can be booked by the hour or longer by tenants, to eliminate the need for householders to have two cars each. The car pool will be easy to book and more affordable per mile than running your own petrol or diesel car.  

Vehicle to grid

We had previously hoped that we could include Vehicle to Grid charging as part of our energy strategy at Springfield Orchard. So, the cars would charge up when there is a big supply of electricity, during the day, when the sun is shining and there is less demand, then discharge their batteries in the evening when people get home and cook dinner etc. This is called ‘balancing’ it would help the site to make use of as much of its own solar energy as possible and reduce the need to import electricity from the grid. However running a V2G balanced microgrid is not yet commercially viable, and has not yet been done.

Although not completely ruled out, it is now looking unlikely that V2G will be used here. Our SDCE team is very small, and working on such a complex innovation proposal is very challenging. We would love to hear from anyone who thinks they can make this work for us, if that’s you, please get in touch

Rapid charging

There will also be at least 2 rapid charging points available for public use, these will provide a useful rapid charge facility to other residents of Ivybridge and Ugborough who may not have their own private charging, or just need a quick top up before a journey.

There will be a strong emphasis on both ecologically responsible construction and landscaping with habitat support. Where possible existing habitats will be left undisturbed. An ecological consultant will be engaged to ensure proposals are aligned with and support the needs of the local wildlife. At the moment we’re working with GE Consulting for the site surveys, and we’re delighted that our lead ecologist lives within the parish too.

Our landscape architect at Rathbone Partnership has been a vocal advocate for wildlife and nature throughout the design process. And has helped to ensure that we can still achieve a biodiversity net gain on the site using ponds, additional hedging, wildlife corridors, nature spaces, and darker areas for bats. 

So far we have some initial findings from the first bat survey which took place at the end of May, we are delighted to have six different types of bats on site! Noctule, common pipistrelle, barbastelle, myotis species, lesser horseshoe and greater horseshoe bats will all be protected during and after construction. It’s wonderful to have so many species on site, and we are looking forward to working with the ecological consultants to create more habitats on site.

In the 2022 revised plan for Springfield Orchard there are many outdoor communal areas, significantly more than in a typical housing development – private or affordable.

We hope that the residents will be keen to interact with each other and become good neighbours, sharing growing tips together at the allotment, fruit picking in the Orchard or watching their children explore the play area. 

In our previous plans we had included a community hub building, which was going to include a hot desk area, a meeting space and a guest suite, but we have had to lose this. Over the last two years, our priorities for Springfield Orchard have changed. And now the project is very much focussed on being able to provide sustainable and affordable homes for local people who have been waiting on the housing list, some for years. If we had decided to proceed with the community hub, it would have pushed up the project costs which would have impacted on the potential tenants. It was a very hard decision, but we felt it was best for the local community, when there are in fact already excellent community facilities just up the road at the Clay Factory.

The homes will all be available for social rent only, there will be no properties for sale. 

We have partnered with Teign Housing, who are an experienced and well respected local provider of social housing.

Prospective tenants should have a housing need and be registered on the Housing List, please visit Devon Home Choice for more information, we urge you to apply even if you’re not 100% sure if you are eligible. A housing need, could be for example, you’re living in insecure accommodation, your current home is overcrowded, you cannot afford your rent etc. Full information on how to register and apply is on the Devon Home Choice website, and you can contact them if you have questions.

There will be a priority given to people with a local connection. There will be a mix of flats for single people and couples, and 2, 3 and 4 bed homes for families. There will also be several accessible homes on the site.

If you would be interested in living here, its is really important that you let us know by filling in the survey because it will strengthen our evidence for why this project is needed.

Share This Page: