Sunday, 24 July 2011

Tree Cutting Day

Today we tackled the trees which are bothering the neighbour.

We are fortunate to have a tree surgeon for a "brother-in-common law" who kindly came down with all his kit to top, thin & pollard the sycamore trees that have self seeded around the border of the land. As you can see,  he brought the chipper with him so we weren't left with an almighty pile of wood & leaves.

All done professionally with cones on the road

and signs on the path.

James up a tree.

Tina & Will looking on!

The site now looks quite bare

Thursday, 14 July 2011

NASBA Self Build Action Plan Published Today

Self Build Action Plan

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Grant Shapps, commissioned a report in January this year by the National Self Build Association on how to promote the self build sector in the UK. with the  aim to  make it a more accessible option for more people.  Today the report has been made public (click on the orange writing above to view) and next week a formal announcement will be made by the Minister.

While a lot of it is aimed towards community self build projects and housing associations there's much in it that will be a great help to the individual builder. I've not yet had the time to read every word but briefly below is my simple interpretation of the key points.

1. The disposal of land for development should be more transparent ensuring that it's listed on public websites and made available to self builders.
2. Simplify the outline planning & change of use procedures.
3. Improve pre-application advice which at the moment it says is "unreliable and inconsistent".
4. Extent the time limits for implementing planning permissions from 3 to 5 years
5. Better customer service from local authorities.
6. Encourage more lenders to provide finance for these projects.
7. More transparent pricing from utility providers using OFGEM & OFWAT to publish the information.
8. Building regulations to be made more accessible to self builders with possibly, a domestic only version of the guide .

I like the following quote from the report.
Self build also brings many others benefits – self builders are generally very committed to environmental 
sustainability, so their homes often have small carbon footprints. Many self builders are also sticklers for detail and quality. And they usually work very hard to come up with a customised design to suit their own particular needs – so they work hard to create their perfect home. This is irrespective of whether they do a DIY build or procure their home from a package company. They are also renowned innovators, and many of the new technologies that have found their way into mainstream construction, started out in the self build sector.routes emerging, there is a clear gap in the information market to explain these and to help would-be self builders work out the route that’s likely to be the best one for them  to follow. 

This report can only be a positive step, unfortunately the actions that will be taken as a result of the report will be too far away to benefit our build but at least it will give us a bit of ammunition if we're faced with difficult bureaucrats!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


We met with the next door neighbour this evening who we've bought the land from. This was the first visit to the plot since we bought it that the weather hasn't been lovely, the wind was whipping round giving us a taste of winters to come but hopefully we'll be nice & toastie inside our new home with underfloor heating & a wood burning stove!
We came to an agreement to put a curve in the fence so that the planted area will still be incorporated in her garden & Will's going to help make a small wall from sleepers on her side to hold back the soil as she wants to dig down to put in a shed. We're benefiting from some really nice planting that she'd done while they used the land as an extension to their garden so we're very lucky. She introduced us to another neighbour who was lovely too which makes me very glad as when our plot's a building site we're going to need people around who are understanding & that we can talk to.
Will's heavily investigating fencing now as fencing can be pretty awful & we're keen to erect something that'll be kind on the eye, maybe quite modern looking & that's not going to fall down when the North winds blow!

This is the kind of thing we're thinking of, horizontal timbers with small gaps between to allow the wind get through.
A few phone calls to be made now to Timber merchants.....

Monday, 11 July 2011


Will took it on himself to contact all the service providers and highways today to make the first steps towards getting us connected.  Oh my, the amount of forms he's brought home to fill in!
The best bit of all is that Southern Water are going to charge us £350 for a quote to tell us what it's going to cost us to get connected!!! How bizarre, but of course they can do whatever they like..... so a cheque will be going off to them so that they can take 20 days to tell us how much it'll cost to get connected & then once we've paid it'll be another 5 weeks before they actually can connect us!

Tomorrow we're meeting with the next door neighbour to finalise where we are going to put the fence. She has a planted area which is on our side of the boundary so we're going to have to be diplomatic & try to resolve it so that we're all happy, then we can go ahead & get the fence panels ordered.  Long term we hope to hide the fence with planting but putting it in was one of the conditions of sale. Fingers crossed that it'll go well tomorrow.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Meeting with the Architect

At last, our first proper meeting with the architect where we're not standing around on the plot!
As you can imaging Will & I have talked of little else but the house since we bought the plot but until we got together with Keith we really didn't know what would be possible. The brilliant thing about architects is that they know all the things us lesser mortals don't know about what the planners will let you do. He talked a lot about the boundaries, the street views, other properties in the road, the lie of the land, direction of the sun, roof heights etc.  I think he knew that it was important for us to understand a lot of this stuff, some of it seems incredibly strict but it mostly makes sense.
We talked through what we would like from the house & what would be possible within our budget & with the aid of pictures I'd taken from magazines & the internet we seemed to all be going the same direction with the design.
We're aiming for an open plan feel with split levels because of the slope & making the most of the light & views with plenty of glazing and hopefully a nice flowing feel to the house with some interesting lines. We'd like a white render exterior & a slate roof & I've been lusting after some beautifully modern front doors from Urban Front or Kloeber but we'll have to see how our budget goes!

How gorgeous is that!

We now have to get searches from the utility companies & hopefully prices for connecting though we can't get those accurately until we have our plans.  Keith is going to start sketching some designs & the plan is to get together again in a week or two to have a look at the designs and work from there.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Land is officially ours!

This friday the deeds to the land passed to us, a great feeling! No turning back now!

Saturday was a lovely sunny day so Will & I took our hedge trimmers, loppers, spades etc & went down to our land to start clearing. It was a good feeling to actually be able to do something. We trimmed the hedge adjacent to the pavement so as to please the neighbours & Will reached as high as he could from the step ladder to cut off any branches of sycamore that were hanging over the boundary.

Will cut back all the bushes to expose the boundary on the west side where we have to put up a fence while I dug about in search of the surface water manhole cover which we had to find as it's crucial to the placing of the house on the site as we have to build 3 meters away from it. My detective skills, I have to say, were brilliant & I found it quickly without much digging or huffing & puffing! Very pleased as, although we'd seen it on the site plan, you can never be sure how accurate it is.


We're very lucky as our site comes with a shed. This was hidden by an overgrown buddleia but, as you can see in the picture, we've exposed it & now have somewhere to store our tools & deckchairs (Well, nothing else to put there yet!)
Willy's done most of the work but I'm taking a rest & enjoying the view