Keith Osborne picks his favourite What House? 2011 award-winners


Wednesday 24th October 2012


Editor of, Keith Osborne

While I only get to see a fraction of the awards entries in person during the judging process, one of the perks of my role as editor of is that I get to go out and about around the country all year round, so I get to see an awful lot of new homes at other times. I'm always pleased when I see a scheme I've really liked on site earlier in the year is entered for an award, and even more so if the judges decide to recognise its excellence.

My favourites stretch from the Channel Islands to the north of England and encompass starter homes, retirement property and a little bit of "property porn" - one of those places that even a lifetime of a humble scribe's wages couldn't afford. I think this mix shows the diversity of demand from buyers and the high standards applied across the board by the UK's best housebuilders - and I'm delighted that we celebrate this at the Awards every year.

1. Yuill Homes/North Tyneside Council, Queensbury, Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Gold, Best Partnership Scheme

The site of Queensbury before work started on Queensbury was shocking - grim 60s concrete gone bad, a large proportion of dilapidated, abandoned homes and the kind of run-down "community facilities" that most ne'er-do-wells would steer clear of without backup.

Yuill and North Tyneside Council started with a new and vibrant community/shopping area and moved on to a fantastic collection of private and social housing laid out in spacious and pleasant streets. Even the homes and gardens from the earliest phases are still immaculate, a great sign that the aim to transform the area into a desirable place to live has been achieved.

2. Weston Homes, King's Island, Denham, Uxbridge - Gold, Best Interior and Silver, Best House

The uncompromisingly contemporary exterior of the ‘Warwick' show home is bound to divide opinion, but once you are inside, there is no doubting the attention to detail that has been lavished on every room. The location, specification and thoughtful layout of this large family home is exceptional.

The master bedroom was the stand-out room, opulently fitted and with a feature bath in the en suite and a great view over the Grand Union Canal. There's a sense of space and understated luxury throughout the house and the bold combination of materials such as walnut and glass results in a property to be proud of.

3. City & County Group - Gold, Best Small Housebuilder

"Staying small but thinking big" is the way the company is described in the judges report, and it is this that I think makes it an exceptional housebuilder. City & Country specialises in developments based on historic buildings, refurbishing and converting with great skill and often augmenting the scheme with sympathetically designed new-build.

The nature of the buildings they work on means that most of the properties within them are unique, in layout or architectural features, and this quirkiness gives them great appeal. While the developer can really push the boat out on some truly lavish homes, its Gold for Best Starter Home last year also shows it can produce the goods at the other end of the spectrum, too.

4. Octagon, Coach House Mews, Whiteley Village, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey - Bronze, Best Retirement Development

It may be something to do with my advancing years, but retirement developments are really starting to appeal to me. Some of the established developers in this field have found a winning formula for their part of the market, but this development in Octagon's first foray into what it refers to as the "senior lifestyle market".

Coach House Mews has all the qualities that have won Octagon numerous awards for its usual high-end luxury homes: an exceptional location, no-compromise specification and bundles of character. Pity my pension is unlikely to afford me entry.

5. Dandara, Portelet Bay, St Brelade, Jersey - Gold, Best Apartment Scheme

The opportunity to develop new homes on Jersey is about as commonplace as your chances of being allowed residence there, but Dandara was able to make the most of a stunning bay location for a high-end mix of apartments alongside seven houses.

The show apartment was on the market for £1.9million and, as you might expect at that price point, was a show-stopper in terms of its specification, but even the less exalted properties boast the space and style to elevate them above competition from other established developers in the sector.


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