Richard: “When we thought the boiler had gone wrong.” He had in fact knocked a lever when he almost fell into the oil tank while dipping a stick into it to check the oil level (as their monitor is broken)!

However, while the permitted development rights amendment meant it was now possible to do something with the footprint of the barn, it also came with some strict requirements. “One of the criteria was that you had to have not used the barn in the last two years,” Richard explains. They were fine on this front, as during their two decades on the farm it had seen no use. The house also had to sit within a very specific boundary. “The design had to be within the footprint of what the barn was,” says Richard. “We couldn’t go even a centimetre over what was originally here.” The requirement to slope the roof in the same way as the barn meant the house wouldn’t be what Susan had ideally wanted. “I would have liked a more ‘conventional’ house,” she explains. The barn had also featured skylights along the flatter part of the large sloped roof, which also had to be replicated in the new design. Despite the restrictions, they persevered and made contact with a local architect who drew up plans for the build. Originally the idea of using weatherboarding was posed to them but Susan was concerned it would make the house look inappropriate in its setting, even that “it would make the house too much like a factory”. She adds: “We had to be so careful in terms of how we designed it”.

GETTING THE BALL ROLLING The new legislation Richard and Susan were applying for planning under caused some confusion among the architects and the council planners. “When we first spoke to them, Sevenoaks Council were adamant we couldn’t do certain things,” explains Richard. The permitted development rights meant they needed to meet 10 different points in order for the application to be approved – unfortunately their architect also failed to include some of these necessary elements.


Luckily, a good friend of the couple was on hand with the right skill set to help get everything in order. “He does a lot of building, and he pointed out what was missing and came with us to a meeting,” says Susan. They had all the necessary surveys done, went back to the council with revised plans and documents, and it was successful.

The couple then began discussing their build with various potential providers and were invited to attend Build It Live at the Bluewater retail park by one firm, a specialist oak building company. Armed with their plans, they visited the show and located them, however it didn’t turn out as planned. “When we showed them what we were intending to do they didn’t want to get involved,” says Susan. “It was quite surprising.” Richard had originally dismissed the idea of

approaching a kit house builder, assuming the unique shape and design of their house simply wouldn’t be a good fit. However, as they were leaving the show an undeterred Susan spotted Scandia-Hus and decided to talk to them, which proved to be the turning point for the couple. “They really showed us what we could do,” she says.

MAKING PROGRESS They provided Scandia-Hus with all the plans and drawings they had, along with all the letters and paperwork Sevenoaks Council had sent them detailing the permission granted. “They basically took it over at that point,” says Richard. Susan and Richard dealt in the main with the company’s managing director, Derek Dawson. He suggested one key change to the existing plans which the pair are now extremely grateful for. Originally, they had planned to include a garage within the build, but he assured them they didn’t need to. “He told us we’d be able to get some form of separate garage once the

may/june 2018

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