Witherslack Community Land Trust Passive Houses

An innovative scheme has been developed in Witherslack in the Lake District National Park to address the local rural housing shortage. The Witherslack Community Land Trust (W.C.L.T.) with Eco Arc Architects has built 2No affordable certified passive houses for local families in housing need.

These houses have been self built on land leased from The Witherslack Community Land Trust WCLT and donated by a local landowner. The value of these houses to the occupiers is to remain at an affordable level, the rest is to be held by the trust and the true value is not to be realized. The houses can only be sold at a percentage of the true value to other qualifying families within the parish, thus ensuring they are truly affordable in perpetuity. The project is a flagship enterprise supported by the planning authority at the Lake District National Park Authority.

The local community wanted to create two houses that challenged the concept of ‘affordable homes’. The resulting certified passive houses are outstanding homes, quite different to the conventional, that also happen to be good for the environment and cheap to run. The houses are super insulated, easy to maintain & low cost. ‘Affordable’ should mean well designed, encompassing the lifetime of the building not just the build cost. Affordable should mean meeting the needs of growing families, being sensitive to the environment, of energy efficient construction, and challenging the block box aesthetic. The brief insisted affordability must be maintained in perpetuity, and all these aspirations have been met by the built out project.

Witherslack is a small community in South Lakeland, between Kendal and Grange Over Sands and situated in the boundaries of the Lake District National Park. The village has a strong sense of community and has successfully sought creative solutions to the issues facing rural Britain. The Post Office has closed and a community shop has opened with help from the W.C.L.T. The Derby Arms pub, once boarded up, has reopened and is now a thriving hub for the village. In the parish, house prices are beyond local affordability. Here like in so many others rural areas there are a growing number of holiday homes.

The large site nestles within a small cluster of existing estate houses in a rural setting. It is accessed via a private lane running around the back. It is a very attractive woodland setting with views across Yew barrow Fell and open fields.


Witherslack Community Land Trust Passive Houses
passive house interior
Witherslack passive house

The first family is James, Nicky, Akiko, 14 and Jack 12. They have lived in the village for 10 years and rent an estate property. They were unable to afford a 3 bed house in the local area. James is an organic grower for a local charity. Nicky is a special needs senior teaching assistant.

The second family, John, Elaine, Rebecca 19 and Emily15 has also been priced out of the local property market. They both work for the estate, John runs Witherslack Woodlands and Elaine is a housekeeper at Halecat House. Rebecca works at the local pub the Derby Arms. Elaine grew up in the village and was keen to own their own home in Witherslack, which was facilitated via this project.

The super insulated, low energy houses were built using 300 mm insulated cavity walls and 400 mm insulated roof to give a consistent all over fabric U Value of less than 0.11 W/m2k. The houses include heavy weight thermal mass to reduce the thermal flywheel effect to a minimum. The windows will be Low E argon filled triple glazed, to give a centre pane U value of 0.83 W/m2k. Cold bridging was avoided through careful detailing around all reveals. Incidental air infiltration will be kept to a minimum through air tight construction that will provide a target air change rate of less than 0.6 per hour under 50 Pascal air pressure test.

Efficient Scandinavian space heating wood burning stoves fueled from local timbers harvested from the local woodland John manages provide any additional heat required beyond solar gain and heat gains from the occupants and house appliances. Conventional central heating boilers run off fossil fuels was not be required. A south facing photovoltaic panel array provides renewable electricity.

This is a flagship project for The Witherslack Community Land Trust and The Lake District National Park Authority.  With their low environmental footprint these houses provide a positive example of how to marry the needs and expectations of new housing with strict environmental standards in a sensitive rural setting can be met affordably.

As stated in The Vision for the Lake District National Park we trust this project is

An Inspiration Of Sustainable Development In Action ”