Combining the best of British architecture and impeccable eco-credentials, Habitat First Group’s latest residential project, Silverlake in Dorset, is all about accentuating the positives. Tania Jacobs pays an exploratory visit

Sometimes when you’re searching for inspiration, the best ideas are literally staring you in the face. That’s certainly what owner, Red Paxton discovered when scoping out initial concepts for his company’s latest residential venture, Silverlake in the back-to-nature environs of West Dorset.

Enjoying a rugged rural location just north of Weymouth and close to Poole, the estate which officially opened its gates to residents this spring, isn’t short of natural asset attractions - 564 acres of lakes, waterways, beaches and heathland, where families can relax and enjoy everything nature’s playground has to offer.

“Bringing architecture, ecology and people together in a managed community was our primary goal,” explains Red, “but we’ve also prioritised the eco-credentials of the holiday homes and amenities on the estate. Built from local materials with innovative designs inspired by West Dorset’s character, the emphasis is very much on sustainability.”

As development templates go – few could argue with the ‘build with conscience’ principle. For the family-owned company however, Silverlake is far from being a one-off showcase – it represents a residential blueprint for roll out that has been many years in the making.

It was back in the mid-1990s that property entrepreneur Jeremy Paxton, a co-founder of the Watermark development of holiday homes in the Cotswolds, spotted a plot of land around some abandoned quarry pits near Cirencester. With a break the mould vision and a persuasive business plan, he secured planning permission and went on to build Lower Mill Estate, a 550-acre residential lakeside community with conservation at its heart.

Almost 20 years on, and the company, now run by sons and daughter trio Red, Rory and Ruby, are building on the success of Lower Mill with a next phase of projects in the pipeline with Silverlake setting the bar high.

When built out, the community will comprise 1,000 holiday chalets and lodges, with a centre-piece country club and spa. Using the latest in renewable energy products, the spa boasts a heated infinity pool overlooking a natural reed bed, but providing a broad reach ‘time-out’ experience for homeowners and guests is clearly a priority with a wide range of facilities including a gym, tennis court, multi-use games court, boating and fishing lakes and cycle routes.

For buyers looking to purchase an estate home – hands-on involvement from the early stages is very much encouraged by the development team starting with the initial selection of a freehold plot. Homeowners can either select one of Habitat First Groups property designs, modify an existing one or instruct their own architect to create a one-off bespoke design. Adds Red: “Recommended builders are on hand every step of the way to help plan layouts and interior specs to ensure homes have an owner’s personal stamp on them.” materials and finishes, to ensure your home has your personal stamp on it.

First and second-phase property sales to date have been brisk, take-up that has been helped in no small measure by local community support of the project – seen as a “force for good” for the West Dorset economy, encouraging inward investment, local spending and further employment. The construction stage alone is expected to generate £470million over a 20 to 30-year period, of which over half will be spent with local businesses, such as construction and design firms. Over 500 construction and sales jobs will also be created, 286 of them with local firms, with a further 270 indirect jobs expected from visitor spend in the area.

Protecting the local environment to encourage more wildlife is a further focus of attention inspiring the estate’s design ethos. Adds Red: “As with Lower Mill, we’re aiming to not only support the local economy, but also to put the necessary infrastructure in place for the protection of hundreds of species of wildlife. At both our sites, species surveys have been carried out and we’ve even identified the key areas of ecological importance for breeding birds, reptiles, dormouse, otter, water vole, invertebrates, and bats. Rambling, nature-watching and exploring the woodland reserve – it’s all about creating the perfect rural idyll – safe, secure and sustainable.”

The family’s passion for conservation is clearly paying dividends. Most recently, the company scooped up prestigious housing awards for the innovative Habitat House in Lower Mill, designed in conjunction with architect Featherstone and Young, as well as ‘Highly Commended Architecture Single Residence in the South West’ England category at the UK Property Awards sponsored by The Telegraph.

Adds Red: “2017 is shaping up to be a true milestone. By close of play this year, over 40 properties will have been built by families at Silverlake and the spa will be fully operational.

As to future projects in the making. “We’re in the early stages of planning a third development, Birchwood Lakes, on the site of the former Venn Quarry near Barnstaple in Devon. Plans include 157 luxury cabins and lodges in addition to a 40-bedroom hotel. A home-from-home with endless opportunities to explore nature – it’s the perfect partnership.”

For more information visit: www.silverlakedorest.com and www.habitatfirstgroup.com

For property sales enquiries please contact is cknight@habitatfirstgroup.com Tel: +44 (0)1305 853 490

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