Birch Grove

Millbank Homes

Situated within the serene surroundings of Chalfont St Giles in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, the 1.23Ha Birch Grove development (completed in early 2024) has transformed a neglected and contaminated smallholding - previously derelict for four decades - into a haven for sustainable living, featuring three contemporary net zero houses that seamlessly integrate into the natural landscape.

The site's planning history (eight refusals over 35 years) and Green Belt and AONB designations posed significant challenges. Nevertheless, our team undertook extensive investigations to develop a scheme that replicated the existing agricultural structures, together with a landscaping strategy that significantly enhanced and improved the openness of the Green Belt. Our meticulous planning approach led to the Appeal Inspector’s determination of ‘Very Special Circumstances’, giving the green light for development. Previously covered in 81% concrete, tarmac and hardstanding and comprising 20+ decaying farm buildings full of asbestos, the site required extensive restoration efforts that included painstaking cleanup, removal of rampant Japanese knotweed and extensive landscaping, all of which resulted in a remarkable Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and increase in habitat diversity of 227%. Guided by the principles of the Building with Nature standards (the scheme conforms with all 12) and biophilic design, the development now prioritises the protection and enhancement of nature whilst ensuring the long-term wellbeing of future occupants. The final result is three innovatively designed and sustainably built modern eco-houses, nestled within open meadows and ‘coppice’ woodlands merging sympathetically with Ancient Woodland, along with water courses and a wildlife-sustaining pond.