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Driveway Design Tips For Self Builders

31/05/2023 - Developers And Self Builders

Quite possibly one of the most important exterior features of a self build property is the driveway.  The majority of the garden can be landscaped at your leisure, but your driveway needs to be fully functional as soon as it possibly can be.

When it comes to the grounds of your self build property, the driveway is one of the key features. It sets the scene for your home, helps it to blend with its surroundings and gives you an attractive foil for welcoming guests. 

But designing a driveway is nowhere near as simple as deciding whether to use tarmac, gravel or brick weave for the surfacing. There are many other factors to take into account.

  • The contours of the plot. Will you need to move soil in order to create a flat surface for car parking? Does that entail building retaining walls? Slopes? How steep can a sloping drive be without it becoming hazardous?
  • Access. Of course you need good visibility between your driveway and the road, but how wide will your drive need to be in order to accommodate vehicles. What is the largest vehicle that is likely to use your driveway. What sized turning circle is needed?
  • Planning requirements. Does your planning permission place any stipulations on the size and type of driveway you can build? What about BREEAM regulations or requirements for biodiversity net gain?
  • Drainage.  Clearly you won’t want to direct rainwater runoff into your home, so where will it go? Will you create a SUDS system? A soakaway? Or connect to mains drainage?
  • Privacy.  How will you mark your boundary and provide privacy for your home?
  • Aesthetics.  How do you want your driveway to look and feel? Traditional? Contemporary? Cottage garden? Minimalist? So many choices!

richly coloured clay pavers bring a warm welcome to this driveway design

Richly coloured clay pavers echo the details in this new property and create a warm welcome.
Landscaping works by Manor Prestige Landscapes

The Case For Hiring A Garden Designer

Before you make any firm decisions about your new driveway, you are strongly advised to consult with a garden designer or landscape architect. Yes, there will be a moderate cost for this. But in the big scheme of things, it’s a relatively small amount investment considering the benefits afforded by a strong, professionally created design.

A garden designer can of course start work before your property has been finished. They can base the design on your house plans and your topographical survey as well as any relevant planning stipulations.

In fact, having your driveway designed before the house is finished may allow you to build the drive before submitting your final VAT claim.  At the time of writing, it should be possible to claim the VAT back on landscaping materials used to create functional features such as driveways, paths and boundary fences. Although you might not get away with claiming for that Italianate fountain you’ve always fancied.

Choose your garden designer wisely.  Look for APL or SGD accreditation. Either of these will mean that the designer is able to create construction drawings and specify the build up for your driveway.  As a self builder, you’ll know that a pretty diagram of a layout really isn’t adequate. Just because something looks good in a picture, doesn’t mean it can actually be built.  Make sure your garden designer understands construction techniques as well as plants.

Having a garden design to work with means that you can make informed decisions about project management and about landscaping materials. It doesn’t mean you are obliged to hire a landscaper to do the actual work - unless of course you want to!

More information on hiring a garden designer

elegant small driveway design with striking pathway and areas of planting

Elegant design for a small driveway created by Utopia Landscapes

Achieving Biodiversity Net Gain

Many planners these days will stipulate that a self build property should meet strict criteria for biodiversity net gain. Your driveway has the potential to be a fantastic tool for this whilst still providing you with the hard standing and access that you need.

Consider creating some beautiful planting beds within the area.  These needn’t be enormous, or difficult to maintain. They could even be built as part of a rainwater management system (SuDs) which will bring even more kudos to your planning application.

Living hedges are brilliant for biodiversity net gain.  Using instant hedging solutions will give you the privacy you need from day one. Choose mixed native hedging for maximum ecological benefits or opt for an evergreen hedge if you prefer a more formal style.

Is there room for a lawn on your driveway? You may not like the idea of cutting the grass every week but did you know that a mix of slow growing grasses and short stemmed wildflowers needs very little maintenance? Again, you’ll be ticking some of the boxes for biodiversity net gain without creating a lot of ongoing work for yourself.

What about climbing plants or living walls? They’ll bring life to your driveway without taking up a lot of space. 

Talk to your garden designer about a suitable planting plan for your driveway. Discuss the amount of maintenance you are able to sustain (either with your own hands or from a professional gardener) and explain what it is you need to achieve with the planting. Again, once you have a planting plan, you are not obliged to employ anyone to bring the plan to life, you can do the work yourself.  If you are registered as a self build customer on the Arbour Landscape Solutions website you will be able to take full advantage of our wholesale plant sourcing service; which could save you hundreds of pounds.

Click here to register as a self build customer on the Arbour Landscape Solutions website

traditional driveway design by Emma Scarborough

A traditional driveway design with plenty of scope for biodiversity net gain.
Garden design by Emma Scarborough

Driveway Styling Tips For Self Builders

There is an enormous array of landscaping materials suitable for use on driveways.  From reclaimed natural stone, to purpose made clay pavers. Resin bound aggregates, gravel with stabilisation grids.

Which type of material do you feel would best suit your property? Which would best suit your budget?  Remember to consider installation costs as well as the price of the materials.

Could you mix and match materials? Many people opt for a gravel driveway with paved paths to enable easier access for pedestrians, cyclists, prams and wheelchairs.  Metal edgings to divide different materials always look smart and will prevent your lawn from encroaching onto your driveway.

Don’t feel you need to be restricted to standard materials.  At Arbour Landscape Solutions we can help you find bespoke landscaping products that are the exact dimensions and/or colour ways that you need.

Click here to register as a self build customer on the Arbour Landscape Solutions website and get 5% off your first order.

Need Inspiration?

Take a look at some case studies to see how some of the UK’s top designers and landscapers make use of landscaping materials.

More landscaping tips for self builders.

Useful Landscaping Materials For Driveways

Soakaway crates

Drainage Channels

Clay pavers

Lawn Turf and Wildflower Turf