A GROUND-breaking scheme providing housing and business space in shipping containers is looking to extend its stay for a further five years.

QED Property has submitted plans to continue the distinctive scheme of 36 halfway flats and eight start-up spaces on the site of a former scrap metal yard and pub in Brighton.

The project, nicknamed “container village”, was granted consent for five years in April 2013, and has become the focus of international media interest and a national exemplar.

The success of the scheme has seen its model copied around the country.

QED has been in discussions about other long-derelict sites in Brighton and Hove where shipping containers could be used to deliver temporary and fast-acting responses.

The Uckfield-based company has also been in discussions with recycling expert Cat Fletcher about using containers for a re-use depot and with The Real Junk Food Project for a cafe and community centre.

Sixty four people have lived in the shipping containers since December 2013, with 38 moving on to more permanent housing.

Brighton Housing Trust chief executive Andy Winter said the turnover of residents would be higher if not for the prohibitive cost of moving on to other housing.

Eighteen businesses have started life in the eight start-up units, including firms such as Brighton Energy Co-op which has now grown too big for the premises.

One of the business units in the Cobbler's Thumb studios made headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this month when £1,000 of crystal meth was seized by police ahead of Pride.

The site is scheduled for regeneration as part of the 2009 London Road masterplan to create new employment space and potentially housing but it appears unlikely that a viable scheme will be ready to be built within the next five years.

Despite initial reservations from the public about a potential spike in crime levels, Mr Winter said the scheme had had very little antisocial behaviour problems.

One of the biggest issues for bosses has been managing the global media interest – they had to take the decision to stop inviting media crews in because residents were finding it intrusive living in a goldfish bowl. A lock had to be installed on the front gate to stop curious passers-by just walking in and having a snoop around.

Mr Winter said: “There are really good services for homeless people in the city but the problem was where do they move to.

“There was a need for something between homeless hostels and moving in to homes on the open market where people could get a track record of paying rent, behave like a tenant and get a reference for a future landlord.

“I had initial reservations about whether this was just going to be housing people in steel boxes but they have proper insulation and plasterboard.

“The rents were originally set to be among the bottom 30 per cent in the city but with the way that the market has gone it’s now probably in the bottom five per cent.

“The average for a one bedroom studio flat in Brighton is now £971 while we are charging £612.

“If you put 36 people in a development anywhere in Brighton you will get some antisocial behaviour. It was quite frustrating for us as we had one tenant we had to evict quite early on and it took us six months to get a court order.

“But overall we have had surprisingly few evictions, just two or three in three-and-a-half years and the antisocial behaviour is not usually from the tenants, its usually their visitors.”

The success of the scheme in Brighton has seen QED in demand around the country with the firm working on solutions to the capital’s housing crisis in Ealing

QED managing director Ross Gilbert said: “From a local authority point of view it is nothing but good news. They will have 36 units of accommodation at zero cost to the city.

“There’s a huge housing issue because we have a planning system that is rigid and inflexible.

“We’re being approached by big developers looking at major regeneration projects wanting to make use of sites in the short-term. At the moment they have to say to a community, ‘if you like what we are doing, come back in ten years when we are finished’.

“There are plenty of sites that have just stood idle in the city for ten years which would be suitable.”