Custom-build sustainable development in rural Essex

Village Makers, the developers behind the award-wining ‘Wintles’ development in Shropshire, have taken the concept of Custom Build, one of the Government’s current solutions to the housing shortage, and created an innovative plan for a sustainable development in rural Essex.

The scheme, Oakley Orchards, is a joint venture between Pete Thompson, a local landowner and farmer, and Village Makers. Outline planning permission has been granted for 51 houses on a nine acre site amidst fruit orchards in the village of Great Oakley.

Purchasers will be able to choose their plot and their house type, choose from a range of additional features such as sunspace, balcony or bay window, choose the internal layout, and choose the interior specification.

Bob Tomlinson of Village Makers says,

“There are six designs to choose from, so the houses can’t really be described as bespoke. However, the interiors can be built to individual specifications, to suit the needs and tastes of the buyer.”

Internal floor areas range from 85 sq.m to 248 sq.m, and plot prices are expected to range from £50,000 to £310,000, with build prices ranging from £1,400 to £1,600 / sq. m, to include all kitchens, bathrooms, flooring etc to a good standard.

The building envelopes have been designed to Passive House Standard, drawing on the local vernacular of Great Oakley, but with contemporary elements. Carole Salmon of Village Makers says,

“Oakley Orchards isn’t a pastiche; it will be thoroughly modern, a neighbourhood in which the homes are energy efficient and utilise up-to-date building methods, but are designed to mirror the local architecture.”

The definition of custom build is a self-build home that has been facilitated in some way by an enabling developer. Bob Tomlinson says,

“We are offering buyers many of the benefits of self-build but without the headache. There are enough permutations and choices to make the houses individual, but buyers don’t have to find the plot, get planning permission, find a builder or oversee the build. One of the great advantages of Oakley Orchards is the thought and investment that has gone into its immediate and wider surroundings.”

The innovative nature of Oakley Orchards doesn’t end with its custom build nature and sustainable construction methods. It has been designed to positively encourage neighbourliness and community. The arrangement of the plots around greens planted with fruit trees and allotments flies in the face of the regimented arrangement of many developments. Each house is oriented differently on pedestrian pathways, and visitors will struggle to find a straight line, apart from the walls of the houses themselves.

Pete Thompson, MD of Thompsons Farm says,

“Every aspect of the design – from the open spaces, to the layout of the pathways and the location and orientation of the houses – is designed to encourage people to meet and talk to each other. There are also numerous green spaces, a communal herb garden and allotments, and a communal green to encourage community events. A forest school and village hall will be created as part of the development.”

Oakley Orchards is very much part of the village of Great Oakley with its active and friendly community, school, church, playing field, shop and community run pub, The Maybush.