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When life gives you lemons... By Sunniva Davies-Rommetveit

Gary Waller had an urge to leave the hustle and bustle of city life firmly behind him, and jumped at the chance to move out of East London to Stock in Chelmsford, Essex. "I decided to take on a big project like this because I wanted land and a bit of space," he says. However, Gary admits that redeveloping a big plot of land, totaling an impressive 11 acres, was a big challenge. However, his moti- vation started when he was young, having grown up in a small, post World War II asbestos building. "One of the things that keeps me going is the fear of going back to that sort of lifestyle," he adds. Gary developed the 3-hold farm on the plot,

which is approximately one acre in size. Problems with obtaining planning permission meant that the planning stage was, "quite cum- bersome, it took about three months to work through." Having resolved everything on paper, it was time to begin digging. "Once we started the house I got to the more cavalier side of things and built what I knew I'd be allowed to

keep. I was worried that something would go wrong with the planning permission, but I kept on going." The property, called Bishops Farm, was ready over an 18-month timeframe, as Gary explains. "Between the inception of buy- ing the place, the house was ready for habita- tion within two years. It took about 18 months to build Bishops Farm in the end." Since then, he has been living there happily ever since. Recalling its grandeur and functionality, Gary

explains how the house, which is currently up for sale, is great on so many levels, with a three- bedroom cottage and a granny annex joined to the indoor swimming pool, which then flows through into the adjacent main house. This grandeur also comes with a versatility to suit a number of potential buyers. "It's good for busi- ness entertainment, or for a couple that perhaps have older parents who want to live in the cot- tage. It's good for people who want a babysit- ter or nanny to stay in the annex and look after their children, and it's great for socialising with friends too," Gary affirms.

There were setbacks during the redevelop-

ment however, especially when trying to gain the necessary planning permission from the local council. Admitting that he fought the coun- cil "tooth and nail" to redevelop the plot of land into his dream home, Gary asserts that a big build project is not for the faint-hearted. "I did have a couple of wobbly moments along the way, and times thinking 'what have I done?'" The advantages of working for himself were immediately noticeable, Gary admits, and not being bound to the office made the building stage go smoothly, despite setbacks. "It was very time-consuming, I couldn't really have done what I did if I'd worked a 9-5 job. The fact that I own a company meant that I was able to pop out at lunchtime to oversee the builders. I have built more houses since then, but this one cer- tainly was a challenge." Gary advices people against biting off more than you can chew, as there are many things that can go wrong when redeveloping a plot of land, and always more time and cost restraints than expected.


selfbuilder & homemaker

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