24 homes in the London Borough of Hounslow.
Registered office: 8 Waldegrave Road, Teddington, TW11 8GT.
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HISTORY OF WELLINGTON HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE (WHC)
Early days of voluntary action
The history of WHC initially discussed with temporary residents of Wellington Road at the start of 1980, dates back to the 1960s. A group of young, single people in outer West London came together through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and local Folk Clubs. By the mid 1960s they began to move beyond just protesting towards practical co-operative solutions for some of their needs. The Freeman Syndicate was set up to run a range of activities. The Freeman Syndicate Fun Club was run by volunteers on every Friday evening until the early 70s in the White Hart pub in Southall. Folk, jazz, blues, poetry, comedy and drama were mixed with politics and planning new projects. A large van owned by the Syndicate was used for weekend trips and moving members between homes. Occasional concerts were promoted and, with help from Syndicate volunteers and funds, a West London magazine was produced. Many Syndicate members could not find decent affordable housing and several years of discussion led to the formation of Middlesex Housing Association (MHA) in 1969.
First attempt to house 54 people for only £10,000
The first MHA proposal, in 1969, was to lease the long-empty Railway Workers Hostel in Southall. This was to be converted into flats, a communal space, restaurant, laundry, shop and a crèche to house 54 people at a cost of £10,000. Voluntary, self-help building work was planned to make this possible without any Government subsidy. Unfortunately British Rail did not lease the building to MHA and it was left derelict for many years.
Filling up the empties
MHA members looked for other schemes and, from early 1972, set up several organisations which resulted in the first properties being obtained free of charge from Hounslow Council in early 1973. These were renovated entirely by voluntary labour and more properties were then located by volunteers carrying out empty property surveys in the Boroughs of Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing. Initial fundraising was aided by members saving £20 a month in loanstock issued by MHA.
Going for gold
The 1974 Housing Act made Government subsidy available so MHA began to set up permanent Housing Co-operatives for Green Dragon Lane (GDL) in Brentford and Water Tower (WT) in Southall.
First Foothold in Wellington Road
The first two houses in Hounslow renovated by volunteers in early 1973 were next to the Staines Road at the end of Wellington Road North. These were eventually demolished for road junction improvement which widened a short stretch of Wellington Road.
Road widening blight on all their houses
There was a very long standing Greater London Council (GLC) plan to widen the entire length of Wellington Road. This blighted most of the houses along the road as there was no incentive to spend money on maintaining buildings which might soon be demolished. Hounslow Council themselves used some properties as temporary accommodation for homeless people. MHA negotiated to lease increasing numbers of other houses from both Hounslow Council and the GLC throughout the 70s and 80s.
Wellington Co-op on the road at last!
After the GLC road widening schemes were scrapped, bidding began in 1987 for WHC to become eligible for Government grant funding. This was agreed in 1988 and the first permanent flats for 6 single people were converted from 3 houses by May 1989. Four converted flats for families were finished by May 1991. Other newly built properties were provided on the sites of some houses which had been demolished.
Celebrating Co-op history
One project, finished in July 1993, was built at the rear of a terrace which still remains in temporary use. A new road was built which Co-op members named ”Toad Lane” after the address of the first Co-op shop opened in Britain. Toad Lane cost £700,000 for two 3 bedroomed houses, five 2 bedroomed flats, including one with disability access, and a 3 bedroomed bungalow for a family including a wheelchair user.
End of the road for public subsidy
Changes in grant funding rules made in 1988 required private finance as well as Government subsidy to fund future schemes. Only large scale housing associations were able to work under these new rules. The Co-op worked with a large Association to complete projects which were already in the pipeline, but was not encouraged to bid for new projects.
Back to the future?
WHC properties acquired when the GLC was being abolished which have not been permanently improved are leased to Middlesex Housing Co-op (MHC) for temporary housing. MHC carries on the temporary housing role of MHA and now also owns other properties in the road which are in temporary use. MHC continues to purchase adjacent properties to assemble sites for longer term future co-op developments in partnership with WHC. These will have to wait until grant funding rules are again more favourable to co-ops.
Self help instead of waiting for help.
MHC has recently renovated some of the Wellington Road houses for continued temporary use, with part of the work being done by self help voluntary labour. This rolling programme has been aimed at younger people, some the children of long-time co-op members, who want to share living in the finished houses. This provides valuable learning about being involved in joining and running a co-operative organisation, including election to the committee which manages MHC. This experience will make it much more likely that participants who apply for permanent rehousing will be accepted by other co-ops.