From Bytes To Bricks

7th March 2013

It’s certainly not every couple’s idea of a retirement dream…

But for former IT consultants, Trish and Steve Williams, becoming project managers on a building site is the perfect solution to their own personal housing crisis.

Trish and Steve had been searching in vain for their perfect home on the Northumberland coast for a few years. Having lived in an old Victorian house in Tynemouth since 1999, they were looking to down size to somewhere modern, easy to maintain, light, warm and eco-friendly, with its own garden. It seemed the dream might elude them forever, until they just happened to spot a site for sale in July 2011, on farmland near the coast at North Sunderland, Northumberland.

It was a perfect site in a splendid location, but there were four major drawbacks: the site was for seven properties when they really only wanted one; there was only outline planning permission; the couple were IT consultants not builders and finally; the investment required was considerably more than they had available.

Undaunted, because it was in such an ideal spot, Trish and Steve decided to turn the project into a new career and to manage the development of seven houses on the site, including one for themselves.

To guide them through a challenging process, Steve and Trish approached George F White Chartered Surveyors in Alnwick, as the firm had been responsible for obtaining outline planning permission for the original owners of the land. Richard Garland, Partner, who leads George F White’s planning and development property team, has worked closely with the couple and their architect, Tim Brook in bringing this site forward.

Steve, Trish and Tim have jointly designed an attractive variety of three/four bedroom homes, to a very high and flexible specification, using quality materials in keeping with the surroundings. They have now received full planning permission. There are plans for dormer bungalows, a three bedroom house and a spacious bungalow, all with garages. Over the last few months George F White and the couple have also created a brochure for the site, with ‘artist’s impressions’ for the designs, to illustrate what the homes and development will look like when complete. A building firm will shortly be appointed and all purchasers will have the option to join in a co-operative building contract to ensure all properties on the site are built to the same high standards, and by an agreed time.

The end result is St Cuthbert Close, North Sunderland, consisting of seven fantastic, serviced self-build plots with full planning permission. One plot is reserved for Steve and Trish and another is sold, subject to contract, with the remaining five plots available now, priced at £120,000 each, via George F White.

Richard Garland, Partner, George F White says: ‘The position that Steve and Trish found themselves in is not unusual and there are a great many ‘Grand Designers’ out there looking to build their own homes. Tight planning restrictions in Northumberland villages mean that single plots for self-builders are few and far between, with demand far outstripping supply in the popular villages. In order to find the solution, they have taken a step beyond the norm in buying a larger site and opening it up to fulfil their dream. The way they have handled the situation is admirable and the end result is that they have taken an outline planning permission, transforming it into a lovely development befitting this popular coastal village. Consequently, the remaining five serviced plots are now available to people in the same position they found themselves in a couple of years ago, yet with significantly less risk, which is a fantastic opportunity.’

Steve Williams says: ‘This is a great opportunity for someone who may have always wanted to undertake a self-build project, but were a little nervous. We have minimised the headaches and risk by doing all the nitty-gritty research, having full surveys done and getting over the planning hurdles, all with the help of George F White. We are putting in all the road infrastructure and services: water, mains electricity etc. We’ve even had each house designed by a respected local architect and are in the process of appointing a quality Northumbrian builder for you!’ ‘Work is planned to start around Easter, to widen the road for site access and begin to bring in services, and it house building should begin in May/June. Trish and I are hoping to have moved in for Christmas 2013.’

Trish Williams says: ‘We’re so excited that St Cuthbert Close is all coming together. It’s a lovely site with good sized plots and the houses are so spacious and beautifully designed, I want to live in them all! We’re obviously particularly pleased with our own house and cannot wait to see our vision come to fruition. Becoming a site manager certainly wasn’t on my wish list of things to do a few years ago. But now that I’m here, it’s certainly fun, and never a dull moment!’

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