Liv­ing the (coun­try) dream

DEB­O­RAH STONE takes a look at a new de­vel­op­ment that lets you en­joy the ru­ral life within a safe, mod­ern en­vi­ron­ment

Sunday Express - - LETTERS -

IMAG­INE liv­ing in a vil­lage where you walk out of your front door on to a green, not a road, so it’s safe for chil­dren to play out­side with­out dodg­ing cars; where you can chat to neigh­bours while pick­ing fruit from com­mu­nal or­chards and herbs from shared gar­dens. Sounds like an im­pos­si­ble dream, doesn’t it? But it’s a dream that will come true in a cor­ner of Es­sex quite soon now that Oak­ley Or­chards – a neigh­bour­hood of 51 houses – has been given plan­ning per­mis­sion.

The de­vel­op­ment in Great Oak­ley – be­tween Man­ningtree and Har­wich – will be built by Vil­lage Mak­ers, a house de­sign and con­struc­tion com­pany aimed at cre­at­ing low-car­bon de­vel­op­ments where peo­ple can work and go to school lo­cally, grow their own food and cre­ate a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity.

It’s a build­ing model that has already been suc­cess­ful at pre­vi­ous sites, no­tably The Win­tles in Shrop­shire, and it is a de­vel­op­ment that is be­ing made pos­si­ble by the in­no­va­tive fore­sight of the landown­ers, the Thomp­son fam­ily, a third gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers at Brook Farm in Great Oak­ley.

“Pete Thomp­son, the farmer, wanted to de­velop his land and wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent from the usual, be­cause he lives there and he is an in­no­va­tive guy,” says Vil­lage Mak­ers di­rec­tor Ca­role Salmon.

The farm has com­mer­cial apple and pear or­chards and also grows plums, apri­cots, figs and cit­rus fruit, mak­ing fruit juice and gin from second-grade fruit that can’t be sold – so noth­ing goes to waste.

The fam­ily plans to launch new farm walks with Great Oak­ley’s com­mu­nity-owned pub and already in­vites school groups, Cubs and Beavers to learn about food, farm­ing and na­ture on its land.

“Pete has es­tab­lished a for­est school to teach out­door skills to chil­dren,” says Ca­role.

“They build shel­ters and learn about na­ture and he is plan­ning to put in an ad­ven­ture play­ground in the woods. Vil­lage Mak­ers stands for all of that.”

Like The Win­tles, Vil­lage Mak­ers’ 12-acre de­vel­op­ment in Bish­ops Cas­tle, Oak­ley Or­chards will be a cus­tom build de­vel­op­ment, so pur­chasers choose a plot then their house de­sign from the six avail­able, rang­ing from two to four-bed­room houses.

Ad­di­tional fea­tures such as a bal­cony, bay win­dow or “sun­space” can be added and there is a choice of in­ter­nal lay­outs and in­te­rior spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

In­ter­nal floor areas range from 85sqm to 248sqm and plot prices are ex­pected to range from £50,000 to £310,000, with build prices rang­ing from £1,400 to £1,600 per sqm. This will in­clude fully-fit­ted kitchens and bath­rooms plus floor­ing.

The build­ings have been de­signed to Pas­sive House Stan­dard and re­flect lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture while in­cor­po­rat­ing con­tem­po­rary el­e­ments. “Oak­ley Or­chards isn’t a pas­tiche,” says Ca­role. “It will be thor­oughly mod­ern, with homes that are en­ergy-ef­fi­cient and utilise up-to-date build­ing meth­ods but are de­signed to mir­ror the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture.

“The place-mak­ing and pat­tern of the place is the ba­sis for neigh­bourli­ness. There are no grid sys­tems or cul-de-sacs.

“What usu­ally hap­pens on new de­vel­op­ments is that roads are put in first and cars are most im­por­tant. Here the peo­ple and houses come first and the cars are se­condary and go round the back of the houses where there are car ports. Cars don’t dom­i­nate.”

One of the suc­cesses of pre­vi­ous de­vel­op­ments, es­pe­cially The Win­tles, has been the pro­vi­sion of al­lot­ments and Ca­role says this will be a fea­ture of Oak­ley Or­chards too.

“There are already al­lot­ments on the edge of the site, so there may be al­lot­ments there for peo­ple mov­ing into the new de­vel­op­ment, but if there is de­mand for more Pete Thomp­son will make land avail­able,” says Ca­role.

“Oak­ley Or­chards will be a place to live rather than just in­habit.”

The first phase of the de­vel­op­ment is now avail­able for reser­va­tions. For de­tails go to oak­ley­or­ and for more in­for­ma­tion visit vil­lage-mak­ and gth­omp­

IDYL­LIC LIFE­STYLE: Oak­ley Or­chards will be a com­mu­nity where peo­ple can work and go to school lo­cally, and even grow their own food

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