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Graven Hill Site Visit

On Monday 27th June Team NSBRC visited Graven Hill, the UK’s largest self and custom build site. A dozen of our employee-owners took the opportunity to view this exciting site first-hand, and hear from the Graven Hill team about how things are progressing and future plans for the development.

You may already be familiar with Graven Hill from Channel 4’s Grand Designs series, ‘The Street’ which aired in 2019 and followed the journey of ten ‘pioneer’ self-builders who first broke ground at Graven Hill. The latest series – aired earlier this year – captured the spirit of community emerging alongside the impressive self-build streets.

Based at the Southern edge of Bicester, Oxfordshire, the development is a short walk away from Bicester Town Centre, as well as the famous Bicester Village Outlet Centre. The site is a 10-minute walk away from Bicester Village train station, which provides hassle-free travel to Oxford and London. Graven Hill is also just 3 miles away from Junction 9 of the M40, linking Bicester to the national motorway network. The first phase of plots was released in summer 2016 and custom build homes were available from 2018, and the design-led village is growing fast with over 400 homes now occupied.

Gemma Davis, Graven Hill Customer Experience Director, gave a presentation to Team NSBRC and one interesting aspect of the overall development is the housing mix. Alongside self-build plots, there are custom build plots (allowing a high degree of customisation), new homes (built to a high standard by the Graven Hill Development Company), apartments, and affordable homes. It was great to hear that all homes at Graven Hill are subject to high build quality requirements – far exceeding current building regulations.

Gemma explained that the two key advantages of building at Graven Hill are the ‘Golden Brick’ foundations and their ‘Plot Passports’.

Golden Brick

The team at Graven Hill assess the ground conditions and crucially give you a fixed price for your bespoke foundations. Then they construct the foundations for your home to accommodate your layout and design, so there are no nasty surprises later on. They provide a 10-year warranty on both substructure and superstructure and the land is zero VAT rated.

Plot Passport

Each plot’s specific Plot Passport sets out the parameters and information for your build.

Following the rules and guidelines means you’ll be pre-approved for outline planning.

The traditional planning permission route typically takes 8-13 weeks. But at Graven Hill, once you have submitted your planning application and it’s been registered by the Council, planning permission should be received within 28 days.

Following the talk, which took place in the Build It education house, we took a walking tour of the site with Susan Weston, Custom Journey Project Manager at Graven Hill. Susan actually lives on the site – having completed her self-build property in the early days of the project. Susan project managed her own build, having had experience of engineering and project management principles in her career, and we were delighted to hear how Susan had visited the NSBRC at least five times during her own build!

It was fantastic to see Susan’s stunning home – which is clad in a variety of external finishes and features a lovely rooflight – and hear her lived experience of the development. The beautiful and unique homes being built at Graven Hill will be surrounded by open green spaces including woodlands, allotments and a network of cycle and footpaths. The ‘green’ nature of the site was clear during our walk, and the number of open spaces and both long-established and new trees and plantings were noticeable.

Perhaps most noticeable is the sheer range of property design styles, construction types and finishes – particularly in the pure ‘self-build’ zones. It creates an exciting, engaging streetscape, and we found that – although different to almost any other development you might find in the UK – it works really well. It is so exciting to see that home-owners have been able to put their individual stamp on to properties, while building (in every sense) a community.

It was perhaps inevitable, when under-taking a unique project at such scale, that the development team have faced challenges along the way. It was clear from our visit that there is a genuine desire to develop a community among the occupants of Graven Hill, and several activities have been arranged to help this including an annual summer barbeque. A retail complex is opening soon which will feature a great coffee shop / cocktail bar alongside a health and beauty business.

The development will feature its own primary school, and this phase is about to commence, with the hope of opening to its first intake of pupils in September 2023.

Graven Hill’s 7 step plan for success!

Graven Hill have developed a seven-step plan to achieving a dream self build home at their site:

  1. Shape your ideas: initially the team encourage you to think about your design, work out your finances and work out what type of plot will suit you.
  2. Talk to us: the team will discuss your outline design drawings, which will need to show floor plans, elevations and choice of materials – ensuring you fulfil the criteria of the plot passport.
  3. Reserve your plot: once your finances and mortgage are in place, it’s time to reserve your plot.
  4. Design and permissions: the team will help you secure your planning permission based on your final design and drawings
  5. Exchange contracts: you’ll have agreed the final design and price, allowing you to exchange contracts and pay a 10% deposit on the final price
  6. Completion: foundations have to be signed off, then Graven Hill serves notice for completion (10 days notice) and the self-builder pays the balance of the plot and the land.
  7. Get building: the really exciting bit! Whether you are self-building, engaging a project manager or a main contractor, the construction phase must be completed (to issuing of certificate of completion) within 24 months.


We’d like to thank Gemma David (Customer Experience Director), Susan Weston (Customer Journey Project Manager) and Abbie Warner (Digital Marketing Executive) for welcoming us to Graven Hill and we wish them every success in the future of this amazing development.

For more information on Graven Hill please visit: Custom Build & Self Build Homes | Biggest Community in UK | Graven Hill


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