With a self build representing fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition – for my husband, Charlie, anyway – we didn’t dare think of it as a reality until planning permission had been granted.

This went through without any objections and we found ourselves staring, with mild disbelief, at an approved planning permission document on Friday 3 March 2017. A date forever etched on our memories.

friends garden plot for self build

The garden plot we are building two semi-detached homes on

Having already decided to step back from our current business of 16 years, in order to devote 24/7 to the business of property developing, thus began a mammoth preparation exercise to get everything in place before we could start.

We had already sought legal advice to explore the pros and cons of building as individuals or as a company and, as we are not planning to live in either of the two semi-detached houses, decided to go the company route.

This involves setting up a new limited company and registering a joint venture with our two friends and build partners; finding an accountant and joining forces with another close friend who is keeping our PR business running while we swap our day jobs for hard hats and a site office.

We have to let our house in Hampshire, re-home our two cats, pack up our belongings and relocate from our leafy village to the townie build location in the London Borough of Croydon.

In short, it is life-changing before we even begin.

garden building plot

The garden as seen from Russell and Nicola’s window

The same is true of our two build friends, Russell and Nicola, who are selling half of their back garden to us and buying half of their neighbour’s in order to carve out the precious garden plot that will accommodate our two three-bed houses. They have two sheds and a summer house to clear out and some renovations in their existing house so we can move in and live with them for the duration of the build.

Our initial plan was to move fast and aim to break ground by mid August. Our enthusiasm to get going would be appeased, but there would be no contingency for delays in building regulations, finalising the land sale and meeting the planning conditions like appealing against a vastly inflated Community Infrastructure Levy charge.

Another spanner is the weather, which would get colder as autumn began to bite. Fine, if we planned to entrust the early build stages to professionals, but we are committed to rolling up our sleeves and doing as much as possible ourselves.

So we are settled on Plan B. Continue with all the build requirements and once the land sale goes through, clear the site, put up boundary fences, make preparations for our site office and create a detailed build plan. We would then leave the site to over-winter with a view to breaking ground on 1 March 2018 with the entire summer stretched out before us for the build.

Today, that feels like a long way off but when I look at the list of everything we have to do, it is also with no small measure of relief.

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