Why the coming of a new year shouldn't be taken for granted

While it is easy to take the coming of a new year for granted, over the last few years I have become more and more conscious and appreciative of the opportunity that the start of a new year represents. I have found that it is healthy and productive to take stock by looking back at our personal and professional experiences over the past year and to give thanks for the blessings we have received. It is of course also a chance to making adjustments in our life and work and to set goals for the year ahead. As I look back at my work achievements in 2022 and look forward to 2023, I am thankful for and excited about a number of projects and about a various new things we are working on, and these shall be the subject of this newsletter.


Woodland retreat completed after 8 years of hard work

It was a great joy and extremely rewarding to see a project that I have been working on for over 8 years for a recreational and spiritual woodland retreat completed and finally being used and enjoyed by guests.

A total of 17 elegant timber-clad cabins have been built within the beautiful and tranquil woodland green belt site. Most of the cabins have been built in close proximity to existing trees and were therefore  designed to be elevated from the ground, resting on helical screw piles (rather than a concrete slab or footings) in order to protect tree roots and minimise environmental impact.


Agricultural buildings to be converted to residential after Class Q application approved

It was also great to obtain Class Q Prior Approval for the conversion of an agricultural barn and two grain silos into dwellings after a fairly lengthy and fraught period of planning negotiations. Below is a photograph of the structures to be converted. For those who are unaware, Class Q is a form of permitted development that allows change of use from agricultural to residential use, subject to certain conditions and limitations.


Contemporary new build smart home to start on site

As 2023 gets underway, I am excited for the construction of a sensitively-designed and yet unashamedly contemporary new build dwelling to start on site. Following demolition of an existing chalet-bungalow over the past few days, work on the pile and beam foundation should get under way in the coming weeks. Once complete, the house will feature a fully-integrated cloud-free smart home system, with automation and control of almost everything from lighting and blinds, to heating and ventilation, to security and audio visual systems.  


How our planning appeal could reinforce your Right to Build

I am also eagerly waiting for the result of a planning appeal submitted in 2022 for my own self build, a new build Passivhaus located within the Green Belt, within a Conservation Area, and adjacent to a Grade II listed building. It is fair to say that success is by no means guaranteed but we like a challenge. At the time of the appeal, we had been on the Council’s Self Build Register for almost 5 years, and yet neither we nor anyone else on the register had been offered a self-build plot. The statement submitted to the Planning Inspectorate therefore included a Very Special Circumstances case based on the fact that the Council had not taken sufficient steps to meet its statutory obligations in regard to our “right to build”, arguing that is a material consideration of sufficient weight to outweigh any perceived adverse impacts of the proposals. If successful at appeal, the decision could set a legal precedent and reinforce the Right to Build.


Why we created a new Facebook group and why you should join.

We were recently looking for a Facebook group focused on the creation of High Performance Self Build Homes in the UK, and being unable to find one, we thought we would create one. The group now has over 180 members and has become a place where aspiring self builders can ask questions and industry professionals (and those who have completed self builds) can share their knowledge and experience. We invite you to join this growing community by searching for "High Performance Self Build Homes UK" on Facebook.


Our newest service: The Self Build Plot Review

We are now offering a new Self Build Plot Review service which is similar to a “Homebuyer Survey” but for self build plots. The service includes a site visit, a detailed report, and a follow up video call, and the goal to help you go from unsure about the development potential of the site to having a clear picture of the key constraints and opportunities. To request a site specific quotation, email us with details regarding the plot you would like reviewed.


About the author

Oliver Murray is a Cambridge-based Architect and Self Build Coach who specialises in high-performance self-build homes and provides Self Build Coaching alongside his architectural services to help his clients progress through their self build journeys with clarity and confidence. If you are interested in working with us, you can book a Getting Started Consultation by clicking on the photo below. This is 45 minute online video call during which you will have a chance to speak directly with Oliver about your self build aspirations and how you can get started.

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