To date, it has won 11 Golden Brick plots on the development, as well as completed illustrations for auction plot bids, such as the design shown. In addition, Sylva is building a two-bed show house on site, and has won contracts to build 59 of its affordable homes.
Of the Golden Brick plots, 73% are turnkey, with the remainder shell builds. Interestingly, none of the Golden Brick purchasers have self built before.
Sylva reports that some purchasers have wanted to build for a long time and see the Graven Hill model as an “easy” route to self-building, not least in that it helps with finding land. Others see it as a route to get a bespoke house, which they couldn’t otherwise buy, either due to affordability or restricted choice, but don’t see themselves as “self builders” at all.
The increase in demand has led to the recruitment of extra designers, a construction manager and an interior designer.
This growth coincides with a planned move to a new workshop it is rebuilding as part of a barn redevelopment in collaboration with the Cornbury Park Estate in Autumn. Until this point Sylva is using a Northampton-based facility to manage the additional demand.
Based 40 minutes from the site, Sylva has a long established link with Cherwell District Council from its involvement with the innovative KM21 site. Part of Cherwell DC’s Build! programme, Sylva produced the timber frame superstructures for the 21 homes, that were completed to shell stage prior to being handed over to the self builders.
Craig Strachan, Development Director at Sylva said, “Part of the appeal at Graven Hill for customers is the degree of flexibility at the site in terms of design, even our in-house architectural technologists have been surprised by how different the designs are allowed to be.”
He identifies the company’s success at the site as being down to a broad marketing mix that includes a considerable amount of time building relationships with the council, and now the Graven Hill Village Development Company, supported by print, digital and social media campaigns for sales.
But in addition, its fixed-price offering has huge appeal to consumers looking for security as they embark on their first foray into custom build, as it feels that this offers good-value architectural design with a cost-certain build.
Custom build can tick so many boxes, not least local employment and SME growth. Sylva’s growth is testament to the opportunities provided when local authorities start bringing on land for custom, self-build and community development. More councils should be ambitious and give new routes to home ownership a go, and boost diversification at the same time. In fact, the thinktank New Local Government Network recommended that local authorities should be more ambitious and risk taking, and be prepared to learn from any mistakes.