13 Oct Creating The Flower Barns
A Narrow Escape
My iPhone chirruped its usual tune. It was Tuesday the 3rd of September 2018. I recognised the number for Boot Estate Agents and answered.
The voice said, “Hi this is Rob – I’m sorry the deal is off – you can’t buy Yew Tree Barns.”
The explanation was that the planning permission that had been granted for the barns required the demolition of some other buildings which weren’t included in the sale. So had the deal carried on I would have had to demolish some pig rearing buildings that I didn’t own before I could develop the barns which I would have owned.
You could have said it was a narrow escape.
Two For The Price of Two
Fast forward to the Thursday the 21st of March 2019 – the iPhone rings again.
“Hi this is Rob – do you still want to buy the barns?”
“Yes please,” I say.
Rob now explains that the deal will now include the pig rearing units but of course that means that the price would have to go up. We agree to meet on site and we get the first sight of the pig rearing units – they are huge. I reckon that they run to about 6,000 square meters. They are built out of asbestos on a steel frame sitting on a concrete base. Worse than that they sit above a slurry tank which runs the length of the buildings. There is a massive amount of pig muck still in them.
I now need to work out just how much it is going to cost to demolish these monstrosities and to do it in a safe and environmentally sound way. Eventually we guess at 100K.
So, now I can make an offer to 2 people simultaneously who had both agreed with the deal, I make the offer – the estate agent splits it as he wishes, and the deal is done. We have one month to complete all the formalities and pay the money across
We do just that and so we get to own 5 barns, 2 pig rearing units and over 3 acres of land. The barns are full to the brim with every type of discarded implement that you can imagine. There is a derelict caravan which is surrounded by rubbish. We are worried that if we enter the caravan, we might catch some nasty disease. In the barns where there is no rubbish there is a huge amount of manure.
Preparatory Work Starts
We start the preparatory works. We use an amazing group of ethical contractors who are able to demolish the pig units and safely dispose of all the asbestos waste. The machinery we had operating was on an epic scale – I didn’t know machines that large existed. We must have moved several thousand tons of concrete, soil and waste.
Meanwhile we could start to dispose of all the rubbish and effluent that was everywhere. The previous owners had obviously used this as a dumping ground for decades. Anything that was redundant or broken or both had been unceremoniously chucked into the barns. The diggers dug, the scrapers scraped and the lorries toiled back and forth to get rid of all the rubbish, safely and properly.
The barns already had a planning permission to allow a conversion to 5 homes but that’s only the start. More plans need to be drawn up, drainage routes sorted, and specific details need planning. At the time we bought them we knew there was no electricity, gas or mains water – so we had to discuss with the authorities what we needed and since they are monopolies pay the silly prices they demanded for them to install a supply from which they would then make profits. Needless to say, none of the designers or monopolies work as fast as we would like and weeks pass whilst we wait for the supplies.
To minimise the delays we go and buy a couple of generators from Machinery Mart for just over £500 each, which is really cheap. The downside is that they drank petrol like water and were so loud that they drowned conversation – but at least we could boil a kettle. Then both their wheels dropped off, so we had to carry them everywhere!
You would think that by now that all of our team would be hard at work, but no, we had to jump through the Health and Safety hoops, and of course make sure that we really would work safely. Then we had to make sure that barns would not fall down whilst we worked to improve them.
On a previous set of barns which by some divine grace we hadn’t bought, one of the barns blew down. The vendor neglected to tell us of this fact, and it was only when we noticed on Google Earth that one of the barns we thought we were buying was no longer there, that we withdrew from the deal. The vendor protested that he had only tidied the place up and couldn’t understand our reluctance to complete.
Even then we had to work with building regulations and pay for a building inspector to ensure we did. Then finally we had to arrange for the start of the warranty process which meant that we could offer a 10-year structural warranty once the barn conversions had been completed.
We moved our site huts onto site, connected the toilets and started work. The exterior brickwork needed to be repaired, fixed, repointed and roofs had to be retiled. It all has to be done sympathetically, reusing and repairing where it is possible, and only replacing with reclaimed materials when it is not.
The windows are always a major feature of any barn conversion and because none of the openings or doors are of a standard size, they all need to be made bespoke to special order. This takes time and skill to ensure good craftmanship. When the windows finally arrive, they are just in time because we are by now working on installing the kitchens in unit 1.
Everywhere needs to be insulated to the high modern standards that our customers would want. We opt for electric boilers in preference to LPG saving the need for LPG tanks, boilers and maintenance. The showers will be able to run at full bore not a weedy stream as provided by electric showers or combi boilers. Underfloor heating is provided where we can to avoid radiators
Floors need to constructed and supported sometimes using massive steel RSJs. Rooms need to built to divide the spaces for modern living using timber or block – but always ensuring noise attenuation standards are met. We make every effort to preserve all of the original features especially the many beautiful old wooden joists and beams which all have to be cleaned and shot blasted. The ceilings are high and add a spacious ambience to the development.
Work Carries On
The work carries on as I write to create the development, we are calling the Flower Barns at Yew Tree. They are being brought into the 21st century with all of the modern conveniences. They have one feature that is priceless they are set in the magnificent English countryside with views that stretch over open fields to a skyline fringed with trees. The birds wheel and turn in the breeze as they return to their roosts. Deer are a common site. The development has 180 degree views where the lucky few will be able to enjoy the massive skies and the epic sunsets.