A partnership between a Kent architect and a Dutch building engineer will create Kent’s first ever sustainable self-build community.
A former farm site in Kennington, near Ashford in Kent, will be transformed by people who will have designed and built their own homes, with plots going on sale in autumn 2023.
But it’s not self-build as we know it in the UK – it’s self-build the Dutch way, with plots that are ready to build on with planning and utilities already in place.
It’s called a ‘serviced plot’.
Self-build isn’t new in the UK and there are other sites in the UK offering a self-build opportunity alongside traditional development. However, the difference at Orchard Farm, is that each of the eventual 122 homes will be self-built, with the self-build process made easier and more accessible because their plot will be ‘serviced’.
This means that self-build becomes an option for people who may have never considered it before, thinking self-build requires too much knowledge and expertise they don’t have.
A development with a difference
All of the tricky areas of self-build will be taken care of by the Orchard Farm team. Instead of worrying about planning permission, control and regulations, connecting to utilities and services or even getting on site to start the build like most self-builders experience, self-builders will buy a serviced plot with it all pre-done and simply get on with their design and build, either on their own or with the help of professionals.
Orchard Farm is a new concept for the UK from a UK/Dutch partnership and the people behind it are passionate about giving people the opportunity to build homes that work for them, rather than renovating an existing house or compromising on what a developer thinks they want.
Architect Adam Roake and building engineer, Hans Sparreboom have come together to make the dream of self-build a more achievable reality for people looking to move into or within Kent.
The Dutch Way
‘The Dutch Way’ makes building a home that works, easy and accessible, with prices comparable to buying off-plan on another development in the same area. The main difference is that buyers can have the exact design they want, rather than having to choose from what is being offered.
Adam Roake and Hans Sparreboom bring different strengths to the union but they are wedded on giving people the chance to build their own homes to a design that works for them.
There is already interest from a wide variety of people of all ages, including those who want to live multi-generationally or who need a carefully designed layout to work for a disabled member of the family.
The people behind Orchard Farm
Adam, whose background is ‘problem land’; solving issues and making it acceptable for planning permission, bought the land at Orchard Farm in 2015, using all of his career skills to get the site ready for housing. He could easily have sold it for a good profit to a developer but hasn’t, instead, choosing to take on the self-build project.
He says: “The Orchard Farm project is part of the solution to the housing shortage – which I am passionate about being a part of, because housing should not be an issue in a country like ours.
“Instead of providing homes to move into, we have plots of land ready to self-build unique homes on, for a comparable price of a new build.
“The cost of their self-build home is up to the buyer – it will depend on their choice of materials, furnishing, technology and specification and how much of the work they want to do themselves.
“Self-build is an obligation of local authority housing provision but many councils don’t have the resources to make it happen and this is where we step in, working with Ashford Borough Council to help them to meet their self-build targets on housing delivery.
“The partnership with our colleagues in Holland has made it possible, as they bring their successful model of self-building communities to the table; it’s very exciting to be a part of this.”
Hans, who runs Steenvlinder in The Hague, spent 25 years working for the local council there setting up a ‘plot shop’ for residents, providing self-build schemes and an accessible product for anyone to start their own self-build adventure.
He’s philosophical and so is his company name – it directly translates to stone (steen) butterfly (vlinder).
He says: “Although seemingly a paradox, the name inspires us to think in terms of what is possible and to focus on the spectacular.
“How can a house facilitate the life people want? Our aim is to give people the chance to build their own unique home. Because of planning regulations, we have to keep to some rules, but this is mostly around materials and height etc.
“Everyone will start with the same choices but what they choose is the exciting part – because unlike other developers, we don’t know what the site will look like when it’s finished.
“We’re doing it the Dutch way, which has been pioneered by Steenvlinder in the Netherlands, making it simple and accessible for those who are interested in self build but not experienced. The Dutch way is that we arrange it all, creating a trusted and reliable network to help our self-builders, then leave people to do the bits they can do, the design and instructing builders and other trades and then furnishing the interior.
“We are creating a new community in a great location in Ashford. A place where we hope many people will want to live. We and our self-builders in the Netherlands are proud of the work that we have achieved and know this can be replicated in Kent.
“Once it is successful, other local authorities will see how it can work, to help them meet their self-build housing quotas and more people will have the right homes – not just the pioneering self-builders at Orchard Farm.”