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Adrian & Sara James

A Childhood Dream

Having spent her childhood in the Redhill area of Surrey, Sara had always dreamed of living in one particular road close to Reigate.

Sara and her husband Adrian, who was originally from Derbyshire, had met whilst working for the local authority.

Adrian then had an opportunity to join a private planning partnership which meant the couple moving to the Cambridge area.

This also provided Sara with the opportunity to pick up on her technical role whilst working for the South Cambs local authority.

Land Cost:
£1.25m including former bungalow
Build Cost:
Completion Date:
November 2016
Floor Area:
3311 sq ft
The couple lived in three different houses during their time in Cambridgeshire, the second of which was a Potton Heritage home they purchased from a local builder. They stayed in that house for 10 years, many years before this however they had visited Potton’s very first Gransden show house built at the Ideal Home exhibition in London so they were very well acquainted with Potton.

Plot Hunting

These events prompted Sara and Adrian to visit the Potton Show Centre at St Neots where they immediately fell in love with the Milchester show house. They both agreed this could be their perfect retirement home providing, of course they could find a building plot in that very particular area of Surrey.

“Sara must have spent almost 2 years looking for plots with local estate agents and trawling through Right Move” says Adrian. Then a house came up via a local estate agent in exactly the road that they wanted to be. The couple made a realistic offer on the house before learning that there was no official access to the plot. There were also a number of tree preservation orders so this was dismissed as not viable.

In 2014 a bungalow came on the market through Right Move which was in exactly the same road as the previous one they had looked at.

Sara was very keen to buy it straight away, but in Adrian’s own words “I could not see myself living in that in a million years." The bungalow, built in the 1960s, had no architectural merit, a very poor layout and was poorly extended along with structural problems.

So, the compromise was to buy the bungalow for its excellent plot with the intention to demolish it and build a new home.

From that time, Sara and Adrian were regular visitors to the Potton Show Centre and they attended almost every Self Build Academy event. They visited the Potton Showhouse at the National Self Build Centre, Swindon and just about every major self build exhibition to research products, suppliers and services.

We found that the Academy events, and having on-going access to the Show Houses was excellent and helped us with all aspects of self build. Particularly from the design point of view where we were able to visit numerous times to checkout room sizes through to the location of electrical points and sockets.

- Sara James

as featured in SB&D

As featured in

Adrian and Sara's self build was featured in SelfBuild & Design magazine.

Read the feature here

Modifying the Milchester

Following their research work, Sara and Adrian worked with Potton’s sales and design team to configure the basic Milchester to suit their own needs, with particular emphasis on the south aspect as there could have potentially been an overlooking issue on the quarter acre sloping site.

The main considerations for their Milchester were based on the idea of a home for life and with retirement on the cards they wanted to ensure that the house would be future proofed.

The couple incorporated a downstairs wet room and a study that was large enough to easily convert into a bedroom. They also allowed for the use of attic trusses in the roof space that could be converted to two further bedrooms.

Externally they needed to ensure that the design did not impact on any adjoining properties and because, in planning terms it was an area of special residential character, they had to ensure it reflected the character of the area.

Adrian then set about making the planning application and attended pre application meetings with the local planning authority, had meetings with neighbours and amended their plans to meet the concerns raised. The application was then dealt with and approved within the statutory eight week period.
2 Nu-Heat Potton case study roundel UFH Web
With planning approved Adrian worked up the specification, this was to be a lifetime home so decided to incorporate the factory fitted Kingspan Kooltherm insulation package from Potton, with underfloor heating from Potton’s supply partner Nu-Heat. They also added triple glazing for the sunroom roof, a mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system and photovoltaic panels.

Starting on Site

It was at around this time that the couple decided to utilise the services of a Project Manager to organise the build for them as they were still living in Cambridgeshire and could only commute to the site at weekends. This arrangement unfortunately only lasted for around 6 months, and with progress on site being almost nonexistent, the couple dismissed the Project Manager and decided to go it alone.

In March 2016 they rented a flat locally and were able to be on site almost every day, with help and support from their Potton Contracts Manager, they were able to organise the day to day management and make on the spot decisions

“We have never regretted that decision” says Sara. “We used eleven of Potton’s approved contractors and supply partners and were delighted with the service we received from all of them.”

Construction on Sara and Adrian’s project started during October 2015 and the couple moved into the house when work was more or less completed in November 2016.

To be able to draw on the wealth of knowledge and experience held by Potton was invaluable, in both the design aspect and the build of our new house.

- Adrian James

House Design & Floor Plans

James Floor Plans


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Potton Head Office

Eltisley Road

Great Gransden


SG19 3AR

441767 676400

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