We visited Gravel Hill in Bicester to see the largest self and custom build housing developments in the UK. Cherwell District Council bought a large parcel of a brownfield land (approx. 185 ha) in 2014 previously used as a former Defence of Ministry site and have been progressing with building a scheme of 1,900 houses ranging from a mix of self-build, custom build, apartments and affordable houses over the subsequent 10 years.
When walking around the site, it was apparent that there was a mixed range of housing types which varied in size and appearance. This contrasted to the often homogenous and uniform nature of typical developer-driven housing schemes. The areas we visited still felt like a construction site rather than a fully developed neighbourhood so it would be interesting to see how it develops over time and what kind of community it creates.
Through this short visit, we gained some insight into the surrounding housing developments taking place in Bicester. This has provided us with the opportunity to begin developing our understanding of self-build housing. Moving forward, the group will conduct relevant precedent analysis to support the group’s investigation in creating well-considered design solutions of self-build houses.
Written by: Byron Chan, MArch Architecture