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Karen CurtinSep 30, 2019 12:00:00 AM8 min read

Graven Hill: the perfect location for your self-build or custom build home

It is estimated that up to 1,900 unique homes will be built there for over the next 10 years. Graven Hill is a village being built at the southern edge of Bicester, 13 miles northeast of Oxford. The development creates a whole community, with a primary school, pre-school nursery and a community centre as well as shops, cafes and a local pub.

We believe that Custom Build is the future of home building in the UK, with Graven Hill paving the way for other such schemes. We invited Karen Curtin, Managing Director of Graven Hill to explain why living in the village is a very good opportunity to consider for people who dream of a personalised home for years.

Whilst most people can visualise their dream home, the reality of finding a well-priced plot in the perfect location can prove to be a frustrating and often fruitless process. What’s more, issues surrounding planning permission can put the brakes on any development project, which can cause even the best laid plans to go awry. Alternatively, plots might be too close to a busy road or too far from services, resulting in a costly remedy in order to bring power, water and drainage to the site.

graven hill village custom build

Five years ago, Cherwell District Council tackled these issues head-on and after purchasing some MoD land, came up with the innovative solution: a Self and Custom Build community.

Set in the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Birmingham, Bicester is home to Graven Hill, the UK’s largest development of Custom and Self Build homes. With fantastic links via rail and road, Graven Hill combines urban convenience with countryside living. Historic Oxford and the rolling Cotswold Hills are within easy reach, while the M40 motorway offers a fast track route to London and the Midlands.

This innovative development is becoming a thriving community in its own right. Currently on track to provide 1,900 homes, Graven Hill will also include a range of amenities such as a primary school, pub, shops, cafes, allotments and a community centre.

As Self Build plots are pre-designated, certain details can be pre-agreed with the planning authority, meaning that as long as the guidance of the Plot Passport is followed, planning permission is almost guaranteed. The local planning authority also offers a pre-application advice service, so each element of the passport can be explained to potential self-builders ahead of application. Graven Hill offers a range of serviced plots to suit all budgets and design requirements.


  • A serviced plot – utilities are brought right up to your plot boundary meaning that you are ready for the connection to be made when the time comes. Additionally, Graven Hill’s optional ‘Golden Brick’ package takes care of the foundations, drainage, substructure walls, ground floor slab and utility connections, giving one less (big) thing to worry out
  • Guaranteed planning permission if plans are in line with the conditions in the ‘Plot Passport’
  • Support from the Graven Hill team, every step of the way
  • A home which is specifically tailored to you and the needs of your family
  • An abundance of green space on site, all of which is being protected and enhanced throughout the development
graven hill village custom build

As Custom Build new homes are built without the need for load bearing walls, the internal layout can be adapted more easily than a standard new build – whether you decide to upsize, downsize, or futureproof, your home can flex to suit your needs.

Many of our Custom Build new homes are designed and built to Passivhaus standards, ensuring a comfortable living environment – no draughts or overheating! With a 10-year premier guarantee warranty and prices to suit all budgets – Custom Build homes can be for everyone.

For those wanting the convenience of a new build home, but the flexibility of a Self Build, Graven Hill also offers Custom Build new homes. Offering the best of both worlds, Custom Build homes give you the chance to customise the internal layout and finish of your property.

The sooner into the planning and build process you reserve a Custom Build new home, the greater the choices in terms of layout, fixtures and fittings. Prices of Custom Build new homes start at £299,950 and include all the features that make a home move-in ready; from high-quality appliances (we even set the time on your cooker, so you don’t have to!), to a turfed garden and patio area.

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Graven Hill is working alongside Self Build mortgage experts, such as BuildStore Mortgage Services, who provide a wide range of exclusive products and services to suit Self and Custom Builders – including higher lending percentages, competitive rates, and a choice of payment methods.

For those keen to follow in the footsteps of the young Pioneers on Grand Designs: The Street, Self Build mortgages are available for Graven Hill customers. Whilst a standard mortgage works by releasing a lump sum, a Self Build mortgage is different: the money is released in stages as the build progresses. There are different options for how the money can be released, depending on the type of project.

Graven Hill also offers Help to Buy on all Custom Build homes, with selected properties available with special incentives on stamp duty and legal fees. An extensive range of kitchen and bathroom choices means that it’s easy for first-time buyers to inject some personality into their move-in-ready home.


Take a look at our MD, Karen Curtin’s top tips on what to do next:

1. Do your research – This includes everything from the plot location and finance options to the available design and construction methods – be that modular or turnkey, contractor-led, or project-led. It can be daunting at first, so we recommend subscribing to different trade magazines and considering ideas from real-life case studies.

graven hill village custom build

2. Make a list, or two – It is easy to start with a blank sheet of paper and design a house which contains everything you want – the difficulty is fitting those features into the constraints of a budget. Compromise is key and whilst self-building offers the potential for budget to go further than it would on a traditional new build, there is a limit to how far it can go. Start by creating a wishlist, from there you can work out the real priorities and hopefully include a few of the ‘nice to haves’.

3. Be realistic – The best projects have a contingency budget and time allocations. While using a qualified project manager will cost more initially, it should pay for itself in terms of ensuring that you work within budgets and understand the impact of third-party deliveries or delays on the rest of the build.


For all-things Self and Custom Build, visit the Graven Hill website why not sign up for our newsletter at the same time, which gives you a feel for life at Graven Hill. We offer a range of workshops and seminars, as well as site tours so whether you are ready to start building, or are yet to put pen to paper, Graven Hill can cater for all.

graven hill village custom build


ACA recently completed 2 House Type designs, both of these family homes have gained Planning Approval and comply with the Design Code and Plot Passports.

House Type 1 – is a contemporary glazed gable home, with living accommodation on the ground floor and 4 large bedrooms on the first floor. House Type 2 – is a modernist 3 storey box, with living accommodation on the ground floor and 3 large bedrooms on the first floor, with a large master suite on the upper floor.

The houses have been designed to almost Passive Standard, using SIPS panels and triple glazed windows, with MVHR system. ACA regularly get involved in various Custom Build developments and offer a free initial consultation and site review services to help you decide on your potential new home. If you are looking to build your dream home at Graven Hill then please get in touch!

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    Graven Hill is the UK’s largest Self Build  and Custom Build community.     

The first-of-its-kind site is based in Bicester and will house up to 1,900 beautiful and unique homes which are due to be built over the next 10 years. The development is set to revolutionise the way in which properties are designed and built by offering a flexible alternative to the usual route.  The plots will be surrounded by open, green spaces including woodland, allotments and a network of cycle and footpaths connecting to the town centre and local transport links. Graven Hill prides itself on making dream homes that are out of the ordinary,  a reality for many.    

The pioneering project is the vision of Cherwell District Council and spans 188 hectares of  former  Ministry of Defence land. Cherwell District Council is leading the way with its approach to housing provisions and is the fastest provider of new homes in the UK.     

For more information visit    

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