'Design your own house' option on new Preston estate - and you don't even need to know a good builder

Residents of a new housing estate on the outskirts of Preston will be given the chance to design their own homes after plans were approved for a development that will include more than two dozen “custom build” properties.

By Paul Faulkner
Monday, 6th December 2021, 8:34 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 8:36 am

The houses will come in three pre-defined plot sizes, but it will be largely up to the people who buy them what they look like and how they are laid out. The 26 self-design dwellings will form part of a wider estate of 58 homes off Tabley Lane in Higher Bartle, close to the M55.

Community Gateway Association (CGA) has been granted permission for the development, alongside another totalling 175 homes for which it was given outline approval three years ago. Although officially two separate proposals, the social housing provider is treating the sites as “one whole development”, a meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee heard.

CGA’s Marcus Fisher told committee members that the organisation would facilitate the actual construction of the personalised properties in order to help people who would like to take advantage of the custom build option, but “haven’t really got the confidence or the means” to do so.

More than 230 homes will be built in the red-bordered area off Tabley Lane - 26 of which will "custom build" plots (image: Levitt Bernstein, via Preston City Council planning portal)

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Although there is no distinction between the “custom build” and “self build” concepts in planning legislation, Mr. Fisher said that the latter usually involved somebody buying a plot and being allowed to “get on with it as they wish”.

“We feel the need to control it a little bit more than that. People can customise and design a house…and there will be a certain amount of freedom. [But] the real freedom is…how the house is laid out internally,” he explained.

Committee member Jennifer Mein questioned the demand for custom build properties and described the number planned for the CGA estate as “a bit of a stab in the dark”.

The land that forms part of the major development off Tabley Lane

Papers presented to the meeting revealed that in the year to October 2021, just three people had expressed an interest in self or custom build housing in Preston, according to the register which the city council is obliged to maintain so that it can accommodate such interest through the planning process. The year prior to that, only one person had indicated their hope to self build in the city.

Mr. Fisher said that the option was increasingly being offered across the country, but if it transpired that there was no significant demand for it in Preston, CGA would build on the plots itself.

In addition to the custom build homes, the 58-dwelling development will comprise properties ranging from one-bedroomed apartments up to four-bedroomed houses, 30 percent of which will be in the affordable category.

The committee also approved the details of the 175 homes on the adjoining plot to the west, which was granted outline approval in 2018. That site will include 42 one and two-bedroomed apartments in a single centrally-located block. There will also be 34 two-bed, 78 three-bed and 21 four-bed houses in a range of styles.

Members were told that CGA is aiming for 60 percent of the dwellings on that estate to be classed as affordable, although the eventual number will depend on the sale of the market value homes needed for the not-for-profit organisation to fund them.

Marcus Fisher said that CGA was seeing increasing demand for four-bedroomed houses – which will be included in the affordable housing quota – having previously focused on two-bed properties as a bridge between single-bedroom apartments and three-bed houses.

The combined developments will contain newly-planted trees as well as an area of landscaping running along the border with the M55 in order to act as a buffer zone and also provide “a continuous green link” between the two metropolitan parks planned as part of the development of the wider North West Preston area.

Land has also been set aside for the provision of a new primary school, which will straddle the border with a neighbouring Redrow development.

Five public objections were lodged to the larger of the two CGA sites, within concerns including a claimed lack of public consultation and a fear that the properties would not fit in with the existing built environment.

Lancashire County Council highways officials had wanted a condition imposed on CGA requiring it to carry out a survey of the condition of the roads in the area prior to building work beginning – and to repair any damage subsequently caused during the construction process.

Backing that call, committee member Sue Whittam said: “We see time and time again, especially in rural areas, where roads have been damaged by construction traffic.”

However, planning case officer James Mercer said that the condition could not be included because it was unenforceable. He added that it would be impossible to prove whether any damage was the result of vehicles accessing the CGA site or those using Tabley Lane “as a general route”.

“[Damage] could be from construction traffic for another development or be general wear and tear in the road,” Mr. Mercer added.

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