Made in Norwich: net zero homes for the homeless 🏠

Welcome to our weekly Wednesday round up!

Made in Norwich: net zero homes for the homeless 🏠
Made in Norwich - The Haven Project in Cardiff's Ferry Road. Photo: Supplied.

Greetings from The Seeker!

it's Shaun here with another Wednesday round up.

When Seeker reader Drew Barker asked if I would be interested in visiting a net zero housebuilding scheme where he worked, I was intrigued.

But I admit I was taken aback when I saw for myself the possibilities it offered for tackling some of our country's most pressing housing issues - a solution made possible right here in Norwich. Judge for yourself below.

📰Today's Edition

  • Home start
  • Listless
  • Parent Power
  • Meeting pledge
  • Local spend
  • Restorative justice
  • Splinter show
  • Out and about

Ok, let's get going!

Home Start

Modular net zero homes being assembled at the Beattie Passive factory in Norwich. Photo: Beattie Passive

Norwich firm Beattie Passive has delivered more than 100 net zero homes to Wales as part of a pioneering scheme to cut homelessness.

The firm, which is based at the former Colman’s and Britvic factory off the County Hall roundabout, won a multi-million-pound contract to design and deliver the pre-built temporary homes for Cardiff Council.

Each purpose-built net zero apartment, which can also be dismantled and reassembled elsewhere, also generates enough renewable energy to heat a home for a year – effectively ending fuel poverty.

The council wanted to get homeless people off the streets and out of hotels. The 1,2, and 3 bedroom temporary homes were erected on a former gas works in the city's Ferry Road but the award-winning project also includes wrap-around services such as a creche, a teaching kitchen and medical area with 24-hour support.

Such was the success of the first phase of the ‘Haven’ project last year that the Welsh authority then ordered an additional 48 properties – which are now rolling off the factory floor in Norwich.

Ron Beattie, founder and managing director of the firm, said the project showed that the technology exists to deliver sustainable housing solutions across society.

Ron Beattie, founder and managing director of Beattie Passive. Photo: Shaun Lowthorpe

“We need more Ferry Roads,” he said. “We can come up with a new way of building and retrofitting existing homes - which don’t need heating, which can be built by anyone, anywhere.

“Surely that’s got to be good?”

He said his ambitions for the firm was to have a factory in every city in the UK which could also offer a low-cost solution to younger families desperate to get a foot on the housing ladder.

The firm also works on retrofitting existing properties, including helping to remove damp – a major problem in the UK’s social housing stock.

And it is planning two Passivhaus open days this month – including a net zero and retrofit event at its factory on October 17 aimed at councils, policy makers, housing providers and developers.

“I would love to do something in Norwich,” he added. "This is the future – there's no doubt about it.

“The building industry doesn’t like change,” he said. “We are slowly starting to see things change. We have got a number of the bigger builders and developers talking to us now.

“I will continue trying to change the world for the better."


Conservatives are gathering for the party conference in Manchester this week. And while all the talk is about pulling the plug on HS2 and Liz Truss's re-emergence, another intriguing question remains - who is going to stand for them in Norwich North?

With a General Election looming next year typically the main parties would have their candidates in place and on an election footing.

But since current MP Chloe Smith announced she was standing down after holding the seat for 15 years, there has been little sign of a new candidate being announced. By contrast Labour's prospective candidate Alice Macdonald has already hit the ground running.

In fact, according to political journalist Michael Crick the Tory candidate is likely to be selected from a national list after several applicants dropped out in the summer.

If the polls are to be believed (and let's face it nothing is certain) that suggests the likely incumbent is being road-tested in the traditional Labour-Tory marginal this time around before being selected for a safer seat next time.

Conservative county councillor John Fisher told The Seeker his preference was for a candidate closer to home.

“Ideally we would be looking for someone local to defend a marginal majority,” he said. “Ever since Chloe said she's standing down, a lot of people have been saying we need to get a name in place, so that we can promote them.

"We've sort of been pushed to the back of the list."

Parent Power

Parents are set to stage a rally in Norwich next week to push for more support for children with special educational needs.

The local SEND Reform group met through Tik-Tok after a national protest in London this year.

And now they want to spread the word locally about the lack of special schools and the plight of youngsters with additional needs such as autism and ADHD in mainstream schools - as well as campaign for more training and support for teachers and teaching assistants who are expected to look after them.

In June Norfolk County Council announced an additional 80 special needs places at six primary schools on top of its existing provision.

But demand is far greater than the places available and the authority has faced criticism for placing youngsters out of the county and also for racking up £1.2m in legal fees fighting parents who have appealed decisions turning them down for support.

Earlier this year Ofsted inspectors said the authority was addressing issues raised following a previous inspection which found 'significant weaknesses' in meeting the needs of children with special educational needs.

The rally at the Forum on Friday October 13 is part of 13 similar events across the country.

Chloe Lovelace, group co-ordinator, said she hoped that more than 100 parents would take part.

"We want more special schools, but we also want teachers in mainstream schools to be aware of our children," she said.

Fellow mum Maxine Webb, who is also Labour's spokesperson for children with special educational needs at Norfolk County Council, said: "There isn’t enough specialist provision".

Meeting pledge

The head of Norfolk's roads and transport network pledged this week to meet local groups concerned about road safety in and around the city.

Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways infrastructure and transport, agreed to the talks with Kidical Mass and Norwich Cycling Campaign after being presented with 70 postcards from children asking for action so they can ride their bikes in safety every day of the year.

The postcards were collected during a Kidical Mass family bike ride on September 23 and comes amid concerns about the deaths of six cyclists on the county's roads this year.

Mr Plant said he welcomed the feedback and would meet to listen to the concerns raised. The authority is due to launch its 'walking and wheeling' strategy for public consultation and hopes that as many people as possible will take part.

"The safety of road users will always be our priority and we have worked hard to improve the experience for cyclists across the city," he said.

Local spend

Community groups looking for a helping hand are being urged to contact their local councillor for a slice of almost £100,000.

District councillors in Broadland and South Norfolk each have a £1000 ward grant they can contribute towards schemes that bring the community together, help kickstart new groups, and support residents' health and wellbeing.

North Wymondham councillor Dave Roberts presenting new towels to the Star Throwers cancer charity. Photo: Supplied.

North Wymondham councillor Dave Roberts contributed £400 towards a new caged sports area at Robert Kett primary school and a further £400 to local cancer charity Star Throwers to replace the towels they use in their therapy rooms.

Other schemes include local Rainbows, Brownies and Scouts groups, while Broadland councillor Ken Leggett provided £498 to support youth engagement projects in Sprowston and Old Catton.

Contact your local Broadland or South Norfolk councillor to find out about funding in your area.

Restorative justice

A former courthouse in the heart of Blofield has recently been restored, thanks to a £5,000 Heritage at Risk grant from Broadland District Council.

The grant was used to restore the leaking and rotting cupola on the roof of the grade II listed Blofield Courthouse, which was still in use until 1975 and retains its original cells and magistrate's room.

The restored cupola on top of the former Blofied Courthouse. Photo: supplied

The cupola is a roof top feature which helped provide ventilation and extract the smoke when people (including the judge) smoked in the courtroom.

The building, owned by the Parish Council, is now hired out and used for community activities, such as fitness classes and film screenings.

Splinter show

A new play focusing on the challenges facing families coping with a diagnosis of dementia is being performed at the Garage Theatre on October 13.

Splinter by Martha Loader is being performed at the Garage on October 13. Photo: Play Nicely Theatre.

Splinter, which is being presented by Play Nicely Theatre, focuses on Maggie and Jac a couple facing extraordinary challenges when Maggie is diagnosed with early onset dementia.

Playwright Martha Loader said she based the script on conversations that she undertook with people affected by the condition and hoped it was a truthful representation of both the sadness and heartbreak as well as the love and laughter that comes out of such experiences.

Out and about

🚶‍♂️🚶‍♀️Walk Norfolk 2023 is underway this month and there are plenty of access-friendly events taking place.

Norfolk-based charity Pathmakers is behind the event which features over 40 different walks of between 1 and 4 miles covering nature therapy, art, history and heritage, and even foraging for wild foods.

🧗‍♀️Feeling adventurous? Then head to the Banff Mountain Film Festival at UEA on Saturday night for a screening from some of the world's top adventure film-makers and explorers as they push themselves to the limits in the most remote and stunning corners of the globe.

👗Lou Lou's Norwich Vintage Market is back on Sunday at The Halls between 10am and 4pm.

Thank you for reading The Seeker - see you on Saturday!