28 Feb 2018

Redrow objects to self- and custom build homes at 970-home York site

Redrow objects to self- and custom build homes at 970-home York site

In its application to the City of York Council for 970 homes, Redrow Homes (Yorkshire) has objected to the inclusion of custom and self-build plot provision on the site.

The Redrow Homes site is of a typology that it refers to as a ‘garden village’ development, with a detailed masterplan aimed to bring on the development along a garden community model.

On York’s north-eastern outskirts, the 146 acres of land near Monks Cross is already earmarked for housing in the draft Local Plan. As reported by The Press, the Planning Case Report by Johnson Mowat cites the scheme as not being suitable for self-build, despite a local draft policy suggesting that a minimum of 5% of building plots should be allocated for self-build, custom build or small developers.

In the Planning Case Report, Johnson Mowat listed the ‘key reasons’ for Redrow Homes to not make land available for the 49 plots suggested by the draft policy.

These included:

  • that self build plots were likely to prevent ‘comprehensive development’, which could result in undeveloped plots attracting anti-social elements;
  • that the homes would differ from the design theme;
  • that the plots would be unappealing to self-builders due to their location on a larger new-build site;
  • they would represent an increased risk from having a range of contractors on site; and,
  • they would be inefficient to build-out should Redrow be required to build-out unsold plots.

The full citation is below.

NaCSBA commented that such objection reflected a lack of understanding of how self-build operated, saying that design and time restrictions could be satisfied, for example, with build-out clauses or design codes and master plans.

Custom Build Strategy asked Redrow Homes to clarify its stance on self- and custom build. In response, Redrow spokesman Matt Grayson said: “We understand the place for different types of development and we’ve campaigned for more support for small- to medium-sized builders.

“We recognise that homes of all kinds are needed to help solve the housing crisis and to get more homes built.

“As far as self and custom-build is concerned our approach is to consider each site on its merits and we have already committed to three custom built homes within a pilot project at one of our developments in Newton Abbot, Devon.

“The proposed development in York, close to the Monks Cross shopping park, is an example of one of our larger ‘garden village’ style projects, where the emphasis is very much on placemaking, following a set of design principles and creating a sustainable and cohesive environment.

“We feel that a large development of this type is much more suited to being managed within our ownership; while smaller, more flexible sites may be better suited to custom or self-build and, indeed, probably more attractive to the owner-builders themselves.

“Comments regarding ‘anti-social behaviour’ were taken from an external report prepared by planning consultants specifically for the York project. Whilst the choice of words could have been better, they referenced the fact that Redrow would have no overall control over security or safety.”

From the Planning Case Report (Point 6.67), available on the City of York’s planning site.

  • Redrow invests significantly in the masterplanning and design of its developments to deliver a comprehensive scheme for each site with all dwellings, infrastructure and landscaping delivered to a consistent high quality. The introduction of plots for self- and custom-built homes is likely to prevent comprehensive development and result in plots remaining undeveloped. Such plots are detrimental to the appearance of the development and at risk of attracting anti-social behaviour.
  • Should self- or custom-built housing be developed then this would differ from the design theme of the surrounding development. Should design consistency requirements be imposed, then it is unlikely that this would be attractive to self- or custom-builders.
  • Given the surroundings of any self-build plots will be a new-build ‘estate’ it is considered this environment is unlikely to be attractive to those people seeking self-and custom-build opportunities. Smaller sites are more appropriate.
  • Should self- and custom-build plots be developed, then there will be complications of construction management with contractors unrelated to the main build contractors working in the same environment. This increases risk/liabilities and reduces efficiency.
  • Draft policy indicates that should self-and custom-build plots not be developed as such, then they may be taken by the main developer after 12 months. However, it is extremely inefficient (to the degree of being prohibitive) to periodically recommence construction on an individual or small number of plots.

Editor’s comment

This is an interesting case that’s come to light as it highlights the barriers that custom build faces. It’s understandable that large developers would have a site-by-site approach, and may feel that not all sites are suitable for custom build.

While the reasons put forward might represent genuine concerns, they are surmountable and risks can be managed, just like they are on a standard site when it comes to lack of uptake or site safety. Ironically, the argument of a ‘garden village’-style scheme not being appropriate is not really valid, as to date some of the largest custom build sites are earmarked for actual Garden Villages, such as Aylesbury Woodlands and Welborne Garden Village.

I hope Redrow Homes’ experiences in Devon will help it find a route to factoring in custom build that doesn’t detract from its overall site and business model. With so much of our housing stock delivered via large sites run by major developers, we need some form of balance to ensure that large developments offer choice. Diversity needs to be a factor in housing supply, which Government acknowledges.

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