Graven Hill: The Complete Guide

Want to self build at Graven Hill? Follow our complete guide, released in weekly instalments, to find out about plot passports, Graven Hill's site plan and prices, and the routes available to designing a dream home
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It magazine
13th October 2018

Graven Hill is the UK’s largest development offering self build and custom build opportunities.

Over the course of 10 years, the self and custom build development will create up to 1,900 bespoke new homes on 188 hectares of brownfield land in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

The first 10 self build plots, from phase 0, were made available to self builders documenting their journey for the TV show Grand Designs. Graven Hill has subsequently released more plots across different areas of the site, which are now being built on.

Here at Build It we have put together this complete guide to explain everything you need to know about the Graven Hill site plan, plot passports and planning permission, prices,  and the building routes  available.

We’ll be publishing the Graven Hill guide as weekly series, so make sure to visit our page regularly to find out the latest information.

Why self build at Graven Hill?

The driving force behind Graven Hill is the fact that, while over half of the UK population would be keen to create their own bespoke homes, there are a number of barriers to overcome.

Most self-builders spend at least a year looking for a suitable plot, for instance, and even once you’ve found something that looks viable, it’s not always easy to navigate the planning process.

Arranging finance can be complex, too, let alone actually getting on site and building the thing.

Armed with the right advice, much of which you’ll find on our website, you will be well-placed to enjoy a successful self-build journey – and the rewards will far outweigh the challenges.

But building at Graven Hill can offer you an even smoother path to creating a dream home that’s designed by you to fit the way you want to live.

Benefits of self building at Graven Hill

Among other advantages, you’ll get access to expert advice throughout your project, fast-track planning permission, plus a fixed price for your fully-serviced plot.

Graven Hill will take care of the groundworks and foundations, which are often the trickiest and most uncertain parts of a self-build, to suit the approved plans.

What’s more, you’ll be joining hundreds of other like-minded people with similar goals of creating a tailor-made, high-quality and value-for-money home.

Marc and Laura with their children visiting the Graven Hill site

Self Build Blog: Follow Marc & Laura’s journey to a bespoke home in Graven Hill

Karen Curtin shares the latest Graven Hill news

This interview is from June 2018, so some details may be out of date. We will be updating this content soon.

As part of our complete guide to Graven Hill, we have interviewed managing director Karen Curtin about what’s happening on site and what are the next steps for self builders and custom builders in Bicester.

What is Graven Hill and how is it helping self builders?

Graven Hill is a new community of like-minded people who’ve put love, sweat and tears into creating their dream homes, as well as residents who want to live amid nice surroundings with lots of green spaces.

It offers a unique opportunity to have a new home designed and built to fit with the way you want to live your life.

Self-builders can benefit from our fast-track approach to planning. Thanks to a Local Development Order (LDO) granted by Cherwell District Council, Graven Hill is able to offer land with a Plot Passport, which sets out parameters such as maximum floor area.

As long as the the design complies with the recommendations, consent is secured within 28 days of submitting plans. We have 11 character areas, each giving owners more or less freedom in their choices.

Graven Hill plot passport


Unlike a normal development – where most companies will try to exploit every spare piece of ground to put more housing up – we’re creating parks and adding water features across the site, along with a village hub with retail facilities.

We are also working on pedestrian and cycling paths to the town centre.

What are Golden Brick and Tailored Finish opportunities?

There are a range of innovative options for people moving to Graven Hill.

For sites with Plot Passports, we take a Golden Brick approach. This means you get to design your home and, once planning consent has been granted, we will take care of laying foundations and facilitating access to services. You and your contractors take over from there, knowing that the trickiest part of the project – getting out of the ground – is solved.

Tailored Finish homes are our custom build option. We take care of construction and let the owners choose the layout inside and pick their flooring, kitchen etc. The first projects are terraces, but we’ll be launching detached homes, too, as there has been demand for those.

What is Graven Hill’s mix and match?

Something we’ve learnt since we inaugurated the development in 2015 is that many self-builders know what house they want but may prefer not to get involved in the day-to-day project management.

For them, we are developing a mix-and-match product so that they can choose a design and a turnkey provider when they buy the plot.

How much land has been developed at Graven Hill?

This scheme is a 10-year project and the way we’ve approached it is by releasing land in phases. Right now, the first self-builders (from phase 0) are finishing up their homes – their stories are being closely followed by Channel 4’s Grand Designs, to be aired later this year.

Tailored Finish homes in Graven Hill

Tailored Finish homes allow residents to choose their home’s layout and finishes

But we’ve also sold all the plots from phase 1A, and these people are either starting to erect their homes or waiting for their foundations to be laid.

Last November we released phase 1B – a mixture of self-build plots and custom homes. A fifth of these opportunities have already been reserved, so there’s a lot of interest.

In terms of the first Tailored Finish dwellings, those are complete and we are handing over the keys with the residents moving in now.

What else is being built at Graven Hill?

Graven Hill will have a community centre with a capacity of 500. We will have sports pitches and parks across the site.

The Gateway Park, for instance, was built up-front and quite a lot of the leisure facilities are going in early to accommodate the fact people may want to live and work at Graven Hill. There’s a pub opening, too.

We are talking to commercial partners about who wants to take over the supermarket, as well as looking at community-based coffee shops.

We’ve also got some interest from interior designers and architects looking to rent retail space. It’s a residential development, but there’ll be a lot of employment land, too. We’ve had a number of discussions with businesses who want to move to the area.

And the residential apartments built in the retail centre are aimed at the younger generations commuting to London and Birmingham who want to be part of a community with beautiful surroundings.

As for education, we’ve just let the contract for the school. This will open, based on occupation, in September 2020.

Is there financing available to buy and build in Graven Hill?

We have a representative from self build mortgage specialist BuildStore at the plot shop, located on site, and we direct prospective buyers to them to get in-depth advice.

Graven Hill groundworks

Plots at Graven Hill are offered with foundations and connected to services

People who reserve a self build serviced plot have to be financially qualified by BuildStore – they can then choose their own self-build mortgage product.

For our Tailored Finish options we’ve recently incorporated the Help-to-Buy scheme. So, when you purchase a completed dwelling from us, you may be eligible to get assistance from the government in the form of 20% of your deposit.

This means suitable borrowers would only need to come up with 5% from their own pocket.

Unfortunately no such initiative exists for self-builders yet. I’ve been working with NaCSBA and the Right to Build Task Force to try to get the government to launch an equivalent Help-to-Build, because I think that would really help those constructing bespoke homes.

Can people visit Graven Hill?

For those looking to visit the site and get a feel of what the Graven Hill community is like, the best way forward is to get in touch with us and visit our plot shop, as tours can be arranged.

Find out more about Graven Hill

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