The Saga of an Audlem Self-Build House

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Steve & Chris Elliott 'Down Under'

Finally after what seems like years (but is actually a mere 14 months), we are finally about to commence what could be the most complex, exciting and scary project since parenthood — project managing and partly building our own house.

It started in 2009 when we sold our old rambling home of 26 years and bought a small mews house behind the CooP.  This was a pretty traumatic experience since the footprint of the new house was a fraction of Hilldene. The garden is so small that the first time the dog ran outside, she embedded her nose in the fence. 

On a positive note we are just 15 seconds from the CooP and 22 seconds from the Lord Combermere!

The longer-term idea was to find a nice little house somewhere in Audlem and, spend some of our newly acquired leisure time restoring it.  To that end one day late in 2010, we discovered that Station Villa was back on the market.

Station Villa is part of a small group of houses overlooking Heywoods Ridge and commanding pretty views westward across open Cheshire countryside — it's just possible to see the southern edge of the Peckforton Hills.  These houses were built in the 1890's and we understand were originally a Creamery — more research needs to be done to get a better understanding about their history.

#Proud owners
Anyhow, having fallen in love with its location, on January 28th 2011, we became the proud new owners.

Two days later the idea of restoring the property was quickly dispelled by the opinion of a local builder, who in his normal succinct manner said " knock the b*gg*r down". 

Translated, what this really meant was that we would have to half demolish it, underpin it and do lots of other tasks so as to make something structurally sound and inhabitable — altogether an expensive and difficult undertaking.  From that day forward we started to excitedly pursue a brand new build.

This change in strategy opened up numerous new areas of exploration and the discovery of a variety of building methods and technologies — partially aided by hours of watching Grand Designs of course!

#Passiv Haus
We became quite fascinated by such ideas as the German design standard known as 'Passiv Haus' or 'Passive House'.  Put simply, such a house requires no additional energy to heat it, other than that produced by sunlight through the windows, and that generated by the occupants and their cooking/lighting etc.  More of that later.

The first major hurdle was to convince Cheshire East Planning Department to allow us to demolish the old house and build a new one.  This process commenced on August 5th 2011. Finally, on March 26th, 2012 we received a positive decision.

Well, I say positive, it was more of an amber light than a green one.  As a result of the process having dragged on, we had passed the magic date of March 1st. 

March 1st, as well as being the date when, in AD 743, the exporting of slaves by Christians to heathen areas was prohibited and also when, in 1975, Colour television transmissions begin in Australia, it is also, for the builder, the start of The Bird Nesting Season!

If there is any evidence of nesting birds present within a building project, as determined by a suitably qualified ecologist, then no work can commence until September 1st- the end of The Bird Nesting Season!

#Birdman
So, Birdman duly arrived and, joy of joy, declared that no birds were present — so on Wednesday April 3rd 2012, a Green Light at Last!

At this juncture it should be noted that the old Station Villa is not simply being demolished, but recycled.  The roof tiles, bricks, timber, quarry tiles etc will all be used elsewhere in other projects.

Getting to this point has taken many months of frustration and creativity by us, our architect, and indeed the very welcome and valuable assistance of our local County Councillor.

The end result of this tortuous process (and in private we are more than happy to share our experiences of planning) we have in fact finished up with a lovely unique design that we both can't wait to live in, and one that will hopefully be beneficial to Copthorne and Audlem.

#Design 
We also hope that it will be a design that embodies and utilises some good examples of sustainability, recycling, rainwater harvesting, ground source heating and very low energy design — whilst not quite a Passive House, we only expect to need a 4kW heater to keep the entire 4-bedroomed house warm when its -3C externally, as well as supplying all of our domestic hot water requirements.

If anyone wants to discuss the project with us, we can be contacted via Audlem Online.

Must go, I hear a bulldozer heading our way.

To be continued.......