Build a New Life in the Country

Tuesday 13 July, 8:00pm on Five

Architectural designer Charlie Luxton revisits some of his favourite ‘Build a New Life in the Country’ projects. This week, Charlie gets reacquainted with David and Barbara, who decided to renovate one of the country’s oldest lighthouses and turn it into a luxury B&B. David and Barbara spent half a million pounds on a dilapidated lighthouse overlooking the cliffs of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. The Belle Tout lighthouse was built in 1832 and decommissioned in 1902. It was renovated in the 1950s and further buildings were added in the 1990s, leaving an odd mixture of structures clamped to the side of the granite tower. David and Barbara hoped to turn this eccentric structure into a luxury B&B. On his first visit to the area, Charlie was impressed by the stunning setting David and Barbara had chosen, but worried that the scheme could run aground. “It’s a high-risk project,” he said. The lighthouse’s concrete outbuildings also caught Charlie’s attention. “What an amazingly odd piece of architecture,” he remarked. Barbara admitted that she too found it ugly, but hoped extensive work on the exterior would improve the look. Charlie feared that the couple were severely underestimating the cost of converting the structure, but David remained confident. “I am just very happy to have the chance of working on something with such a wonderful history,” he said. However, as the work progressed, the problems multiplied. Strong sea winds and the poorly insulated walls meant that damp was a constant problem. Plans to replace some of the square windows, which were installed in the 1950s, were halted by the local council, who declared that they had architectural merit. David and Barbara also needed to build a new access road, as the old road ran perilously close to the eroding cliff edge. Unfortunately, the council wanted to charge David �85,000 for the right to build the road. “Potentially, this could bring the whole project down,” Charlie said. Erosion is a worry on this stretch of coast, where chunks of cliff regularly drop into the sea. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved 60 feet back from the cliff edge.

Tuesday 6 July, 8:00pm on Five

Architectural designer Charlie Luxton revisits some of his favourite ‘Build a New Life in the Country’ projects. This week, Charlie returns to the Scottish island of Harris to catch up with Harvey and John, who had an ambitious plan to turn a run-down croft into a campsite, only to see legal wrangles threaten the entire venture. How have the couple fared? Hairdresser Harvey and his partner John sold their house in Leeds in order to buy a �133,000 plot of land on the beautiful Isle of Harris. With just 2,000 inhabitants, unspoilt beaches and an almost lunar landscape, the area is something of a tourist hotspot. “John and I have been coming to the Hebrides for years,” Harvey said. “We wanted something else and we’re almost touching it now.” The couple’s 13-acre croft encompassed two cattle byres, a croft house and a 160-year-old Hebridean black house. Their plan was to set up home in the croft house and turn the cattle byres into a sauna and shower building. The black house was to be converted into a self-catering lodge, and the overgrown land was to be cleared to make way for campers. However, the couple did not yet own the title deeds for their own land. In order to borrow the money necessary to start work, they first had to submit a ‘decrofting’ application – a request to the authorities to diversify the croft. Four weeks after their application was submitted, Harvey and John had received no word. While waiting for approval, they decided to start work using their own cash. They began by repointing the black house and installing electricity. Next they cleared the 13-acre site and drove out a very stubborn sheep. But the major work had to wait until the decrofting commission got back to them. “I keep waiting on the phone,” Harvey said, nervously. “I will keep going until things work out.”

Tuesday 1 June, 8:00pm on Five

The property and lifestyle series with architectural designer Charlie Luxton concludes. This week, Charlie advises Mark and Patsy as they attempt to build their dream home in Shropshire. Will the stress of building a house on a tiny budget push their relationship over the edge? For years Mark and Patsy have dreamed about leaving the rat race of city life. Mark used to work over 70 hours a week as a salesman, but decided to retrain as a teacher when he realised that he was missing his children growing up. Now with more time on his hands, he and his wife have taken their three young children from urban Dudley to the village of Ludlow in the Shropshire hills. After demolishing a dilapidated prefab bungalow, they now own an elevated plot of land overlooking an idyllic country valley. Having hoped to move in to a completed house within a year of leaving Dudley, Mark, Patsy and the kids have already been living in a caravan on the site for 18 months when Charlie meets them. The reason for this delay is planning permission hold-ups for Mark’s ambitious project. Designed to fit his family’s needs, Mark’s home will have a large open-plan living space with a big lounge and kitchen area. The size of the windows means that the whole of the downstairs will be flooded with natural light. Upstairs the couple plan to have three children’s bedrooms and a large room and balcony area for the adults. The project will take a lot of effort, so Charlie is amazed to learn that although the couple have very limited experience, they expect to do nearly all of the work themselves. This includes the complex plumbing and electrical jobs, which they expect to get done in as little as 12 months. Charlie is even more sceptical when the couple reveal that their budget is just �50,000. “Mark and Patsy are either the bravest people I’ve met or the maddest,” Charlie says.

This week on Five

The property and lifestyle series with architectural designer Charlie Luxton concludes. This week, Charlie advises Mark and Patsy as they attempt to build their dream home in Shropshire. Will the stress of building a house on a tiny budget push their relationship over the edge?

For years Mark and Patsy have dreamed about leaving the rat race of city life. Mark used to work over 70 hours a week as a salesman, but decided to retrain as a teacher when he realised that he was missing his children growing up. Now with more time on his hands, he and his wife have taken their three young children from urban Dudley to the village of Ludlow in the Shropshire hills. After demolishing a dilapidated prefab bungalow, they now own an elevated plot of land overlooking an idyllic country valley.

Having hoped to move in to a completed house within a year of leaving Dudley, Mark, Patsy and the kids have already been living in a caravan on the site for 18 months when Charlie meets them. The reason for this delay is planning permission hold-ups for Mark’s ambitious project. Designed to fit his family’s needs, Mark hopes the home will have a large open-plan living space with a big lounge and kitchen area. The size of the windows means that the whole of the downstairs will be flooded with natural light. Upstairs they plan to have three children’s bedrooms and a large room and balcony area for the adults.

The project will take a lot of effort, so Charlie is amazed to learn that although the couple have very limited experience, they expect to do nearly all of the work themselves. This includes the complex plumbing and electrical jobs, which they expect to get done in as little as 12 months. Charlie is even more sceptical when the couple reveal that their budget is just £50,000. “Mark and Patsy are either the bravest people I’ve met or the maddest,” Charlie says.

When the project finally gets underway, it is clear that Mark and Patsy face a steep learning curve. After digging the foundations by hand, they make an error in their calculations and end up doubling their concrete costs to over £6,000. The house’s metal frame costs a further £20,000, which means that already more than half of their initial budget has gone. As Patsy is looking after the finances, this fiscal strain leads to tensions in the marriage. The problem is compounded by the fact that all five of the family are still living in the cramped caravan, and will be for the foreseeable future. As the money is quickly running out with the project still in its initial stages, Charlie is concerned that Patsy’s lack of realism could quickly derail the project. “You need to plan hard, as well as work hard,” he tells the couple. Patsy eventually relents and applies to remortgage the property.

However, as time passes there is yet more bad news. The worsening economic climate has meant that the bank has rejected the mortgage application. The couple have no option but to max out their credit cards and borrow increasing amounts from their friends and family. It is a desperate financial situation for the family. “There is no light at the end of the tunnel,” Mark grimly assesses.

Charlie then comes up with a radical solution to break the family’s ongoing housing difficulties. If they can find a building firm that can defer the payment until the job is done, then the bank can increase the mortgage on the property to give Mark and Patsy some financial breathing space. After a long period of hard work and spiralling debts, will Charlie’s plan rescue the family so that they can finally move into their dream home?

 

Thursday 11th February 8.00pm

The property and lifestyle series with Charlie Luxton continues its new run. This week, Charlie meets a couple who have uprooted their three young daughters to start a new life in beautiful Barbados. Dawn and Marcus plan to build a large, open-plan home with guest apartments for rent. But they face an array of challenges, from hurricanes and labour difficulties to the demands of a foreign environment.

Dawn and Marcus want to give their three young daughters an amazing childhood in the Caribbean. They are fed up with their busy, stressful lives in London and want a more relaxed existence so they can spend more time together as a family.

Dawn’s mother is from Barbados and moved to Britain in the 1960s. Seven years ago, Dawn’s family inherited a 10,000sq ft plot of land on the island and they have wanted to do something with it ever since. The plan is to build a large home with a swimming pool, guest studio and separate twobedroom apartments, which they can rent out to generate an income. The build will cost £200,000 and they have £50,000 to live off for the year during the build.

Dawn, Marcus and the children move to Barbados in the autumn. They hope to start the build as soon as they arrive and plan to move into their new home by the summer. Although Marcus runs his own construction company in the UK, he has never before built his own house. He will be fully involved in the project, overseeing the work and mucking in to help the local builders. The project faces numerous challenges, from hurricanes to termites as well as the difficulties of sourcing local labour and transporting materials to the island.

Once the house is completed, Marcus hopes to use the family home as a showpiece and springboard to set up a business designing similar properties for locals and ex-pats. The couple hope this business will support their new life in the long term. Marcus believes there is a strong market for ‘modern homes’ rather than the “mock colonial horrors” scattered across the island.

Since they met 11 years ago, Marcus and Dawn have never lived outside London, so they face the challenge of adapting to the pace of island life. Although they will miss family and friends, they are looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime 4,000 miles away from the UK…

Sunday 7th February 8.00pm

The property and lifestyle series with Charlie Luxton continues. This week, Charlie meets an Essex family who hope to renovate a barge and relocate to the canals of Burgundy, France. David is a former professional photographer who plans to run holiday cruises on the finished boat. But the complicated renovation costs time and money, before the family face the upheaval of moving to France and navigating unfamiliar waters.

David, Hilary and their children enjoy a busy family life in Colchester, Essex. They have always had a passion for boats and now they plan to swap their modern house for a life on water. Tired of working long hours and spending little time with their daughters, David and Hilary have decided to pursue their dream of renovating a boat and running cruises on the idyllic canals of Burgundy, France. David is looking forward to the challenge of selfrenovating what he describes as a ‘tired, tatty, hotel barge’. The 110ft-long Dutch boat was built in 1927 and weighs 184 tonnes. The budget for the project is around £35,000. The family set to work by tackling fundamental jobs such as repairing the hull and installing new batteries.

Working full time on the boat, David admits that he inevitably suffers from cabin fever. He is, however, determined to complete the remaining work on his own. The list of jobs includes creating the guest cabins and installing plumbing and electrics, as well as the unending task of painting and varnishing the vessel.

The barge is currently docked on King Edward Quay in Colchester. This urban regeneration area is a far cry from the dreamy surroundings the family will be enjoying in France. Whilst they restore the boat, David, Hilary and the girls are living on board to save money. Once in France, the plan is to rent a home on dry land so that they can send their youngest daughter, Katie, to school. The boat will then be used solely for passengers. Until then, the family have to cope with the ups and downs and limited space of canalside life.

With the boat nearing completion, David and Hilary begin to plan the next part of the operation. They hope to sail the barge across to France and start running cruises for the summer season. However, the couple admit that the challenge of chartering a boat on the Burgundy canals is a daunting one. Even if the renovation is completed in time, they face potential battles with French bureaucracy, a language barrier and a network of unfamiliar canals. Can they surmount these obstacles and navigate their way to their dream life?

Sunday 31st January 8.00pm

The property and lifestyle series with Charlie Luxton continues its new run. This week, Charlie meets a couple who have moved their four young children from Oxfordshire to France to begin a new, idyllic life. Keith and Antoinette dream of converting a chateau-style mansion into a family home and B&B. However, increasing financial demands threaten to derail the project.

Keith, Antoinette and their family have moved from Oxfordshire to the Languedoc region of France. Their dream is to convert a 19th-century chateau-style mansion into a bed and breakfast.

When Keith and Antoinette met six years ago, they had two children from previous relationships. Since then, they have had two more children of their own. However, Keith’s long working hours running his own company have left them with little time together as a family. Having always dreamed of moving to France, the couple have finally taken the plunge. Their hope is that the children will lead an idyllic village life and become bilingual.

However, in order to finance the build, Keith has to sell his IT business in the UK. While Keith divides his time between England and France, Antoinette faces the huge task of project-managing a team of French builders – a job made even more difficult as she does not speak fluent French. She also has to keep an eye on the four kids. The plan is to have the guest accommodation ready to rent for the summer season – but when the couple’s financial situation worsens, their hopes of a better life begin to recede. Can Keith and Antoinette realise their dream?

Thursday 28th January 8.00pm

The property and lifestyle series with Charlie Luxton continues its new run. This week, Charlie meets a couple who have moved their four young children from Oxfordshire to France to begin a new, idyllic life. Keith and Antoinette dream of converting a chateau-style mansion into a family home and B&B. However, increasing financial demands threaten to derail the project.

Keith, Antoinette and their family have moved from Oxfordshire to the Languedoc region of France. Their dream is to convert a 19th-century chateau-style mansion into a bed and breakfast.

When Keith and Antoinette met six years ago, they had two children from previous relationships. Since then, they have had two more children of their own. However, Keith’s long working hours running his own company have left them with little time together as a family. Having always dreamed of moving to France, the couple have finally taken the plunge. Their hope is that the children will lead an idyllic village life and become bilingual.

However, in order to finance the build, Keith has to sell his IT business in the UK. While Keith divides his time between England and France, Antoinette faces the huge task of project-managing a team of French builders – a job made even more difficult as she does not speak fluent French. She also has to keep an eye on the four kids. The plan is to have the guest accommodation ready to rent for the summer season – but when the couple’s financial situation worsens, their hopes of a better life begin to recede. Can Keith and Antoinette realise their dream?

Thursday 21st January 8.00pm

The property and lifestyle series with Charlie Luxton continues its new run. This week, David and Barbara attempt to renovate one of the country’s oldest lighthouses and turn it into a luxury B&B. The Belle Tout lighthouse dates from the 19th century and is perched on the edge of Beachy Head cliffs in East Sussex. However, mounting costs and legal wrangles with the council put this ambitious project in jeopardy.

David and Barbara have spent half a million pounds on a dilapidated lighthouse overlooking the cliffs of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. The Belle Tout lighthouse was built in 1832 and decommissioned in 1902. It was renovated in the 1950s and further buildings were added in the 1990s, leaving an odd mixture of structures clamped to the side of the granite tower. David and Barbara hope to turn this eccentric structure into a luxury bed and breakfast.

Charlie is impressed by the stunning setting but worries that the scheme could run onto the rocks. “It’s a high-risk project,” he says. “It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘living on the edge’.” The lighthouse’s concrete outbuildings also catch Charlie’s attention. “What an amazingly odd piece of architecture,” he says. Barbara admits that she too finds it ugly, but that they hope some extensive work on the exterior will improve the lighthouse’s aspect.

Charlie fears that the couple are severely underestimating the cost of converting the structure, but David seems confident. “I am just very happy to have the chance of working on something with such a wonderful history,” he says. The builders set to work cleaning the lighthouse’s exterior, installing new drainage, rewiring the building and replacing the windows. As the work progresses, the problems multiply. Strong sea winds and the poorly insulated walls mean that damp is a constant problem. Plans to replace some of the square windows, which were installed in the 1950s, are halted by the local council, who declare they have architectural merit.

David and Barbara also need to build a new access road, as the current track runs perilously close to the cliff edge, which is eroding before their very eyes. Unfortunately, the council want to charge David £85,000 for the right to build the road. “Potentially, this 85,000 could bring the whole project down,” says Charlie. Erosion is a particular worry on this stretch of coast, where chunks of cliff regularly drop into the sea. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved 60 feet back from the cliff edge to stop it from falling off.

While 70-year-old David copes with the stress of his ever-mounting budget, Barbara hits on a novel marketing campaign by convincing the strapping builders to pose nude for a charity calendar. “It would only be bottom, chest, tummy,” she tells them. “It will be cheeky but tasteful.”

The interior of the B&B is almost finished when the builders are at last given permission to replace the windows. Unfortunately, this means ripping out much of the finished plasterwork, adding yet more overruns to the schedule.

David, meanwhile, decides to begin building the road without the council’s permission. But he must use a group of experts to excavate the land because there are fears it may be littered with unexploded World War II bombs – creating yet another expense. “If I live to 115, I’ll just about break even,” David reflects. Can the plucky pair navigate these choppy waters and realise their dream of finishing the lighthouse?

The property and lifestyle show presented by Charlie Luxton returns for a new series. This week, Lisa and Michael attempt to convert a 400-year-old barn into an eco-friendly family home. The project begins well, but progress is slow thanks to problems with planning permission, bad weather, illness and damp. Will the couple manage to complete the build before another winter arrives?

For many years, entrepreneurs Michael and Lisa have dreamed of creating a sustainable life for themselves and their two children, four-year-old Thomas and three-year-old Lucy. To turn their dream into reality, they plan to convert a 400-yearold barn in rural Nottinghamshire into a contemporary, eco-friendly family home with six bedrooms and five bathrooms. The couple also want to reinstate a 1960s extension to house a wet room and a snug. The new house will feature all the latest environmental technology, including doublethick insulation, a rainwater-harvesting tank and a heat-recovery system. Michael and Lisa bought the barn and six acres of land for £495,000 and plan to spend £450,000 on the renovation.

After living on site in a caravan for a year, the couple finally receive planning permission for the conversion and can start work. However, the builders’ quote comes in at £560,000 – a massive £110,000 more than the couple were expecting. To cut costs, Michael decides to take on much of the work himself. He begins by excavating the original sandstone to rebuild the extension and digging trenches for the ground-source heat pumps.

Despite beginning well, the project soon runs into trouble. When the coldest winter for 30 years arrives, it looks as if the roof could fall in and take the walls of the barn with it. The cold weather delays the work as the lime mortar used to repair the walls cannot set in freezing temperatures.

In addition to the weather, the family must also cope with Lisa’s illness. As a lupus sufferer, she is often unable to work, meaning Michael must manage the build alone whilst looking after the children and running the rainwater-harvesting business. To top it all, problems with the bank then threaten to derail the whole project. As the delays begin to mount, Lisa worries that they will have to spend another winter in the caravan.

To spend more time on site, Lisa brings home work from the office, while Michael plants 4,000 trees that will be turned into fuel for the new house.

However, as one problem is solved, another arises. This time, it is damp in the extension causing concern –while Michael’s exacting standards lead to their own delays. It is not until the 100-tonne steel frame finally arrives that the build begins to take shape. For the first time, Lisa and Michael can see that the barn is slowly turning into their dream home. Can the couple finish the build on time, or are Thomas and Lucy set to spend another cold winter in the caravan?

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