Disappointed self-builders have written an open letter to their district council saying its development company has parted from its ‘original vision’.

In the letter, householders at Graven Hill, the UK’s largest self-build development in Bicester, accuse Cherwell District Council (CDC) and its private development company, Graven Hill Village Development Company (GHVDC) of allowing the site to become “just another volume build development of energy inefficient, identikit houses.”

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Stating further that the developer has “abandoned its commitment to build to the high energy performance standard set out at the beginning of the project.”

The letter, published on the petition website change.org, has received 254 signatures of support.

Chief writer Stephen Aggett said: “Sadly, CDC and GHVDC have lost sight of the project’s original vision.

“The majority of new builds in the latest phase at Graven Hill are not self-build, and do not embrace cutting-edge design and construction methods.

“Instead, homes are built using traditional build methods and cookie cutter designs created by technicians rather than architects.

“GHVDC no longer deals with previous delivery partners with a track record of delivering energy efficient homes like Beattie Passive and Dan-wood, now preferring to opt for cheaper, traditional builders.

“But it is not too late to reaffirm the project’s original vision and demonstrate that there is a clear alternative to poor quality volume build housing in this country.”

In response, a spokesperson for Cherwell District Council said: “Graven Hill is a unique development that has allowed for diversity in the local housing market.

“It takes a ground-breaking approach to housing delivery and great progress has been made. We have acknowledged receipt of an open letter and our chief executive Yvonne Rees will respond.”

In an attempt to rescue Graven Hill from its “current trajectory” householders suggested several steps CDC and GHVDC can take.

They include the council meeting with representatives of householders at the site, GHVDC, the National Custom and Self Build Association and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to confirm and reiterate the vision for Graven Hill.

It was also recommended by householders that GHVDC commit to making a minimum of twenty-five per cent of available plots of all future phases available as serviced plots to self-builders.

They also request that Graven Hill’s self-builders and other householders are represented on GHVDC’s board of directors to give them a voice in decisions that will have an impact on the wellbeing of the hundreds of future and current householders of the community.

Further, it is asked of GHVDC that it commits to joining the New Homes Quality Board.

GHVDC declined to comment.


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1