Building the impossible home in the Blackdown Hills

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:23 09 July 2018

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9912. Picture: Terry Ife

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9912. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Building your dream home is not without its challenges, as Elizabeth and Stephen Tetlow found out

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9909. Picture: Terry IfeOat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9909. Picture: Terry Ife

What would you give to build your dream home?

It’s no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination, but for one couple, creating the room with the view would take seven years to materialise.

Elizabeth and Stephen Tetlow are the personification of patience and determination, and together they achieved something many would not even think possible, building a home in East Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

What makes Oat Errish Farm unique is its carefully chosen design, it is a curvilinear house, shaped like an ammonite shell, and the timber, steel and stonework material used has been approved as appropriate to the Blackdown Hills.

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9907. Picture: Terry IfeOat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9907. Picture: Terry Ife

The design was enough to meet the strict requirements of Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework – legislation focused on new homes in the countryside.

To achieve it, the couple worked closely with East Devon District Council’s planning officers and employed a design company with a track record in similar cases - but most importantly never gave up when the going got tough.

Elizabeth said: “If you read it [Paragraph 55], you think there is no way we are going to be able to comply with any of that, but actually with a lot of care and research and a lot of help from professionals it is possible.”

The idea formulated in the couple’s minds back in 2011 to build a new home and was the first step of a very long game of snakes and ladders.

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9906. Picture: Terry IfeOat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9906. Picture: Terry Ife

Paragraph 55 specifies that properties should not be built unless special circumstances are demonstrated or the proposal was of exceptional quality or an exceptional nature.

Mother-of-three Elizabeth said: “Our old house is at the bottom of a hill, a house at the top of the hill would be better, we would have a lovely view.

“It was the only way we could do it, because we already owned it but we never thought we would be able to.”

The couple, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year, searched out architects Sadler Brown. The company sent a team to brainstorm designs before basing it on an ammonite shell, inspired by one sitting on the couple’s kitchen table.

Elizabeth Tetlow at Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9902. Picture: Terry IfeElizabeth Tetlow at Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9902. Picture: Terry Ife

They submitted a pre-application enquiry at the end of 2012, inviting East Devon District Council to meet with them to talk through the design.

Over the next two years the application would go before two review panels to dissect the plans, finding the good and the bad.

The application was then fully submitted and unanimously approved by EDDC’s development management committee in May 2014, but the hard work was not over.

Such a development comes at a cost, with the couple selling their old home to help fund the building works and they were prepared to live in a caravan until works were complete.

Elizabeth Tetlow at Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9899. Picture: Terry IfeElizabeth Tetlow at Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9899. Picture: Terry Ife

Fortune came their way as the buyers of their old house were not living in the UK and were able to rent it back to Elizabeth and Stephen, meaning they could live on site.

Elizabeth, who project managed the development, said: “You do really need someone to be here all the time when your build something like this. There was a lot of communication between all of us because it was very complicated.

“We were prepared to live in a caravan, which we would have had to. It was very exciting, it seemed like it was going very slowly. We lived right here, during the whole time it was being built. We moved in before it was completely finished, when it was liveable.”

Work began in 2015 and though not completely finished inside, the couple are now living in the home they always dreamed of and they are ready to welcome their children and grandchildren over.

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9894. Picture: Terry IfeOat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9894. Picture: Terry Ife

It has not come without sacrifices, with Stephen, 64, having to work away from home to ensure the project is finished.

The property has also attracted the eyes of television’s Grand Design team because of its unique story and its no surprise why, with its spacious rooms and, of course, beautiful view over the Blackdown Hills.

Elizabeth, 59, said: “It is a very nice place for the children to play in. It has a big open plan.

“It has not come without sacrifices with Stephen working away in London during the week to help pay for it. We live apart, its not how we want, but we have had too. We wanted somewhere we could fit everyone in. It doesn’t happen very often as the family have grown up and they have gone and done their own thing, so it’s hard to get everyone together. We want to bring them together for occasions across the year, Easter, Christmas.

Oat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9892. Picture: Terry IfeOat Errish Farm. Ref edr 12 18TI 9892. Picture: Terry Ife

“I think you have to be extremely patient and do not give up. We had a lot of set backs, there were many points at which we questioned how we could carry on with it.

“You have to be positive. That was when we were trying to get the planning permission. There were many times this is just to difficult, its too expensive. It’s a very expensive process. The budget is never enough.”

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