Graven Hill residents say the Identikit homes are undermining the “dream” of self-build

“It was Graven Hill’s vision to set an example to the rest of the country of what can be achieved when modern self-build and construction methods are used on a large scale,” the Residents’ Association said in a letter to the Chair of Cherwell County Council. .

Sadly, the development is now just another build-to-volume development of specific energy inefficient homes.

Graven Hill’s vision was to set an example for the rest of the country.

“The developer has abandoned its commitment to build to the high-energy performance standard set at the start of the project and is rapidly backing away from providing self-build plots.”

GHVDC told AJ last year that the slow pace of deliveries of self-built homes had prompted the company to “evolve” its original approach. Karen Curtin, managing director of GHVDC, said: “Even the delivery of the first 10 Pioneers didn’t happen the way we expected.

“It became very clear that if we were just going to stick to self-build, we were going to have to wait until 2050 to deliver the site.”

But residents are concerned about the condition of some of GHVDC’s newest housing, as well as its dominance of the site.

The group also highlighted the state of affordable housing on the site, which was built by GHVDC.

last year AJ reported on re-concernsResidents in some shared ownership units, who were defying the company due to poor air tightness. They said this caused the upstairs bedrooms to freeze in the winter and boil in the summer. They claimed that independent tests show air leakage was significantly higher than the rate given on their Energy Performance Certificates.

A row of affordable homes

“For years, many have complained about mold, drafts, and cold rooms to GHVDC, and some have resorted to paying out of pocket to conduct independent surveys before GHVDC agrees to carry out corrective work, while others are still waiting to take action,” the group’s letter added.

The group blamed the board for not scrutinizing the construction work closely enough, nor retaining the recognized Passivhaus builders who had previously worked on the project.

Paul Troupe, one of the first self-builders to arrive at Graven Hill, said: “A bunch of council members… who are supposed to oversee this project, have really dropped the ball here.

There is little or no effective auditing in management [the development company] And a little bit of engagement with stakeholders. This allows the project to get rid of frequent shortcomings.

The group wants the council and GHVDC to meet residents to “confirm and reiterate the view of Graven Hill”; ensuring that at least 25 per cent of the plots for all future phases are available as serviced land for self-builders; and adherence to Hoare Lea Passive Design Revision F build standards, among other requirements.

A council spokesperson said: “Graven Hill is a unique development which has allowed for diversity in the local housing market.

It takes a pioneering approach to housing delivery and much progress has been made.

“We have acknowledged receiving an open letter and CEO Yvonne Rees will respond.”

A street of self-built homes in the Graven Hill development

The self-built housing sector accounts for just 13,000 homes a year in Britain, in contrast to countries such as Austria and Germany, where more than half of homes are custom built.

Cherwell Council bought the plot of land from the Ministry of Defense in 2014. It has its own wetland, a wooded hill formerly used for cross-country training and surrounded by farmland.

Having decided to set aside the site for self-construction, Cherwell prepared a business case and set up a wholly owned Graven Hill Village Development Company (GHVDC) to operate it.

Justin and Kathryn Metcalfe outside their self-contained home with Charlie Loxton Design at right

In 2015 Glenn Howells Architects drew up a masterplan which included a primary school, to be designed by Architype, a nursery and community center as well as shops, cafes and a pub. But these are public facilities They arrived slower than the new homes, even though the school is now running.

The site contains design codes for 11 distinct areas, such as “tree-lined boulevards” and “urban lanes,” detailed “passports” including roof and facade material panels, as well as maximum building heights and parking space requirements.

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