Council claims top award for custom build housing work

A North East council has won a national award for its work on a pilot project which helps buyers custom build their own homes.

Durham County Council has been working with Custom Build Homes to develop nine serviced plots at the new Trinity Mews development on the outskirts of Durham City, close to the A691. The scheme, the first of its kind in County Durham, provides residents the opportunity to design their own home in their own style.

In 2019 the council’s Cabinet approved resources of up to £3.9million from future income generated by disposal of council-owned land to support a County Durham Self and Custom Build Programme. This presented an opportunity to deliver targeted infrastructure, different ways of ensuring sites are ready for market and to support and promote the custom build sector in County Durham.

The council has now been awarded the Best Custom Build Project or Model at the Build It Awards 2021 for its work on providing custom build properties.

The self-build and custom build market within the county, like elsewhere, is relatively small. The council identified an opportunity to develop a new approach to custom build projects and to explore the potential for these to be delivered in the county.

The team – comprising surveying, architectural, legal, communication, planning and project management expertise within the council – was able to undertake site feasibility, viability assessments and project development work to ascertain the best approach for the site.

Trinity Mews, with its nine fully serviced plots was launched in August 2021. All plots are now under offer, progressing through the reservation process and with parties looking to exchange contracts within six weeks.

The council, along with Custom Build Homes, is supporting purchasers through the process and forward to following their journey from designing to constructing their dream homes and establishing a new custom build community.

It is hoped that the success of Trinity Mews will provide greater stimulus for the custom build sector in the county, generating further demand for custom build serviced plots.

In line with its Towns and Villages Strategy, the council is committed to improving the quality and mix of housing across the county. The pilot with Custom Build Homes also offers the possibility of future opportunities for new developments in County Durham.

The judges’ citation for the award reads: “The winner is a local authority that’s recognised the gap between demand and delivery and is acting now to champion the sector and deliver more fully serviced plots through its flagship self and custom build programme.”

Cllr James Rowlandson, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets, said: “We’re delighted to have won this award for our work in helping to provide custom build serviced homes in the county.

“Our teams have shown great initiative to come up with an innovative approach in creating the scheme to provide a greater mix of housing for residents in County Durham, something which a key part of our Housing Strategy.”