With the new roof to my wife Linda and I’s self build taking shape, the slating followed in quick succession. All went fairly quickly, with the exception of one large triangular area to the front. This couldn’t be finished because our neighbour’s telephone line ran across the site in such a position and height that it found itself enmeshed with our new roof structure.

The exterior of David Snell's self build begins to take shape

We’d realised early on that this would happen. How the line didn’t get broken while we were craning the roof trusses into position, goodness knows. So, Bruce’s wife Kath (Kath and Bruce, our builder, are building their own home on the adjacent plot), volunteered to deal with BT regarding the removal of the line and re-routing via a new pole in my front garden.

I’d ducked out of this one. I’ve documented in the past the ‘red mist’ that descends upon me whenever I deal with utility companies and statutory bodies and, in particular, my bête noire BT. (In my experience, the exception is Western Power Distribution; they have always done exactly what they said they would do at the time and date they said they would.)

At first everything went well. A chap came out to survey the site and we discussed where the new pole would go. Then things went quiet. Once the trusses were erected we began ringing on a daily basis. Kath logged over 30 calls before somebody finally said that we needed to make a payment. Why hadn’t they stated that before? So we made the payment of nearly £800 expecting action. Again, we waited…

Never have I been so pleased to see something so ugly as the new pole that now adorns my front garden. After finally being erected it isn’t that bad; it gets lost against the background of a holly tree on the other side of the lane.

The telegraph pole is moved to David Snell's front garden on the corner of the self build plot

The existing telephone line to the neighbouring property (owned by the vendor of the plot) needed to be moved before work to the roof of David’s self build could be completed. A new pole has been erected to the front of David’s plot

Digging Trenches for the Utilities

With solicitors instructed regarding the ransoms to the Forestry Commission (which we were required to pay in order to bring services across the adjacent forest), they duly issued us with a licence to carry out works on their land. This, in turn, enabled us to contact Western Power Distribution to set up a date for them to provide power to a temporary meter box. Two days before said date they delivered a huge cable; the following day we finished excavating the trench across the forest and laid the cable ready for inspection and connection.

On the agreed date the Western Power Distribution engineers turned up and connected the cable to the overhead power lines in the forest. The cable was then split into two smaller cables at our boundary, and ran into what were going to be temporary meter boxes positioned where our garages will be built. (We’ve now decided to leave the meters in the soon-to-be built garages, in the knowledge that we’ll eventually have smart meters and won’t, therefore, require access for manual reading.)

The tradesmen dig out the trenches ready to bring utility services to David and Bruce's self build projects

With a licence finally granted by the Forestry Commission, a mini digger was used to dig a trench – required to lay a power cable to bring electricity to David and Bruce’s new homes – on adjacent forestry land

An Unexpected Setback

At the same time we dug another parallel trench for the water supplies, and here we ran into a problem. The chap from the water board had pointed out the rough position of the water main. But we hit it some 10m closer — and it was a gusher. It flooded the whole site and the water ran into the road; it flowed down the open trench in a torrent.

Bruce waited on site until 10.30pm for the emergency engineers to turn up and then finally went home exhausted. They arrived at 2.30am but, four hours later, as they’d allowed air into the pipe, the pressure caused a burst some 6m down the line. By this time we were losing any popularity contests with the neighbours. The engineers returned and fixed it — but again the main burst, this time, further back up the line.

In any event, by the end of the next day we had our trench in and the water pipe laid to two standpipes, ready for inspection. We now await a date for connection.

The other trial has been obtaining a meter in the temporary electricity meter boxes. Western Power Distribution had done their bit and we now had to arrange an actual supply. I rang all of the major utility suppliers and all told me that they didn’t provide the meters.

I seemed to be going around in circles until I rang Utility Warehouse, who supply my gas, electricity and telephone at our temporary home. It took quite a bit of explaining before they could understand that I wanted to arrange supplies for two separate properties in my ownership without compromising the supply to each, but they were able to help.

With this in mind, I made moves to get the telephone/broadband lines organised, even though we’re not quite ready for it. Once again I went through Utility Warehouse. Hopefully this long saga is the final chapter in the provision of services to our new home.

In the meantime, there’s been a period of relative slowness on the house since the roof slating was finished. Bruce and I agreed to build both houses contiguously, which means that he takes mine to a certain point and then brings his to the same point. And that’s what he’s been doing, getting his roof finished.

Top Tips for Success

Don’t wait to apply for services. Get them organised as soon as possible and keep on to them. At times it may feel like charging head first at a brick wall without a crash helmet, but it’s got to be done. Set aside a whole morning or afternoon to deal with each — you’ll likely need it!


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