Design and Build Your Dream Home! Are Self-Builds the Future of UK Housing?

Are you familiar with the Graven Hill project? If not, you probably will be soon. It’s the UK’s biggest ever self-build site nestled in the heart of Oxfordshire, and will soon be home to some 1,900 homes. It’s a grand project, somewhat of an experiment and an exciting quest, so much so it’s caught the interest of Grand Design’s Kevin Mcloud who will be filming a six-part series on Graven Hill. The disused Ministry of Defence land purchased by the council for a sum of £28m is already starting to shape and will soon be home to schools, nurseries, and a local pub.

So how does it work? The land is divided into plots, and buyers can select a plot of their choosing to design a home from scratch. Around 30% of the plots are affordable housing and the plots range from a modest 2-bed, up to a detached 6 bed home. All are eligible for a fast tracking through planning permission and buyers can opt to build the house themselves or seek the involvement of an architect. The project is also offering a ‘group self-build’ concept which allows a group to form and build a row of houses. It’s a unique and interesting concept, and perhaps a glimpse into the future of housing in the UK…

This pioneering movement may be new to the UK but it’s actually already in existence on a grand scale elsewhere around the globe. The Almere project in the Netherlands is one of the most notable self-build cities with over 195,000 inhabitants and 14,500 businesses. There are clear benefits to self-builds, not only do buyers have the rare opportunity to completely design a house from scratch, the areas can be designed with a particular lifestyle in mind. The Graven Hill project has a commitment to creating a space that people will want to live in, and are retaining areas of mature woodland along with lots of green spaces. You can also visit the site if you are looking for a quality home builder.

So far, the oldest buyer of a Graven Hill plot is 73, and the youngest 24, but they all have one thing in common and that’s an eye for contemporary design. Think modern construction and aluminium bifold doors. It offers a unique ability for families to design a home that meets the needs of their children, for young professionals who want to create something design-led and for the elder generation who want to design a home to enjoy into retirement.

Self builds offer a much more interesting concept than the typical ‘cookie cutter’ housing estates that are appearing up and down the country everywhere you turn. Self-builds are also up to 20% cheaper than a home on a new housing estate. It’s a fascinating project, and councils across the country are queueing up with hopes to get a slice of the self-build action with hopes to turn a small profit.

If you’ve got the inspiration and the budget, a self-build house is the way forward if you want to create something bespoke and high-spec. You need to work with various contractors like builders, roofing contractors, interior designers, etc. to achieve the home of your dreams.

Expect to hear more about Graven Hill soon, and undoubtedly a string of these projects popping up across the UK. What do you think? Would you be tempted by a self-build home or do you think the time and effort needed is too much?

Tilly-Jayne Kidman

Tilly is a graduate in fashion marketing and currently works in social media. She writes for various publications including the Huffington Post as well as her own fashion and lifestyle blog In her spare time she's usually wandering around her home city of Cambridge, making travel plans or finding a new restaurant to try out.