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Carpenter builds Grand Designs triangular house on £160,000 land

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A master carpenter has realised his dream of building an incredible Grand Designs triangular house on a half-acre land he bought for £160,000 hemmed in by mainline railway and busy road.

Olaf and Fritha, from West Sussex, appeared on the Channel 4 programme last night as they set out to build forever three-bedroom home on the piece of scrap land.

But the couple immediately faced near catastrophic problems after buying the land when they discovered a mainland sewer was running through the centre of the space. 

There had to be a three metre distance between the sewer line and any foundations, meaning the buildable area on the scrap of land was halved. 

Olaf said: ‘The sewer has dictated the shape of the building. Seeing as it’s impossible to move, we’ve had to work with it. We’re stuck with it. We’ve paid the money, so we’re screwed.’  

And months after they finally started the build in early 2020, the couple admitted they were struggling to stay within their £190,000 budget and had been forced to apply for a new larger mortgage to finance the project. 

But viewers were totally won over by the house’s final look, saying the ‘stunning’ home was ‘divine,’ and their favourite Grand Designs house ever.  

Olaf and Fritha, from West Sussex, revealed their dream of building an incredible Grand Designs triangular house on a half-acre land they bought for £160,000 hemmed in by mainline railway and busy road - but struggled to control their budget

Olaf and Fritha, from West Sussex, revealed their dream of building an incredible Grand Designs triangular house on a half-acre land they bought for £160,000 hemmed in by mainline railway and busy road – but struggled to control their budget 

The couple dreamed of creating a unique and modern forever family home with a three bedrooms in which they hoped to raise children (pictured, their guest room)

The couple dreamed of creating a unique and modern forever family home with a three bedrooms in which they hoped to raise children (pictured, their guest room) 

During their appearance on the programme, the couple also underwent IVF treatment in order to have a baby (pictured, the nursery)

During their appearance on the programme, the couple also underwent IVF treatment in order to have a baby (pictured, the nursery) 

Olaf and Fritha, who met on Tinder, said they ‘didn’t want to follow the paths of others’, as she revealed: ‘By the third date, I was totally head over heels.’ 

Fritha ran an ethical business importing fabrics from India, while Olaf was a carpenter specialising in precise high end interiors.     

Kevin McCloud met with master carpenter Olaf, who was facing the biggest challenge of his career – creating an oasis for himself and partner Fritha on a small slice of land in West Sussex, which happened to be surrounded by a mainline railway and a busy A-road. 

Not only that, but half of the plot couldn’t even be built on due an underground mains sewer. All they were left with was a very small triangle on which to build their future life together.    

An aerial shot shows how close Olaf and Fritha’s half-acre land they paid £160,000 for was hemmed in by a main railway line and a busy A-road

The side of the house during construction, before the windows were put in. Financing the house was a challenge for Olaf and Fritha

The side of the house during construction, before the windows were put in. Financing the house was a challenge for Olaf and Fritha

The triangular roof after it was covered in cladding and the solar panels that would be used to power the house. Building the house around a sewer was the biggest challenge for Olaf

The triangular roof after it was covered in cladding and the solar panels that would be used to power the house. Building the house around a sewer was the biggest challenge for Olaf

The house mid-construction. The project slowed down in September 2020 due to financial woes. The bank didn't agree to a new mortgage halfway through

The house mid-construction. The project slowed down in September 2020 due to financial woes. The bank didn’t agree to a new mortgage halfway through 

Olaf and Fritha were determined to create a simplistic yet stunning home, but due to the unique triangular shape of the property, were forced to create much of their furniture from scratch (pictured, Fritha's study)

Olaf and Fritha were determined to create a simplistic yet stunning home, but due to the unique triangular shape of the property, were forced to create much of their furniture from scratch (pictured, Fritha’s study) 

Meanwhile the outside area featured a stunning sunken sofa as well as a huge decking space which the couple said they hoped to host parties on

Meanwhile the outside area featured a stunning sunken sofa as well as a huge decking space which the couple said they hoped to host parties on 

Fritha said: ‘People walk past all the time and say, “Hey you realise you’ve bought a plot of land you actually can’t build on because there’s a sewer in the middle.”

In early 2020, Olaf and Fritha began clearing the site but uncovered even more underground surprises, like a defunct septic tank.

Olaf said: ‘I have been thinking of building my own house for 20 plus years. The biggest challenge is the sewer. We can’t build over it.’

He said he was planning to build the majority of the house himself, with Fritha adding: ‘We can do whatever we want here.’ 

The master carpenter worked tirelessly, and almost single handedly, for 15 months in order to complete the build for his family (pictured, one of the bedrooms)

The master carpenter worked tirelessly, and almost single handedly, for 15 months in order to complete the build for his family (pictured, one of the bedrooms) 

Olaf planned to build a meaty handbuild timber frame to support two upper floors with 17 triple glazed windows which would work to keep out noise as well as vibrations from the traffic.

The roof would be covered in solar panels while the building would be clad in sleek black brickwork and timber.

The ground floor would also house an open kitchen living space with a triangular snug. 

Meanwhile an acutely angled first floor would squeeze in a study, a bathroom and two bedrooms. Upstairs there would be a master suite with a bathroom.

The acutely angled first floor squeezed in a study, a bathroom and two bedrooms (pictured, the colourful nursery)

The acutely angled first floor squeezed in a study, a bathroom and two bedrooms (pictured, the colourful nursery) 

And outside, the space would also work hard, with an outdoor kitchen and a huge circular firepit. 

But early on they confessed they hadn’t drawn up any plans for a budget, Fritha saying: ‘Making this land buildable has cost us a fortune.’ 

The couple wanted to finish the project in 12 months and Olaf asked for the help of a close colleague to help get started on the project. 

They also hoped to start a family, and had been trying for a child for over two years. During the build, they stayed with Fritha’s parents in Guildford and started IVF. 

Speaking about their hope to get pregnant, Olaf said: ‘This is what we have been working for for years basically.’

Months after they finally started the build in early 2020, the couple admitted they were struggling to stay within their £190,000 budget and had been forced to apply for a new larger mortgage to finance the project

Months after they finally started the build in early 2020, the couple admitted they were struggling to stay within their £190,000 budget and had been forced to apply for a new larger mortgage to finance the project 

Meanwhile Fritha said: ‘We’ve had one pregnancy and it ended up in miscarriage.’

Olaf added: ‘Building a house, you can control it to a degree. But this is completely uncontrollable. So there is an air of uncertainty which is quite daunting.’

Early the next morning, the couple travelled into central London for some egg harvesting.   But there was still a major bump in the road to their future happiness – the issue of money.

Olaf said: ‘There was quite a tremendous overspend on the groundworks. It was unforeseen circumstances. It’s going to go over by about £50,000.’

The couple said they hoped to spend a large amount of time outside on the site because of the small size of the building itself

The couple said they hoped to spend a large amount of time outside on the site because of the small size of the building itself 

Fritha said: ‘We will run out of money and then we’ll be in a situation where we will need to beg and borrow more.’

After taking a pregnancy test in a portaloo on site, the couple learned they were pregnant on camera.

Fritha could hardly contain her delight, admitting: ‘Getting a positive pregnancy test is huge for us.’

By the following month, Kevin returned to the site and saw the spaces inside had become enclosed.

However in September 2020, Olaf’s financial problems caught up with them. He was forced to return to his paid work to cover the costs of the site, and the building project slowed down.

Olaf and Fritha met on Tinder and said they 'didn't want to follow the paths of others', as she revealed: 'By the third date, I was totally head over heels'

Olaf and Fritha met on Tinder and said they ‘didn’t want to follow the paths of others’, as she revealed: ‘By the third date, I was totally head over heels’

He asked friends to work on the site instead, admitting: ‘It’s extremely important to have friends here that understand me and understand my needs and I get on with.’

By October, there was no news about expanding his mortgage and funds quickly began to dwindle. 

When Olaf was not at work, he worked tirelessly on his house to keep it warm, but also silent.

He said: ‘Because of the railway and the road, sound needs to be eradicated. The amount of material in the makeup of the wall will pretty much annihilate any sound coming through.’ 

The couple invested £30,000 of their budget into glass windows for the house – however there was a hiccup. A number of the window’s handles had been installed on the wrong side.

When Olaf was not at work, he worked tirelessly on his house to keep it warm but also silent by soundproofing the property from the busy traffic and mainline railway

When Olaf was not at work, he worked tirelessly on his house to keep it warm but also silent by soundproofing the property from the busy traffic and mainline railway 

The building was small but every detail was precise, and cleverly designed. The couple even made each step of their staircase into a storage space

The building was small but every detail was precise, and cleverly designed. The couple even made each step of their staircase into a storage space

Olaf said: ‘When I  saw all the windows and the handles were on the wrong way, I lost it a bit. 

‘Out of the 17 windows, nine of them are on the wrong side. It’s impossible to live with.’

Already on the brink financially, for Olaf the perfectionist, it could prove be an expensive issue to put right.

Olaf said: ‘It does take it out of you. If we had money I’d sleep. I’m sure rich people sleep.’

And if the bank didn’t agree the new mortgage of £240,000  in the next fortnight, the project would come to a grinding halt. 

However, Olaf didn’t give up, and when the house was revealed at the end of the show, boasting slick edges and plenty of light, viewers were sold. 

Some even called them their favourite Grand Designs house ever, while others tempered they were not convinced by the outside of the house, but loved the inside.  

Viewers said they loved the final look of the project and the 'workmanship, skills and vision' of Olaf, calling the house one of the best Grand Designs projects to date

Viewers said they loved the final look of the project and the ‘workmanship, skills and vision’ of Olaf, calling the house one of the best Grand Designs projects to date  

‘Absolutely love this build, superb design and Olaf has the skill to pull it off completely. What a lovely couple too, they deserve all the plaudits and a beautiful baby to top it off,’ one said. 

‘Absolutely stunning. One of my favourite ones ever. Well done Olaf,’ another raved. 

‘Incredible build, one of my favourite GDs ever, sublime vision, skill and execution. I just wish we could break the almost universal use of Kingspan insulation,’ one wrote. 

‘The workmanship, skills and vision Olaf had for this project was just devine. No, I would personally find the shape difficult to live with, as Kevin stated, but one of the best GDs to date. The hard graft tops everything,’ one said. 

‘Didn’t really like the outside, but really liked the inside,’ another said.  

The new series of Grand Designs is on Channel 4 on Wednesdays at 9pm

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Property investors offended by ‘vulture funds’ label, conference hears

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People in Ireland need to stop calling property investment firms “vulture funds” and development and building rules need to stop changing if the housing crisis is to be solved, property and banking sector representatives have said.

Marie Hunt, executive director of research at real estate firm CBRE, told an Irish Council for Social Housing conference that the “fundamental problem” in the Irish housing market “is a lack of supply”.

She said bureaucracy and regularly changing public policy were also issues, noting the political discussion this week about potentially changing the link between rent and inflation because prices were rising.

Ms Hunt said investors were not going to come into a market where the rules kept changing halfway through the game.

She said that calling investors “vulture funds” was unhelpful and that name calling “in the media” should stop.

“We need that capital and we need that investment.”

She said investors who bought a nursing home or an office block were welcomed but that those who bought housing received very negative publicity “and they don’t need that”.

Take interest elsewhere

Pat O’Sullivan, head of real estate research at AIB, said policy changes were problematic and that the term “vulture fund” was offensive to investors, who could take their interest elsewhere.

He said Ireland isn’t the only economy that requires funding and “we have got to be very careful about the amount of changes we make to policy, how we describe the investment”.

Ms Hunt said that from a developer’s perspective, many housing schemes were not viable due to high construction and “input” costs and “because we have raised the bar so high in terms of the planning regime and design requirements”.

She instanced the judicial review process, which has been used to bring challenges to fast-track strategic planning developments, as another problem. Ms Hunt said “anecdotally” developers were hiring senior counsel and barristers ahead of planners and architects, such was the level of challenges.

The conference continues on Thursday.

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Should the developer pay for my drive’s missing dropped kerb?

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PROPERTY CLINIC: I bought a house with a drive that the developer never got a dropped kerb for, who is responsible for paying for one?

  • You have approached your local council about it paying for your kerb to be fixed 
  • The developer was issued with guidance by the local council to drop the kerb
  • No work has been carried out and the kerb needs to be dropped 










I bought a property that has a driveway without a dropped kerb. It is uncomfortable every time I drive over it. When I approached my local council about getting it fixed, it said the developer was under no obligation to drop the kerb. 

The council said I would have to apply for a licence to get it dropped. That licence costs £222.35. 

I will also have to pay for the work to be carried out. Is there anything I can do about this and why are developers allowed to build homes without dropped kerbs? MT

Parking space is at a premium and many want a drive, but you'll need a dropped kerb too

Parking space is at a premium and many want a drive, but you’ll need a dropped kerb too

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: Parking spaces are becoming highly desirable in many areas, as on-street parking restrictions proliferate.

Your developer was issued with guidance by the local council to drop the kerb. However, the local council in this case has confirmed that there is nothing in planning consent or elsewhere that required the developer to drop the kerb. 

Unfortunately, you have no claim against the original developer or the person from whom you bought the property. And so you will now need to apply to your local council for the kerb to be dropped.

Research by Direct Line found that during the past three years there has been a rise in the number of requests for dropped kerbs received by local councils amid an increasing demand for parking spaces.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, councils received an estimated 14,500 planning requests for dropped kerbs, rising to 14,700 between April 2020 and March 2021.

Stephen Gold, a retired judge and author, explained: Your local council is correct. In fact, it is sometimes necessary to also obtain planning permission for the construction of a dropped kerb: For example, if the kerb would be on a classified road or in a conservation area.

The fact that the all-clear has been given in the past to neighbouring properties for a dropped kerb is no guarantee that you will be as lucky because of changes in engineering standards and improvements in design. You may also be refused where, say, your property is on a bend or at a road junction or close to traffic lights.

The property was sold as it was, with no dropped kerb

The property was sold as it was, with no dropped kerb

You have no claim against the original developer or the person from whom you bought the property. 

The property was sold to you as it was: One driveway and no dropped kerb which would have been obvious, so you got what you bargained for. 

You would or should have contemplated that a drive from the property over the pavement might be an uncomfortable exercise. Had your seller agreed to bear the cost of construction of the kerb and associated expenses, the position would have been different.

But assuming that you bought with the help of a mortgage, the property would have been inspected by a valuer or surveyed on behalf of the mortgage lender and you may have organised your own private survey. 

If the process and expense of getting the all-clear for a dropped kerb was not raised in the inspection or survey report then you would have an arguable – although not a strong – claim against the report’s author or their employer. 

After all, section 184 of the Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to drive over the pavement to get out of your property when the local authority has prohibited you from doing so in view of the absence of a dropped kerb and so this would have been an important matter.

You would have up to six years from the report to start what could be a county court ‘small claim’. You would be well advised to send details of the claim to whoever reported with a threat of proceedings if they do not pay up. If the claim is rejected by them, assess whether to take the matter further when you have the benefit of knowing why they assert they are not liable to you. 

Even making a small claims carries risks. You won’t get back the court fees if you lose and may have to pay the winner’s expenses for travel and loss of earnings in being at court.

  • Stephen Gold is the author of ‘The Return of Breaking Law’, published by Bath Publishing

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At the Ryder Cup, would 12 divided by three equal victory for the US?

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“Pod” is not a golf word. And yet it has been on the tongue of nearly everyone in the golf community during the past, tense days before this week’s Ryder Cup, the biennial, pressure-packed team competition between American and European pro golfers that begins Friday.

Paul Azinger, the American Ryder Cup captain in 2008 and a former PGA Tour pro, deserves the credit, or the blame, for injecting “pod” into the golf vernacular. Thirteen years ago, after learning that Navy Seal units bonded by training and living together in small, carefully selected platoons, Azinger decided he would divide his 12-man team into three four-man units before that year’s Ryder Cup. The hope was that a finite, close-knit group could match the unity exhibited by Europe’s triumphant teams.

Called the pod system, Azinger’s four-man corps were chosen after each player took a personality test. Grouped together based on compatibility, the players did almost everything together before the Ryder Cup matches – practice rounds, meals, nightly table tennis games. When the competition started, they were paired together in matches and routed the Europeans to claim the first US victory in nine years and just the second since 1993. Azinger was celebrated for his innovation.

But in a show of the stubborn individualism that may be hampering the overall American Ryder Cup effort, the US captains who succeeded Azinger rejected or diluted his approach. Only one of those teams won, in 2016, when Davis Love III embraced the pod system.

‘Good concept’

At other team competitions in professional golf, including the Solheim Cup, which pits women’s golfers from the United States against those from Europe, leaders chose to adopt Azinger’s model with success and failure. Last month, the American Solheim Cup captain, Pat Hurst, implemented the pod system and her team lost, 15-13.

Even Azinger, now an analyst for NBC, has questioned the current efficacy of his idea. “The way I did it wouldn’t even work today, to be honest, even though the concept was good,” he said last week. “I just think the pods, they don’t work all the time. We keep getting beat. If everybody’s still using the pods, pods isn’t the answer. It’s something bigger than that.”

The pod debate has not stopped or impeded the discussion about the best way to replicate Azinger’s success on the American side. In the run-up to the event, the overarching intrigue is how Steve Stricker, this year’s US captain, will make up the two-man partnerships he sends out for the 16 matches against Europe’s two-man teams on Friday and Saturday. (On Sunday, the Ryder Cup concludes with 12 one-on-one singles matches.)

The American hand-wringing about their player pairings has generally been a source of quiet amusement for the European squad. Devising the pairings on their team is rarely controversial or the product of profound, multilayered planning. Players often form natural partnerships based on which European country they represent.

“The Europeans are bonded by blood, which means everything to them,” Azinger said. “The Spaniards play together. The Englishmen, the Irishmen, the Swedes, they’re bonded by something that really gives them a full-blown 1 per cent advantage.” Azinger said a 1 per cent advantage may not seem like much, but in the three days of a Ryder Cup competition, more than 4,000 shots are likely to be put in play. A 40-stroke swing, or 1 per cent, could conceivably decide a couple of matches, where one point is awarded for each victory and half a point for a tie. Europe has won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, but on four occasions the margin of victory was a single point.

Seizing on that 1 per cent edge, Azinger said of the Europeans: “They bring an intangible with them. It’s a fact.” Outside the golf world, there may be some precedent to explain how the European team’s geographic make-up improves its Ryder Cup results. Some of the strongest, most effective troops during the second World War were soldiers assembled from the same town or village, according to Charline Russo, a senior lecturer in organisational dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant on executive coaching and team development.

“It wasn’t just because they grew up together, there was also that accountability factor,” Russo said. “You didn’t want to go home and admit that you screwed up.” Russo, who has a PhD in organisational leadership, has a deep familiarity with the personality tests that Azinger used 13 years ago.

Cautioned

Stricker, who was on the 2008 team, last week conceded that he would employ a variety of tactics to devise his pairings, although he declined to be specific on whether he would use the pod system. Russo said the assessments could be valuable tools, but cautioned, “You need somebody who knows what they’re doing with it because these things can be dangerous.” Azinger, for example, consulted at length with a clinical psychologist.

It may be even more difficult if Brooks Koepka, who qualified for the team but injured his wrist last month, is healthy enough to play. Koepka and his American team-mate Bryson DeChambeau have spent most of this year feuding on social media. Stricker has asked the two men to put aside their differences during the Ryder Cup, and each player has been discreet of late, but do not expect Koepka and DeChambeau to be paired for a match, or even assigned to the same pod – if there is a pod system.

Justin Leonard, who was a member of several American Ryder Cup teams including the 2008 squad, said that keeping Koepka and DeChambeau apart should be “real easy”, especially if the players are in pods. “We ate breakfast together, we ate dinner together, we played our practice rounds together, and when we were in the same room with the whole team, we sat at a table together,” Leonard said of 2008, adding that the arrangement provided a level of comfort because there were no surprises when the pairings were announced.

Additionally, Leonard, who is now an NBC golf analyst, said he expected the pod system to return for the Americans this week because Phil Mickelson, who was on the 2008 team, is a non-paying vice captain to Stricker. “Phil Mickelson was a big proponent of the pods,” Leonard said. “He loved that system. Him being a vice captain, I feel fairly confident that we’ll see something similar to that.” Azinger said he did not have a clue how Stricker might proceed. “I don’t know what’s he’s doing,” Azinger said. “He’s not told me.”

– This article first appeared in the New York Times

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