A council in Oxfordshire has agreed to buy 462 acres (187 hectares) of land where hundreds of people can build their own homes.
Approval has been granted to proceed with the multi-million pound purchase of Bicester’s Graven Hill site which is the first stage in enabling the delivery of the UK’s first self-build community of up to 1,900 homes.
On Monday, 3 March, Cherwell District Council’s executive members agreed to purchase the 187 hectare site from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide up 1,900 homes, one million square feet of commercial space and the creation of up 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships.
Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The decision to approve the purchase of Graven Hill will be of historical significance to this council as it represents the ability to control a strategic piece of land which will expedite the delivery of housing. It also signifies the first stage in delivering the country’s first self-build community which will benefit thousands of families for decades to come.
“This is the first ever large scale project of its kind in the UK, trailblazing a new way of customising homes and empowering communities. For many, the fantasy of building a dream home can now become a reality and we are looking forward to leading this pioneering development.”
During the meeting, councillors discussed the benefits of purchasing Graven Hill, which include a control over the delivery of the project to ensure the site is not left undeveloped, speed of delivering housing growth identified in the Local Plan and additional jobs for Bicester.
A resolution to grant planning consent has already been granted for the new homes along with a primary school, employment space, pub/ restaurant and a small number of local shops. More than half of the site will be set aside for community woodland with public access, parks and open spaces.
The self-build concept will be delivered in various forms as councillors are keen to meet the needs and budgets of all future residents. This will include kit homes which are purchased from catalogues, watertight shells, group/ community self-build schemes and custom build projects where the owner designs the property but employs contractors to build it.
The properties will vary in size and design according to the residents’ needs but are likely to include detached, semi-detached and terraced homes of differing sizes, apartment blocks and bungalows. They will be available on a range of tenures including outright ownership, shared ownership and renting, with 30 per cent of the homes being classed as affordable.
Cllr Wood said: “So many people dream of building their own home but are often put off by the complicated process and difficulty in finding a suitable plot of land. However the Graven Hill Self Build scheme makes the process easier as Cherwell has done the hard part by finding the land; all people have to do now is start deciding how they want to use it.”
The Graven Hill project will adhere to the ethos of the Eco Bicester One Shared Vision, which uses the aspirations of the future eco-town to promote sustainable development across the area through measures including a low carbon energy strategy.
Councillors first agreed to proceed with negotiations for the acquisition of the site in October 2012 and since then, due diligence has taken place to ensure the site’s feasibility.
The sale of the site is being handled by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the MoD’s property and services provider. DIO and Cherwell are due to exchange contacts in March with completion to follow the finalising of the planning condition document. The MOD will continue to run its warehousing operation on the site until 2019, although limited areas of the site will be vacated to enable roads and infrastructure to be laid ahead of the first homes being built in 2015.
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