Custom build comes to West Cumbria

Prospective residents of a West Cumbrian village are putting their imaginations to work, designing individual custom build homes.

The idea of developing the Wellbank site, near Bootle, goes back to 2011 and the Bootle2020 plan, which was launched to try to attract new families to the area.

The 12.5-acre former Ministry of Defence site was tipped for development and gained outline planning permission from the Lake District National Park Authority for a mixture of 50 houses, a small hotel and a number of business units.

Final demolition and site enabling work for the project was completed last year and first phase plots for 18 Custom Build homes are now available. Four are already reserved.

Planning rules stipulate that the houses have to be people’s primary residence, rather than a second home, and it is hoped construction of the first houses will begin by autumn 2022.

The site is owned by FNS limited, which is working with Wilmslow-based company Hugr Homes Ltd, a specialist of custom-build homes that is project manager for Wellbank and will deliver the homes.

Hugr Homes is now in the final stages of agreeing with the national park the basic types of houses it can offer, although the home owners will be able to choose from a number of options to make their home unique.

“We’ll have a design guide approved by the planners and that will set out the parameters for how each house will look,” says Joe Higginson, owner and director of Hugr Homes. “What that gives you is a bit of a continuity of house types on the site.”

When buyers purchase their plot of land, they will work with Hugr to ensure any changes or adaptations to the design are within the terms agreed with the national park. These might include altering the materials and design and internal layout or spending more money on features such as extra insulation, solar batteries or air source heat pumps.

“Obviously now you’ve got a lot more working from home and flexible working,” says Joe.

“Whereas pre-Covid you might have just had a spare bedroom, people are now wanting something designed to be more specifically a home office.”

When it comes to the cost of a custom-build home, people are often surprised how cost-effective it can be: a plot costs from £100,000 to £125,000, with the build cost extra on top of that.

“Roughly speaking you should work on the assumption you will spend probably the same amount of money you would usually spend buying an equivalent house, but it will probably be built better, specified better and will fit your needs better,” says Joe.

He says the attractions of the national park, plus the draw of big employers such as BAE, in Barrow, and the nuclear industry surrounding Sellafield mean there has been no lack of interest.

“You’ve got the benefits of the Lake District National Park without perhaps some of the disadvantages of being in some of the more busy areas,” says Joe, who is also building homes near Kirkham and Great Eccleston, in Lancashire. “You’ve obviously got the beaches five or 10 minutes away. The Western Lakes is just a fantastic location.”

Not only is Wellbank a site of sustainable, timber-framed homes, it is also a community with cycleways and pathways, while particular attention has been paid to the open space, for people to meet and for children to play safely, and circulation routes, with wide pathways linking its separate parts.

Hugr Homes has created a detailed SuDS (sustainable draining system). This type of system is both efficient and environmentally beneficial because it minimises or eliminates long-term detrimental damage. Not only do SuDS mimic natural draining systems, capturing rainwater and allowing it to soak into underground permeable areas, they also help to create attractive wildlife habitats.

Last year the Government commissioned an independent review into the state of custom- and self-build housing in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying: “Self-build and custom-build housing can play a crucial role for consumers and ensuring people can live in the homes that they want, and that are designed to meet their needs.”

About 13,000 houses are built in this way in the UK each year, making it collectively the fourth or fifth biggest source of housing when ranked alongside other house builders.

“As a model it is something that the Government is trying to encourage,” says Joe. “If you go into Europe, lots of people custom-build their own house. It’s only in the UK, really, where we’re a bit different and we tend to buy our new houses from the big house builders. In the future, the Government is definitely looking to boost this part of the housing market and we aim to play our part in delivering these higher-quality homes.”

For more information contact the Hugr Homes team today by emailing or telephoning 07540 754153.