Case Study of the Month - June
The Gransden we had always wanted

Location: Hertfordshire
Land Cost: £350,000 with farmhouse and 3 acres of land
Build Cost: £400,000 inc landscaping
Current Value: £1.25-1.5m


Barbara Howard and Peter Murnane purchased Willow House, an old farmhouse located in Hertfordshire, in 2007. The house was set in 3 acres of land and is what gave them the idea that one day in the future they would self-build.
Barbara and Peter were in fact old hands at renovation projects, having previously purchased an old boarded up pub in a nearby village only to find they would be able to get planning permission to knock it down and re-build a new house on the site.

Peter’s brother had also built a Potton Caxton in the mid-eighties, not far from where they were planning to build. The couple then decided that they would visit Potton’s self build centre in St Neots where in Barbara’s own words,
“We visited numerous times over about 20 years and would sit in the Gransden and say to ourselves this was exactly the house we wanted.”
However this was not to be, as the local council insisted that they would not accept an L shaped house on the site, so Barbara and Peter ended up building a conventional styled rectangular house with dormer windows as a compromise.

It was some time after that was completed that the couple were able to purchase Willow House along with the surrounding land, and continue the idea of building one or maybe even two houses, one of which would be Barbara’s dream house - the Potton Gransden.

Murnane & Howard Front External

This mission was to be easier said than done as it appeared that different people had tried to get planning approval on the site stretching back almost 50 years.
It was then that Peter was speaking to a local estate agent who had said he could see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to get planning permission.

Peter and Barbara then submitted an application for two houses on the site, only to find that the council wanted them to make one house an affordable home which wasn’t at all what the couple wanted.
Then after much dialogue and discussion and a second attempt, the council agreed that they could build one house, with another as a future amendment which would also make a donation to the community infrastructure.
So the plans for Barbara’s long awaited Gransden could now get underway.

Murnane & Howard Kitchen

Murnane & Howard Rear External

The couple used an Architect and took the Gransden as the basis of the design and increased it to around 4,300 square feet. This would include future proof layouts to accommodate them in later life or a family who may well purchase the house and take advantage of the extra room space in the roof area.

“We knew we wanted to declutter” says Barbara “and although we loved Potton’s original concept of the Gransden, we also wanted to incorporate a more modern, open plan feel and add plenty of light to the house.”

“It wasn’t until we had more or less finalised the plans with the Architect that we found out that Potton were able to create completely bespoke designs or modified plans of their own designs’’ says Peter.
“Our understanding was that Potton only supplied houses to their standard brochure designs, so you can imagine how pleased we were to find out that was not the case and the company had in fact supplied hundreds of bespoke designs over the years.”

“The Potton team came and put up the timber frame and we found them most obliging and helpful. Our contracts manager and was always happy to answer any queries we had and visited site on number of occasions. In fact, we found every contact we had with Potton right through from preparing building regulations, to support after the kit was delivered very helpful. It was good to work with such a solid company” says Barbara.

“We would estimate that the total build cost which included furnishings and garage came out at around £400,000, which when added to the original purchase price for the farmhouse and the land comes out to £750,000 which is amazing when we look at the estimated current value of between £1.25 and £1.5million!”

Barbara and Peter are currently working with their Architect on plans for their next Potton home and this time it will be a Barn.

“It will be an upside down house with bedrooms on the ground floor and the main open plan living area on the first floor” says Barbara. “It will be fully equipped for our on-coming years” says Peter, “and we would never use anyone else except Potton.”

Murnane & Howard Dining

Using sub-contractors


The build project started in December 2015 and the couple decided to use, where possible, subcontractors from the Potton approved list to carry out the work for them.
“We used Hereditas to prepare the foundations for us”
says Barbara.

“They were excellent, we met with Mick Darcey and he understood exactly what we wanted him to do. Unfortunately due to the fact we had removed so many trees from the site, this had affected the ground in the surrounding area, hence we ended up spending more on the foundations than we had originally budgeted for but then it was a necessary cost and one we just had to go with” explains Peter.

Barbara and Peter also sing the praises of a number of Potton’s recommended contractors. “We couldn’t have managed the electrics had it not been for John Waters at EBS” says Barbara.
“He could not have been more helpful. He was always available to give us advice and made a number of suggestions regard the lighting layout that we would never have thought about, and now we are living in the house, we can get the full benefit of John and his team’s advice.
We would also thoroughly recommend Cambridge Kitchens, their designer Leon was very patient with all of our requirements including a very last minute change! We had never come across Cambridge Kitchens before visiting the remodelled Gransden show house, so it was good to have visited at just the right time.”

Overall the couple came out on budget, albeit that the foundations and drainage connections ate into their contingency. “We wanted underfloor heating and once again Potton’s approved plumber ProHeat advised that we should use Nu-Heat linked with a gas condensing boiler. We also had fantastic support from the actual gas supplier, 1Gas Connections, they were very competitive cost wise.”

Murnane & Howard Rear 2Murnane & Howard Large WIndow