In a post-Brexit climate that has inevitably created further uncertainty over the delivery of much needed homes, new supply models are making their contribution to housing delivery.  The release of the first plots for sale at the Graven Hill Custom Build Development demonstrates the viability of this alternative housebuilding model.

Custom build at Graven Hill

Whilst the concept of self-build might sound daunting to most, custom build is a hybrid model that has appeal for people who want to ‘build’ their own home but with a lot less stress. The opportunity to purchase a serviced plot with defined design parameters might give many the ‘halfway house’ they require to take the leap of faith into the custom-build marketplace. With 1,900 custom build homes planned for Graven Hill, this is the first sign that the UK housing market might be willing to embrace a concept that has long been a mainstay of housing supply across the rest of Europe.

Graven Hill is set to become the UK’s largest self-build community, delivering a mix of accommodation from luxury to affordable housing.  Up to 1,900 new private homebuilding opportunities will be created on the outskirts of Bicester on the former Ministry of Defence (MoD) Graven Hill site.

The project was initiated by Cherwell District Council, which was keen to provide additional private homebuilding opportunities, alongside other more traditional housebuilding developments, to help accelerate the overall rate of local housing delivery. In this case, the Council managed the development itself via creation of its own development company, retaining control over the development mix and tailoring this to local demand.

The Acts and the Bills

All this comes in the wake of recent legislation where Local authorities in England are required to research demand for self-build plots in their area.  From 1st April 2016 the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 obliges them to maintain a list of people and groups interested in building their own homes. Local councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also exploring how to support self-build and custom build projects.

Cherwell was one of the first councils in the UK to establish a register for people interested in the opportunities on the Graven Hill site. By early 2016 more than 3,000 people had entered their details.

As of 31 October all of the self-building and custom housebuilding provisions of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 will be in force, adding to and amending the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 by requiring local planning authorities to grant ‘sufficient suitable development permission’ of serviced plots of land to meet the demand based on the register.

A custom build revolution?

These legislative mechanisms and the recent success of Graven Hill have no doubt strengthened the foothold of the custom build model. The scale of delivery, however, will depend on the appetite of potential homeowners to take up the model. Whilst an additional flow of houses into the market is to be welcomed, the desirability of custom build to the masses, and to lenders, is as yet unproved. The mechanism and opportunity to embrace the approach is now here, and the next couple of years will show whether custom build be the answer to the UK’s housing problem.