For the past two years Dawn Ritchie and her partner Martin Scaife have spent all their free evenings and weekends working on the property in the village which they say will be their “forever home”.

Their hands-on approach is the only way they are able to afford their own home and get a foot on the property ladder.

Demand for property in Cumbria – especially villages – has never been so high and more and more locals are being priced out of the market.

The couple are in the final stages of completing a three-bedroom house on the site of a former barn next to the Slapestone Villa Caravan Site which is run by Dawn’s family.

Dawn said: “Having this house means I can continue as the fourth generation of my family to live in Stainton. If we hadn’t gone down this route we wouldn’t have been able to afford the prices here and I guess we would probably have ended up living in Penrith.”

Martin is a landscape gardener and lives in with his parents in Culgaith and is looking forward to the time he can get to work on his own garden with its views towards Ullswater Valley.

“There’s no point in pretending it has been easy, but it will be a brilliant feeling when it is finished,” he said.

Despite the endless hours they have put into the project they are hoping more people will support Eden District Council’s push to encourage self-builds in the area as a way to create more affordable housing.

Nearly 200 people who attended an event promoting self-build and community-led housing at Rheged last week heard a passionate call for a revolution in housing in Cumbria.

TV presenter and architectural designer Charlie Luxton was the keynote speaker at the event organised by Eden District Council and said his passion for self-build projects was born out of a belief that “the standard of our new housing in this country isn’t good enough”.

He said: “Surveys show that 74 per cent of people would never buy a new home due to a variety of reasons such as space, standard and design.

“We need to get people engaged in the self-build process because when people get involved with the houses that they live in they are sustainable and people stay in them longer.

“I know houses in this area are really expensive and self-builds are a way to make homes more affordable because you are taking people out of the equation who make a big profit and then take the money back down the M6,” he said.

“A lot of councils are ignoring this problem so it’s great to see Eden putting on this event and trying to connect people to make a difference so let’s get out there and make it happen,” he added.

The Build Your Home, Build Your Community event heard from a range of speakers including Eden District Council leader Virginia Taylor.

She said self-build and community-led schemes were a way to create more sustainable housing including eco-homes with virtually no heating costs, adding that more affordable housing would help stem the area’s brain drain.

Among those attending the Rheged event were Dan Brown, 33, and his partner Cassie Pearson, 27, who are about to embark on their own self-build project in Clifton.

“This will be a home for us and our two boys. I work for a firm providing garden buildings and Cassie works at Centre Parcs and there are a lot of areas where the prices are way too high for us.

“I have always wanted to build my own home from a young age and this event has been ideal to come and see what options we have to use local materials and suppliers. We are planning a half-timber house and I hope to do a lot of the work myself,” Dan said.

Also attending was Chris Harrison who grew up in Stainton, but is living in Carlisle because of cheaper house prices.

He said: “I have always wanted to build my own house here and if I can find land it will be a way to move back to the area.

“A lot of the people I grew up with had to move away because we couldn’t afford to live here.”

The new-look Eden coalition council, led by Liberal Democrats with Green, Independent and Labour councillor support, has scrapped the Beacon Village plans to build three major new developments on the edge of Penrith.

The villages were part of the Penrith Strategic Masterplan developed by the former Conservative-led council and would have involved the construction of 5,560 new homes across three sites to the north of the Beacon, which overlooks Penrith.

Ms Taylor is still keen to see new homes developed, especially affordable ones, but says there is no need for such a huge development.

She explained: “According to our housing assessment survey, we only need to build 200-300 new homes a year to satisfy demand.

“The Beacon Villages scheme was drawn up because in order to develop more jobs we needed to provide more housing.

“We do want more people to come here to work, we want to work with employers, so we will build more homes than the minimum.”

Plans are well underway for building the 10,000-home St Cuthbert’s Garden Village to the south of Carlisle.

The development is seen as an important part of boosting the city’s economy, luring jobs, investment, helping secure new facilities across the district and leading to more affordable homes on the market.

Construction work is expected to start in spring 2021 and take two years to complete.

The city council is commissioning support from the National Right to Build Task Force to provide self/custom build policy advice.

Councillor Paul Nedved, portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing for the authority, said: “As part of the project, we aim to support the broadest mix of housing types and tenures as possible.

“We believe that self/custom build has an important role to play, as this is how you get the most interesting designs and variety in building design. These are really important when creating a unique sense of place in a new development of this scale.”

Ms Taylor revealed that the Eden authority was in negotiation with landowners for a new scheme that will provide around 200 new homes.

She backed the self-build scheme, saying more people should get involved and said the authority had some money from the Government to support a new project.

“The community-led housing scheme is something we

would absolutely love to see happen.

“We really want to encourage these sorts of schemes.”