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Trowers & Hamlins advises Cherwell District Council on UK’s first large-scale, self-build housing pr

Trowers & Hamlins advises Cherwell District Council on UK's first large-scale, self-build housing project

Trowers & Hamlins has advised Cherwell District Council on the multi-million pound acquisition and financing for the UK's first large-scale, self-build housing project.  The firm advised the Council on its use of an innovative ownership and funding structure to purchase a 187-hectare site in Bicester, Oxfordshire from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.  The purchase plans were initially announced by the Council in March 2014 and the deal closed in August 2014.

Cherwell opted to use its powers under the Localism Act 2011 to form its own trading company in order to deliver this project.  Trowers & Hamlins advised the Council on the creation of a wholly-owned special purpose company which will act as an umbrella organisation with various subsidiaries, including Graven Hill Village Developments Limited.  Graven Hill Village Developments will be responsible for delivering 1,900 self-build homes and the related infrastructure across the site.  In addition, the Council is also providing funding for the project using funds from various sources, including on-lending monies borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board. 

James Hawkins, Head of Public Sector Commercial at Trowers & Hamlins who led on the deal, commented:  "We are delighted to have advised the Council on this pioneering scheme.  This project leads the way for innovative councils wanting to use their powers under the Localism Act to deliver much needed affordable housing coupled with the added benefits of economic stimulation, employment opportunities, and community cohesion.

"Government has endorsed this approach through the Vanguard scheme and the new right to build, so other communities will be well placed to benefit from similar schemes in the near future."

By the Council's estimates, this unique scheme will create up to 2,000 new jobs and apprenticeships across one million square feet of commercial space, a primary school, pub/restaurant, and local shops. 

The site's self-build homes will vary in size and design according to residents' needs.  They are likely to include detached, semi-detached and terraced homes, as well as apartment blocks and bungalows.  The properties will be available on a range of tenures including outright ownership, shared ownership and renting, with 30 per cent of the homes being classed as affordable.  The first homes are due to be built in 2015.         

The multi-disciplinary team from Trowers & Hamlins advising Cherwell District Council was led by James Hawkins and comprised Commercial Property partner Sangita Unadkat, Head of Planning Jacqueline Backhaus, Corporate partner Ian Dobinson, and Banking and Finance partner Katharine Lewis.  In addition, Public Sector Commercial partner Paul McDermott advised on State Aid and senior associate Michael Surrey advised on tax aspects.