Contemporary dormer bungalow

Jane & David Newman

The Project

Jane and David Newman originally from Berkshire are now well and truly settled in their new home on the edge of a Hampshire village not many miles in fact from Jane Austen's house (who surprisingly didn't self-build with Potton!)

For a time, the couple lived in Essex and both worked for the Ford Motor Company.

Later on David's job took them to Hampshire where he became Pensions Manager to a major International business machines company, during this time they lived in three different homes in the same village. Over the years they spent time and money refurbishing and restyling the homes so they had a pretty good feel for DIY projects.

In fact, they had considerable structural work carried out on the last house which was originally built in the 1900s, work which included building an extension with a basement below. They lived in this property for 19 years with their daughter and two sons.

Land Cost:
Owned but valued at £300,000
Build Cost:
£550,000 inc. basement and treble garage
Completion Date:
August 2014
Floor Area:
2820 sq ft

Thinking about Self Build

In 2012 Jane started her research into the possibility of maximising the use of their large rear garden which, with planning approval, could provide a building plot of around 1/3 of an acre and with the couple being retired this would be an opportunity to build an energy-efficient home and one that would see them into their old age.

“I continually cut up magazine articles for reference and ideas" says Jane "we took all of the self -build and house type publications, and attended various exhibitions including the Ideal Home Exhibition, which we found most useful for ideas. I was also glued to all of the TV programmes such as Grand Designs!”

Discovering Potton

The couple then visited the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon and were immediately taken with the Potton ‘Ruskin’ show house, although Jane said that at that time they weren't even aware of Potton.

However, it was that initial visit that led them to make the trip up to Cambridgeshire to the Potton Self-Build Centre at St Neots, where Jane and David saw the newly built Wickhambrook barn show house and viewed the other three homes on site (now four).

“We were very impressed with the barn and were immediately thinking of some of the ideas we could incorporate into our new home" said David.

It was around this time that Jane and David had their first contact with Sean Adams, Potton's Self Build Consultant for their area, he visited the couple and they also meet with Sean at the Potton Show Centre in St Neots. They really liked the options that a bespoke design would give them as they had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve.
We found it a very worthwhile visit to the Show Centre because, not only did we gain ideas from our day there but because we were actually able to walk around the houses unaccompanied we were able to think about features and also dismiss earlier ideas we might have had after seeing these homes in the flesh so to speak. We really appreciated the fact that there was always someone available if we had any questions… we also liked that there was no ‘hard sell.

Future Proof Design

The design and layout needed to be ‘future proof incorporating a built-in lift as they had ageing parents and fitting it from the start would be ideal should either one of them require it at a later date.

They also wanted adequate space for storage and to accommodate family who now have their own children. So, armed with cuttings and room dimensions based on their current house, and some ideas from the Potton barn and the house at Swindon, Jane, David and Sean set out to design their new home.

"We really got on well with Sean, he was very receptive to our requirements, one of which was our need for a basement, but despite the fact that Potton do not supply basements they were able to provide ample dimensioned drawings for the engineer to prepare his basement drawings which eventually the groundworkers would construct.” said Jane.

The couple also considered and evaluated incorporating some eco products but David's opinion was that the cost would not provide payback in any sensible time so they decided on a solar water system, a log burning stove in the lounge and with porcelain tiles throughout the ground floor and engineered oak at first floor. Underfloor heating was also a must.

When the final design was approved, Jane and David instructed Sean to make the official planning application.

"This went through amazingly quick" says Jane, “especially as we had heard all sorts of stories regarding how long it could take, in actual fact the application was put in at the end of July and approved in November with no conditions attached”.

Starting on Site

However the couple did hit a big problem when the contractors had started work on the foundations, they had previously set up a self-build mortgage with draw-down facilities with a Midlands-based building society who in Jane's own words "reneged on the loan because they claimed to need engineers details of the drainage system which of course we didn't have at that time and which our engineer advised was not a requirement for funding.”

This led Jane and David to sell the existing house at the front of the plot and where they were hoping to live during the construction of the new house, they then purchased a smaller house nearby.

Once the site got underway again the weather took a turn for the worse and ended up delaying the delivery and erection of the timber frame, all jobs at that time had been unfortunately prolonged, however the Potton erectors were able to get the frame up and complete ready for the project and site manager to bring in the various trades.

Unfortunately the weather was the culprit once again when the roofing contractors were putting the tiles on "we had absolutely awful storms and rain that seemed to go on forever" says Jane.

In fact, the basement was flooded out and had to be pumped out, the roof work eventually took 14 weeks to complete. The other headache for Jane and David was getting the utility suppliers on site to make their connections.

"We had no water supply when we initially moved in so used the builders connection. Our advice to anyone would be to get these people organised as early as is possible, we had frustrations with all of them" said David.
Despite all of this, and their attention to future-proofing their home Jane would really like to build again…but David wouldn't and is happy this is the one.

"We have recommended Potton to a number of other people and visited a couple who are building locally, but given the opportunity again I think I would prefer to use one builder for the whole project, that way it would mean one single point of contact” concludes Jane.

Just looking at the photographs of Jane and David's home you can see what they have achieved in a relatively short time despite problems and delays encountered on the way. They now live in a homely, comfortable, energy-efficient home with low running costs with no on-going maintenance or repair costs.

The separating fence to the garden plot was built in May 2013 Jane and David moved in, albeit to a home not quite complete, in August 2014.


Contemporary Potton Self Build with large glazed gable


Potton Head Office

Eltisley Road

Great Gransden


SG19 3AR

441767 676400

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