Damian and Gilly Johnson overcame a failed planning appeal and budget restraints to build a contemporary home, designed around their wooded site in a Conservation Area.

Damian and his wife Gilly completed their four-bed contemporary-style home on the edge of Bath in April 2010, following a ten-month build. Yet, their self-build ambitions began some six years earlier. In 2004, the couple proposed carving out a plot from the one-acre garden belonging to the listed Georgian house where Damian’s parents had lived since 1969.

“We entrusted the project to a large and well-established architectural practice and the scheme got turned down. Gilly and I took the view that, having briefed them, we expected them to produce a scheme that would gain planning permission. This episode cost us about £12,000” explains Damian.

“After the application was refused a second time on appeal, Gilly and I realised, when we worked out our finances, that we could not afford to fail. The answer was to get far more involved ourselves.”

Their application had been turned down largely due to the proposed house’s proximity to a group of well-established cedar trees. “We came to realise that if we moved the proposed house back, and further away from the trees, thus making it less obvious visually from the road, then it was worth starting again,” Damian explains.

The architect they approached – Ian Walker of locally based CaSA architects – came up with a scheme based on the original box-shaped design, but with the addition of a large single storey section complete with monopitch roof, housing an open plan kitchen and living space.

By moving the house back to a position formerly occupied by Damian’s parents’ swimming pool, and reusing sections of the substantial stone walls that had been built around it, Ian thought the Johnsons could make a brave attempt to stick to their £250,000 budget. Opting for a flat-roofed structure for the two storey section would also make the house less obtrusive and far lower than the large listed buildings on either side.

Fortunately the ideas proved a success and the design was approved without debate. And so a delighted Damian and Gilly entrusted the project to local builder Nigel Lloyd, already known to Ian and his colleagues in the practice.

The new house now includes three compact en suite bedrooms on the first floor and a ground floor bedroom, into which Damian’s mother may eventually move should she wish to sell up next door. “It really works well. Our two children, aged eight and six, love it” smiles Damian.

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