Case Study of the Month - September
A Double Opportunity

Location: Cambridgeshire
Land Cost: £325,000 including existing bungalow
Build Cost: £285,000
Current Value: circa £900,000

Sarah and Alan Hutchinson both in their mid forties had been living in pretty Cambridgeshire village with their daughter Jessica and son Charlie since 1997. Alan was director of a printing company and Sarah taught art to schoolchildren so were well known in the village.

Through word of mouth they learned about a 2 bedroomed, 1950s bungalow that was to be sold for £325,000 and their minds turned to the thought of a refurbishment and an extension project, or in Alan’s words “doing something to it”.

However their plans took three years to materialise as the couple who owned the bungalow and had given the Hutchinson’s first refusal on the property had taken a lot longer to find somewhere that they wanted to move into.
When they finally moved in to the bungalow during December 2007, they were surprised by the actual size of the plot which actually turned out to be 3/4 of an acre.

So suddenly 3 years later the task was on, there was no planning permission in place to extend or do anything with the bungalow, so the couple on the advice of their planning consultant decided that as the plot was a good size they should apply for permission to build two detached houses on the plot with a view to sell one on and retain one for themselves, this would then subsidise the cost of building their own home, something they had considered for almost 20 years.

Unfortunately for them the planning process was pretty torturous with little or no support from the local authority and neighbourhood and local objections which even included the forming of a campaign group to fight against the application.

The consequence of this was that the planning process took two and half years and eventually received virtually unanimous support from the district councillors to demolish the existing bungalow and replace it with 2 detached properties.

Despite the lost time both Sarah and Alan agree that none of this could have been achieved without the experience and support of our planning consultant who was not prepared to give up.

The planning consultant not only had lot of experience with local authorities but did a lot of work for Potton, which is how the couple were introduced to the self-build specialists.

Says Alan “We had been aware of Potton for some time but had been put off by our preconceptions of their mock tudor styles. Our planning consultant suggested that we investigate further into what Potton actually offer, and we were amazed how diverse their house styles and designs could be, in essence Potton can design and manufacture in any style that you want”

Following their visit to the Potton self-build Centre the couple were convinced this was the route they would take. They worked together with the Potton designers and self-build experts and came up with a design that suited both them and the site.






“Our main considerations externally were all related to what the planners would find acceptable” said Alan “Internally we were after good room sizes, open plan kitchen dining areas with a good flow, we also required a generous hallway and landing area to give a feeling of space and to make a great first impression with visitors”

“We were very impressed by the whole Potton package and the ongoing support we received which continued through the whole build stage”

By the 7th November 2012 they had started to construct the 266 sq metre timber frame by themselves, having watched exactly what the previous erectors had done

Alan was convinced his 3 man team could adequately manage the work, which indeed they did.

Then by December having finished putting the frame together, the sale of the first home had gone through to provide a boost to the funds on their own project.

“I wanted to incorporate some eco products and decided to utilise underfloor heating powered from an air source heat pump and we added photo voltaic solar panels on the roof of the garage which was south facing” they also decided to use hand made clay tiles on the roof and a pre-mixed render which was recommended by a friend. There were a few areas where we spent little more than anticipated but only as a result of us making our own changes to the specification and some layout changes whilst we were putting the frame up” said Alan


Overall Sarah and Alan’s total build cost including the garage, but excluding the land came out to  £285,000 although there is still some landscaping work to be completed which has been estimated at around £10,000. The house has an estimated current value of £900,000

The family moved in in October 2013 and with work still to be completed Alan decided that with the experience gained from this 2 house project he would make a dramatic career change and become a builder !

So when asked if he would ever do it again Alan’s response is, “I would, and have built again since"

Alan project managed a Potton timber frame bungalow that was being built by a friend of his Fathers also in the Cambridge area. this was between November 2013 and July 2014, since then he has built a pair of semi detached bungalows and is currently about to commence building another development in Fenland.

Sarah and Alan both fully agree as to what were the most memorable moments in their self-build experience was…

“Obtaining planning permission was literally a life changing moment for us. The next best thing was demolishing and burning the static caravan”.

Alan says “I found the service and working with Potton just fantastic, I enjoyed the whole process and  found it very satisfying and decided very early on that this is what I want to do when I grow up ! ongoing is the sense of pride and achievement”



The first house built..

By the time work on the first plot started it was November 2011, the family were still living in the existing bungalow despite the fact that they had to demolish part of it to fit the house on!

This was to last only 6 months until they decided to move into a rented house, as the bungalow had to be completely demolished. Then after 7 months they returned to the site and lived in a 2 bedroomed static caravan and two 4 berth touring caravans for each of the teenagers. They remained in the caravans for 12 months, including the winter of 2012/13 which was the coldest winter for 50 years!

By September 2012 the first house, which is 170 sqm, was completed and it was then that Alan decided that he would like to “go it alone” on their own project.

Having successfully worked alongside Potton approved and local subcontractors throughout the build, he decided he would continue to self manage the project and use some of them to build their house.

The total build cost for the first house including, planning fees, landscaping and fencing, selling fees and a garage was £205,823. It was sold in December 2012 for £460,000, it is currently valued at £520,000.