elf-build projects are normally demanding and stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Nikki Scrivens had to cope with a

bereavement in addition to all of the other chal- lenges inherent to pursuing a dream home. The project, which has resulted in a beautiful home in the Cambridgeshire village of Comberton would likely not have happened at all if it had not been for her late husband Ray falling ill. When Ray was diagnosed with terminal can-

cer they were living in a large house in a rural location outside the nearby village of Barton, which had been the family home for 36 years. As Nikki, who’s in her early 60s admits, they were “unlikely to be there until they were 70 any- way,” but Ray’s condition made moving to a less remote spot a matter of urgency. Going down the self-build route was not initially part of the plan, but circumstances made it a possibility. As luck would have it, some close friends of

the pair – Rachel and Michael Thompson – had bought a 60 x 19 metre parcel of land adjoin- ing their house and back garden, but as they had got older they were finding it a burden to maintain. Nikki asked Rachel whether she would consider selling it, and when the answer was yes, she jumped at the chance to build a home. The two women then successfully per- suaded their other halves it was a good idea. In a very kind gesture, their new neighbours

refused to take payment for the land until Nikki and Ray had gained planning permission for their house, which was a huge comfort as they embarked on the project. This was also helpful as planning proved to be tricky, with the local planning office being notoriously fussy as the site is in a Conservation Area. The timber- framed Potton design that Nikki decided on, although not extravagant, took several months to gain planning, having been first submitted in November 2013.

The best laid plans

The following February, Nikki and Ray were vis- iting their daughter at home in Australia: “We were hoping we would hear we had got plan- ning permission as it’s a 12 week window, but we didn’t hear so we had to reapply in March.” They finally got planning in May, but Nikki had to take matters into her own hands. “We almost ran out of time on the second application, because they couldn’t find a solici- tor to do the paperwork. I ended up going to the council and thumping the desk – saying it was their red tape that was stopping us. I begged them to find a solicitor just to sign it off.” Revisions to the original design were demanded because the building was deemed too close to the cottages next door by around a metre. This area off the kitchen was to have con- tained a downstairs shower and bedroom for Ray, however he sadly died when the building’s foundations were being dug, and these facilities would not be as essential for Nikki in the future. In order to appease the planners, Nikki

together with Potton project manager Brent Ackerman instead opted for a utility in the reduced space available, but with the slightly unusual addition of a WC in the middle of this

selfbuilder & homemaker 19

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