One of the big challenges for many self builders is finding a viable site that’s going to be straightforward to develop.
The recent phenomenon of enablers such as councils or developers offering serviced plots aims to take the stress out of this process. Meanwhile, you still get maximum control over the design and delivery of your project – and Graven Hill is the UK’s most exciting example of this innovative approach.
These are shovel-ready sites with key utilities provided as part of the sale price. At Graven Hill, that includes electricity, gas, water, high-speed broadband and drainage.
Arranging these utilities as a single self builder can be a real headache, both in terms of how long it takes to organise them and accurately costing the infrastructure (so you can factor it into the plot value). But it’s all taken care of at Graven Hill.
Benefits of Graven Hill Self Build Plots
What’s more, when you purchase a serviced Self Build Plot, the Graven Hill team will assess ground conditions on the site. This means they can price up the foundations and below-ground drainage to suit your house design and layout.
You’ll then agree a fixed fee for Graven Hill to construct these elements, so there are no nasty surprises at this notoriously risky stage of a traditional building project. This is known as a Golden Brick approach.
Graven Hill publishes a regularly-updated Golden Brick Fact Sheet, which spells out how the process works. This document also shares indicative prices of what other self builders have paid for the foundations on their projects to give you even more oversight of your budget forecast.
A major benefit of the Self Build Plots at Graven Hill is that you can get a very clear idea of what you can create before you buy.
This is possible thanks to the fact that every site has its own Plot Passport, which sets out everything you need to know – including the key development criteria for each site, based on an over-arching Design Code.
This approach embraces the individuality and creativity of self building, while streamlining the planning process.
Quick Guide: What’s in a Graven Hill Plot Passport?
“Depending on where the site is on Graven Hill, you’ll get different levels of design freedom,” says managing director Karen Curtin. “You only need to take a look at the recent Grand Designs: The Street TV show to see how different homes with the same Plot Passport can be.”
A variety of plot sizes are available; currently you will find land suitable for homes with three, four or five bedrooms.
Sites in the Community Streets or Urban Lanes character areas give the most design freedom, with the main restrictions being permitted build zones, maximum internal floor area, ridge heights and orientation.
For homes in areas such as the Village Centre or Rural Lanes, you’ll still get plenty of choice – but you’ll need to pick from a broad external materials palette.
It couldn’t be simpler. Every serviced plot at Graven Hill already benefits from consent in principle, so all you need to do is develop a design that fits with the parameters indicated on your Plot Passport and get it rubber stamped.
“One of the beauties of our approach is that, as long as your scheme meets the compliance checklist, you get fast-track planning within 28 days,” says Karen.
Most self builders go down the Plot Passport route. This serves as a fantastic guide for you and your design team, helping you to develop a wonderful individual home and giving you access to that fast-track approval.
But if you really want to do something a little outside of the pre-approved parameters, you can. “To do this, you would need to go through the normal planning process for reserved matters, which usually takes between eight and 13 weeks,” says Karen.
This route captures the essence of the self-build journey, giving you maximum control over how you deliver the project – but taking out some of the stress.
When you buy a serviced plot at Graven Hill, it will be provided on a ready-to-build Golden Brick basis.
You’ll already know the price for the land including utilities up to the plot boundary. At this point you’ll also be given an indication of what the groundworks and foundations phase might cost for a typical design.
The final price you pay for the Golden Brick works will depend on the exact design of your home; so this will be firmed up once the plans have been rubber stamped.
From Marc & Laura’s Self Build Blog:
Areas of the site are developed in phases to keep disruption to a minimum, construction work on our house is going on at the same time as work on the house next door.
Graven Hill requires a certain amount of space around our plot to put the Golden Brick in place, that is, the foundations of our property and the connecting services…
Read more: The Graven Hill Team Prepares Foundations
The reason for the Golden Brick approach is twofold. Firstly, if you were to only buy the land, Graven Hill would have to charge you VAT at the usual 20%. Under Golden Brick the purchase can be zero-rated for VAT, which brings the process in line with a conventional self-build.
Secondly, getting out of the ground is often the most risk-laden element of a project, as you can never be totally sure what conditions you’ll find until the first shovel hits the soil. “Buying a self-build plot from us means we take on all of that risk for you,” explains Karen Curtin from Graven Hill.
Once you’ve finalised the design of your new detached home, Graven Hill will cost up the foundations – and you then get a fixed price for the construction work up to ground floor slab level, which will depend on the size and complexity of the scheme.
You also get a full 10 year structural warranty on the Golden Brick works, which will be extended to cover the rest of the project.
How you run the project is completely up to you! Once the Golden Brick foundations are in and the plot is formally handed over, you’ll be free to move forward in a way that suits you as a self builder.
For instance, you could engage a main contractor, seek out a specialist package home supplier or project manage the individual trades yourself.