A new eco-housing development in Castlemaine is expected to provide an inspiring model for future developments and to attract nation-wide interest.
The Paddock's 27 architect-designed houses will be a mix of single and double storey and will form a crescent around a large area of shared space. Plans seen by the Express show that about 75 per cent of the total land area will be taken up by food gardens, dams, walkways and recreation areas.
Each house will be smaller than today's average size and will be all-electric, relying on 16 grid-connected solar panels. This will result in very low bills and carbon emissions.
The eco village is the brainchild of Neil and Heather Barrett - well-known in the area for their involvement in sustainability issues, especially the MASH solar project - and a team of consultants they've employed, including local architect, Geoff Crosby, project manager, Remi Rauline and landscape architect, Matthew Hamilton.
"We want to create a new standard for sustainable living that fosters a sense of community and a close connection to nature," Heather said.
"The houses will be built on a 1.4 hectare site in Reckleben Street in four stages. In the first stage, seven houses and a community centre will be completed, as well as half of the total landscaping.
"The community centre will contain a main room and several smaller rooms, at least one of which will be able to be used for guests." Heatherer said there would be much less need for people to have a guest room in each house, cars would play a less dominant role than usual, and walking and cycling would be encouraged.
"We're really looking forward to putting our plans to public gatherings over the next month," Neil said.
"There will be four informal info-sessions at The Local cafe in the Hub building, 233 Barker St, from 2.30-4pm on Thursday May 18, Saturday May 20, Thursday May 25 and Saturday June 3.
"Then there will be a more formal public meeting at Buda on June 16, starting at 7.30pm. All our consultants will briefly address this meeting, plans will be on display and questions will be welcomed.
"As a result of these meetings, we expect to have at least seven households sign up for a series of workshops during which they will work with the architect and project manager to customise the design of their houses and discuss how facilities, such as laundries and sheds, may or not be shared.
"Prices for houses will vary from $390,000 to $650,000, depending on size and other factors.
"The plans have now gone to council and we're hoping to start building the first stage early in 2018," Neil said.
To register for the meetings and/or to find out more, readers are invited to go to: thepaddockcastlemaine.com.au. Phone enquiries may be made between 9am and 11am on weekdays on 0419 327 791.