New Homes Awards 2022: the best new small developments from Westminster Fire Station to Blenheim Palace

·5 min read
The Grade II-listed Westminster Fire Station near Victoria has been divided up into 17 apartments  (Nick Rochowski Photography)
The Grade II-listed Westminster Fire Station near Victoria has been divided up into 17 apartments (Nick Rochowski Photography)

Apple orchards and allotments, Michelin-star restaurants, period features and statement architecture – small new boutique developments could offer homebuyers a more characterful and intimate community vibe than they’d find on a massive housing estate.

Whether you fancy a slice of a historic building, life in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or something with cutting-edge modern architecture, the best small developments bring exclusivity and attention to detail.

And as London and the South-East run short of big industrial sites to regenerate, the spotlight will increasingly begin to shine on small but perfectly formed alternatives.

History in the making

In the capital, the red-brick façade of Westminster Fire Station near Victoria train station looks much as it has for a century. Inside, however, the Grade II-listed Edwardian building has been extended and divided up into 17 apartments.

Original features include exposed steel beams and glazed brick tiles, while the residents’ entrance is an original fire carriage door. The courtyard was once used as a turning circle for the engine bays and stabling for horses.

What used to be the ground-floor engine room and watch room is now home to Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar’s new restaurant, Mathura.

Prices start at £895,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Prices start at £895,000 for an apartment at Westminster Fire Station near Victoria (Nick Rochowski Photography)
Prices start at £895,000 for an apartment at Westminster Fire Station near Victoria (Nick Rochowski Photography)

Old buildings repurposed as new homes brim with character and are often in great urban locations, or set amid beautifully laid-out parkland – perfect for buyers who don’t want to give up on period charm.

In Wiltshire, the new homes at Burderop Park are set in 31 private acres of parkland beside the Marlborough Downs – but they’re still within commuting distance of London or Bristol from Swindon station, five miles to the north.

The red-brick homes in leafy streets take architectural inspiration from the county’s great country estates. The nearest village, Chiseldon, is two miles away and has a primary school, a farm shop and café, plus a choice of pubs. Prices start at £425,000.

New homes at Burderop Park, Wiltshire, are set in 31 acres of private parkland (Paul Eccleston Arthouse)
New homes at Burderop Park, Wiltshire, are set in 31 acres of private parkland (Paul Eccleston Arthouse)

A modern classic

Muswell Hill is one of north London’s classic urban villages, full of pretty cafés, boutiques and independent restaurants. It’s also handy for Highgate Woods and Alexandra Park and Palace.

Less than a mile from the centre of Muswell Hill, The Folium is a collection of shared ownership apartments and market sale townhouses set next to the 36-acre Coppetts Wood.

The Folium in Muswell Hill has shared ownership and market sale homes. Residents can also opt for an on-site allotment (Handout)
The Folium in Muswell Hill has shared ownership and market sale homes. Residents can also opt for an on-site allotment (Handout)

To reflect its leafy location, the site is planted with plenty of trees, while there are also children’s play areas and seating, and residents can take on an on-site allotment should they wish to grow their own food and flowers. And, to keep running costs down, the building is fitted with photovoltaic panels that generate clean energy.

Prices at The Folium start at £104,375 for 25 per cent of a one-bedroom shared ownership apartment with a full value of £417,500. Four-bedroom townhouses at the scheme are priced from £1.4million.

‘It was vital the property had great walking routes close by’

Mixing it up: Graham and Helen Ayres wanted a blend of rural and contemporary in their new home, plus plenty of open space nearby to exercise their two dogs (Graham and Helen Ayres)
Mixing it up: Graham and Helen Ayres wanted a blend of rural and contemporary in their new home, plus plenty of open space nearby to exercise their two dogs (Graham and Helen Ayres)

With views across the North Downs complementing its distinctive modern architecture, the 31-home Lydden Hills development proved the perfect mix to tempt Helen and Graham Ayres.

Last October the couple bade farewell to the bungalow in Whitfield, Kent, that had been their home for some 30 years, and moved three miles up the road to Lydden Hills with their dogs Basil and Harvey.

“A new-build property was something that really appealed to us but it was about finding the right one. We were looking for something really contemporary that also had a rural feel,” said Helen, 57.

“We also loved the fact it was a small development in a village environment. With two large dogs in tow, it was vital that the property had great walking routes close by and space for our adult sons to stay.”

The couple’s £625,000 three-bedroom townhouse also has two living rooms and a study – perfect since they both work from home. Helen is an income manager and Graham, 59, is a marine consultant.

Lydden Hills is five miles from Dover – trains to St Pancras International take from just over an hour – and nine miles from the seaside and shops of Folkestone.

Prices at Lydden Hills start at £660,000 for a four-bedroom house.

‘We used our time to mood board every bit of the house’

It’s exactly how we like it: Nimi and Louis Cooper allowed their children to have a say in what they wanted from the family’s new home at Park View in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (Andrew Ogilvy)
It’s exactly how we like it: Nimi and Louis Cooper allowed their children to have a say in what they wanted from the family’s new home at Park View in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (Andrew Ogilvy)

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is one of the finest private residences in Britain. A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough.

The palace sits in around 12,000 acres featuring woodland, farmland and some fabulous walks. The estate is also busy building new homes within its boundaries, including Park View, a development close to the market town of Woodstock.

This development is a pleasing mixture of traditional and up-to-date. It has been built by local craftspeople using locally sourced materials but also incorporates must-have modern features such as electric car-charging points and fibre optic broadband.

Homes in the Park View development within the Blenheim Palace estate (Handout)
Homes in the Park View development within the Blenheim Palace estate (Handout)

Nimi and Louis Cooper see Park View as the perfect place to bring up their two children, aged 15 and seven. The couple, both 36, were happily settled in Woodstock but were in need of a larger home and bought a detached house off-plan, on the edge of the site and close to the town centre.

While waiting for it to be completed during the pandemic, Nimi – who runs her own events company, Nimi & Me Events – and Louis, a project manager for an electrical contractor, had ample time to work on their new home’s design.

“We used our time to mood board every inch of the house and the children gave clear briefs of what they wanted their spaces to deliver,” explained Nimi.

“Our major influences for the rest of the house were mid-century modern and Scandinavian décor styles, incorporating lots of textures and raw materials as well as drawing on local and British influences.”

Prices at Park View start at £385,000 for a flat or from £565,000 for a three-bedroom house.