Stoke-On-Trent City Council‘s six-home site at Penkull Farm is nearing completion, with five out of six owners now living on site. The innovative development predates custom build, as it was brought to auction in 2012 as an opportunity to encourage higher earners to stay in the city by building their own home.
The challenge for Stoke City was to retain wealth in the area by providing access to higher-end housing, which is of limited supply locally. Consequently, many higher earners traditionally moved out of the city when the existing housing stock stopped meeting their needs. “In effect, this meant that this demographic group was taking its spending power out of these areas, too. As an authority, we wanted to try and stem this in order create greater diversity in the community, and this was our first attempt at bringing on a site with this intention,” says Philip Brundrett, Programme Manager, City Renewal at the council.
The local authority adopted a shovel-ready plot model for the site, which involved the creation of a new access way, together with fully-serviced building plots. These came with outline planning permission, which confirmed the viability of the sites for residential building and also detailed maximum volumes and heights. In addition, the plots came with an 18-month build out clause.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, shown here on site with owners Mike and Heather Sproston, visited the site at the end of last year, to see what the development achieved. He recently said that Government wanted to make it easier for people to build their own homes and has committed to double the number of self- and custom-built homes to 20,000 by 2020.
Building on the success of the project, the council now intends to bring on three more projects, one of which is earmarked as a custom build site of around 50 homes, providing opportunities for around 75 families to get involved with the building of their own home.
Custom build is still a relatively new term, so the Penkhull Farm development actually predates it. Each of the builds at Penkhull Farm is individual, with the purchasers commissioning their own homes, effectively self building their homes. And yet as a project it bears some of the hallmarks of custom build, despite its roots in self build, with the council acting as an enabler to help bring on new homes. But where it is similar to custom build is that the site was brought on by the local authority, removing the hassle of finding a plot that has some form of planning permission, as well as supplying it with services in place. Whether you class multi-home sites such as these as custom build is still a relatively personal thing. What’s your take – custom build or self build?