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Great British Home Restoration: Couple spend £500k doing up a church

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Imagine buying a church ruin at auction for £85,000 and spending two years transforming it into a five-bedroom family home. 

For many, that would sound like a renovation nightmare – but one adventurous couple from West Yorkshire took the plunge after buying the striking derelict building at auction. They subsequently spent £420,000 doing it up and the completed home was valued last month at £1million.

The unusual property transformation was captured for a new television show, and sees the couple move into a caravan in the grounds of the graveyard to help keep costs down during the build.

New TV show The Great British Home Restoration sees a couple renovate a derelict church bought at auction for £85,000

New TV show The Great British Home Restoration sees a couple renovate a derelict church bought at auction for £85,000

The church was a complete wreck when it was bought, but it was completely transformed on a budget of only £420,000

The church was a complete wreck when it was bought, but it was completely transformed on a budget of only £420,000

The Great British Home Renovation is an eight-part weekly series presented by architectural designer Charlie Luxton that begins on More4 this Sunday at 9pm.

It follows couples and families who take on unusual and historic property transformations, including churches and windmills.

Couple Sean and Debs appear in the first episode, battling through a catalogue of setbacks in a bid to save the historic church in Denholme, near Bradford.

Sean took two years off work to oversee the build, while Debs continued to run her scrap-metal plant to raise extra money.

Couple Sean and Debs battle through a catalogue of setbacks in a bid to save a historic church in West Yorkshire (pictured in the church's new kitchen)

Couple Sean and Debs battle through a catalogue of setbacks in a bid to save a historic church in West Yorkshire (pictured in the church’s new kitchen)

The couple worked hard to retain many of the original features at the historic church in Denholme, near Bradford

The couple worked hard to retain many of the original features at the historic church in Denholme, near Bradford

The original building was not designed to be lived in and was not insulated, so the couple had to build an entire building inside the church

The original building was not designed to be lived in and was not insulated, so the couple had to build an entire building inside the church

Through blood, sweat and tears, they transformed the 450 square metres church with its 36 metres high steeple into a three-storey family home.

Presenter and architectural designer Charlie Luxton said: ‘When I first saw the building, I drove up a windy, blustery hill in the freezing cold to be greeted by this vast, Victorian church.

‘It was jaw-dropping and more on the scale of a stately home than a residential build. I was in awe at the scale and beauty of the building, and the size of the project that Sean and Debs had taken on. 

‘I thought that is a project. But as I talked to them, I could see that they were both capable and driven. And with Sean working as an electrician and Debs specialising in reclamation, they were in the perfect spot to take on the project. And what they did to the church was really impressive.’

The show's presenter and architectural designer Charlie Luxton described the church's transformation as 'impressive'

The show’s presenter and architectural designer Charlie Luxton described the church’s transformation as ‘impressive’

The couple transformed the 450 square metre church with its 36 metres high steeple into a three-storey family home

The couple transformed the 450 square metre church with its 36 metres high steeple into a three-storey family home

The first job was to change the roof, which cost somewhere in the region of £60,000, according to owner Sean

The first job was to change the roof, which cost somewhere in the region of £60,000, according to owner Sean

He went on to explain that the scale of the project was the biggest challenge.

‘The first job was to change the roof, costing somewhere in the region of £60,000,’ he said.

‘And once that was finished, they had to build an entire building inside the church because churches are not designed to live in – they are not insulated, they are draughty and cold. And with any kind of restoration, for example repair work on stain glass windows, it needs to be completed in in a sensitive and skilled manner.

‘So the list of possible booby traps was long, and once you start taking things on a building like this apart, you can suddenly find – as they did – other issues such as sinking structures and movement and that can end up costing you an enormous amount. 

‘Luckily they were very hands on so they could keep the labour costs down and managed to complete the restoration within a really tight budget.’

The couple moved into a caravan on site in the grounds of the graveyard to help keep costs down during the build

The couple moved into a caravan on site in the grounds of the graveyard to help keep costs down during the build

One of Charlie’s favourite parts of the restoration was the altar and the way it was left as an original feature.

He said: ‘I also loved the fact that they have slotted a building within a building but weaved in the architecture and fabric of the original church.

‘Considering the building’s wind-blasted location at the top of the hill, the sheltered suntrap area created as a Venetian garden is fantastic with original courtyard features such as the original aisles with the roof collapsed upon it – being left untouched. I loved the way they worked with the building very sensitively rather than impose their own ambitions.

Regarding the tight budget, Charlie added: ‘It was extraordinary, you can only achieve what they did on that budget with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, working seven days a week, 15 hours a day. They worked so hard, they’re such a strong unit, it was an amazing achievement.’

One of Charlie's favourite parts of the restoration was the altar

Charlie like the way it was left as an original feature

One of Charlie’s favourite parts of the restoration was the altar and the way it was left as an original feature

Sean Kennedy, 57, of Denholme, in West Yorks, told MailOnline Property how the couple found the church, saying: ‘We were listening to a local radio station as my wife Debs had an advert playing to advertise her business when we heard about this property coming up for auction.

‘We were looking for a house to move into after getting married and Debs asked if I fancied living in a church.

‘We went to have a look at it and it was in an extremely sad state but we fell in love with the building. That was the main reason we wanted to buy it, plus when we saw the building in such a bad condition, we thought it needed saving – and we were the ones to save the building.

‘We had not looked at anything unusual before, it was purely inspired by hearing about it on the radio. We had not even considered anything unusual. When we first saw it, there was so much to take in – the architecture, the gothic theme and just the sheer scale of the building, there was so much about it that was striking. And even though it would be an unusual transformation to turn into a single dwelling, that was always our plan, to turn it into a home.’

Sean explained that the biggest challenge was tackling the roof and ceiling, which were connected.

‘This was the single most important of the whole build, due to the scale and safety aspect,’ he said.

‘I am no roofer or builder but we tackled it ourselves along with a couple of guys we employed to help us. We also knew that if we did one thing wrong with the roof, the whole lot could collapse. While sadly we were not able to save the ceiling, it was a mammoth task to safely remove it and not damage the rest of the building.’

Charlie explains that it was 'extraordinary' that so much was achieved at the converted church on such a tight budget

Charlie explains that it was ‘extraordinary’ that so much was achieved at the converted church on such a tight budget

He added: ‘We managed to overcome so many other challenges, it was incredible rewarding to save so much of the church’s original features and architecture. We had to tackle the build in little stages, we never looked at it as one big project.

‘Everyone advised us against it. Some people said ‘what a fantastic idea’ but we never saw them on site from the day we started to the day we finished. Other people were saying ‘hope you’ve got deep pockets, there’s a million pounds that needs to be spent here’.

‘The majority of people thought we were insane but they have now been back to see the finished project and have been absolutely blown away by the building and the whole feeling of the house. ‘

He confirmed that the final bill was £420,000, plus the original £85,000 purchase price, so a total of just over £500,000.

Sean said: ‘Between us we’ve got five grown up children, and five grandchildren and they all love it. At the beginning, some questioned what we were taking on and whether we were mad but all of them love being here, it’s a great family space. And the grandchildren think it’s one fantastic adventure, like a big castle with a garden that’s full of stones – gravestones – to read. It keeps them occupied for hours.

‘While I love the guest annexe, the favourite part of the house is the Venetian courtyard.’

And Sean’s advice to others? ‘Be brave, it can be achieved. You just need to have the mindset that it can be done.’

The couple spent two years transforming the property

The converted church is now a comfortable five-bedroom family home

The couple spent two years transforming the property into a five-bedroom family home for £420,000

Misbah Alvi, of Windfall Films – which is part of Argonon and produces the programme – said: ‘This series demonstrates the huge potential rewards of transforming unloved, unused and often dilapidated buildings into forever dream homes, through sheer determination. 

‘Every property transformation in the series was driven by passion, which helped get the build completed even when, in some cases, the money ran out. These are no ordinary renovations. Throughout the series we see how our property buyers respect the heritage and history of the buildings, undertaking creative restorations that were faithful to the incredible original design and craftmanship.’

  • The Great British Home Restoration is on More4 on Sundays at 9pm 

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Patrizia invests in logistics property near Milan (IT)

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Patrizia AG has acquired a newly built cold storage logistics asset near Milan, Italy, from Savills Investment Management. The 31,000m² cold storage asset was completed in Q2 2021 and is fully let to Kuhne & Nagel, a leading pan-European 3rd party logistics company, and Movi.Log Srl, a frozen food distributor, with a WALT of 7.5 years. The property has been built to a high specification with sprinklers, elevations and ample refrigeration space that has a temperature range between 4°C and -28 °C. Sustainability was a key consideration during its development. The asset includes two photovoltaic plants for a total power capacity of 2.5MW and is targeting a BREEAM rating.

 

The property is located in Casorate Primo, a municipality in Lombardy between the cities of Milan and Pavia, a prime industrial and logistics location in northern Italy. It benefits from excellent transport connectivity via the nearby A7 motorway which connects Milan with Genoa and enables access to France and Switzerland.

 

Pierluigi Scialanga, Head of Transactions at Patrizia Italy, commented: “The property is well located and has excellent sustainability credentials, while lettings to tenants with strong covenants will deliver long term reliable returns. Our Italian AUM has grown significantly in recent years to now over €1bn with plans to grow further. Logistics is a strategic sector for Patrizia Italy. We have so far invested €400m in logistics and have a pipeline of a further €160m of logistics transactions which we are completing.”

 

Rob Brook, Head of Alternative Investments and Head of Logistics at Patrizia, added: “Cold chain is an exciting area of logistics for Patrizia to be involved in. Demand is predicted to grow steadily in the next few years, especially due to a growing need for reliable supply chains for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and clinical trials. High demand across Europe combined with low vacancy rates makes cold chain logistics an ideal growth area for the future.”

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Crackdown on second home and holiday let tax dodgers

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The Government is cracking down on second home owners who claim their properties are holiday lets for tax purposes.

Communities secretary Michael Gove is set to close a tax loophole which has allowed second home owners to avoid thousands of pounds per year in taxes, without proving that the property was ever rented out. 

The new rules will target those who register their holiday lets as small businesses, meaning they are eligible for business rates instead of council tax.

But the majority pay no business rates at all under the system, because they have ‘rateable values’ of under £12,000 based on the property’s rents, size and usage. 

Crackdown: Those registering second homes as businesses could fall foul of new rules

Crackdown: Those registering second homes as businesses could fall foul of new rules

A second home can be registered as a small business if it will be available as a holiday let for 140 days or more in the coming year.  

However, there is currently no requirement to provide evidence that a property has actually been let out, leaving the system open to abuse. 

This has caused anger in areas that have lots of second homes, such as Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District, as some locals believe property owners are not paying their fair share towards council services.

According to Ray Boulger of mortgage broker John Charcol: ‘Some 97 per cent of the 65,000 holiday let properties in England have rateable values of under £12,000, which means they qualify for small business rates relief and pay no rates at all.’

The new rules aim to change this by ensuring that only those properties which are actually rented out for 70 days per year, and available to rent for 140 days, get the tax break. 

Kurt Jansen, director of the Tourism Alliance said: ‘It makes a very important distinction between commercial self-catering businesses that provide revenue and employment for local communities, and holiday homes which lie vacant for most of the year.’

This is Money explains how the new system will work, and how second home and holiday let owners can make sure they are following the rules. 

Locals in UK holiday spots have expressed anger at second home owners, who they say are not contributing their fair share to the community and services via council tax payments

Locals in UK holiday spots have expressed anger at second home owners, who they say are not contributing their fair share to the community and services via council tax payments

What do the new rules say? 

The rules are based on the amount of days a property is rented out in each tax year. 

To qualify for business rates instead of council tax, the new legislation will require second home owners to prove their property will be available for ‘commercial short term, self-catering rentals’ for at least 140 days in the coming year. 

They will also need to prove that, in the previous year, it was available for letting for 140 days and actually rented out for at least 70 days. 

This is designed to prevent second home owners from registering their properties as small businesses, and then not actually renting them out.  

‘We will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost,’ said Gove when he announced the policy. 

‘The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.’

Anger among locals has increased since the start of the pandemic, as wealthy people snapped up UK holiday lets when travelling abroad was not allowed. 

Exempt: As they are assessed differently to bricks and mortar properties, caravans being used as holiday lets will not come under the government's new second home tax rules

Exempt: As they are assessed differently to bricks and mortar properties, caravans being used as holiday lets will not come under the government’s new second home tax rules

What counts as a holiday let?  

The business rates rules for holiday lets only apply to buildings, or self-contained parts of buildings, that would otherwise be assessed for council tax. 

Caravans will not generally be subject to the rules, as they are usually assessed for business rates under a different system to bricks and mortar buildings. 

When it comes to counting the days that a property was rented out, the government says that only days where the property was occupied at the end of the day should be included.

So if a property was let out from Friday evening to Sunday morning, it would have been let for two days for the purposes of meeting the holiday lets criteria.

Is this definitely going ahead, and when will the rules come into force?

The government has concluded its consultation on the new policy, which started before the pandemic in 2018. It plans to implement the changes from 1 April 2023. 

However, the legislation needed to do so has not yet been passed in parliament.

While the government has made clear its intention to enshrine the new rules in law, they are not set in stone just yet. 

How much would I pay under each system?

Small businesses can find their rateable value on the Government website. 

Those with a rateable value of below £12,000 are not eligible for business rates, while those with a value of up to £15,000 pay special tapered rates. 

For those with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, they will need to multiply that value by 49.9p to find out their rateable value. They can then subtract any discounts that they may be entitled to, which the government details here

Those with a rateable value of more than £51,000 will follow the same calculation, but with a higher multiple of 51.2p.  

As for council tax, second homes are charged at the same rate as main residences. 

Individual councils may decide to give a discount for second homes, or on homes that have been empty for two years. Owners should contact their council to find out if this is available.

Under the new rules, the government has said there will be no rate or council tax discount for those with lots of properties.  

What if I have a new holiday let with no proof of lettings for last year?

Those acquiring a new holiday let and wanting to register for business rates will not be able to prove that their property was available to let for 140 days and actually let for 70 days in the past year, as required by the new rules. 

Until the owner can provide that proof, they will be subject to council tax – meaning most will need to pay that for at least the first year of their ownership. 

After that, they can ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for a business rates assessment. 

This is the government body that handles everything to do with business rates, and it will be responsible for policing the new rules once they come in to force. 

Don't lie low: Property owners who don't think their property meets the new letting rules, but who are paying business rates, are advised to inform the VOA as soon as possible

Don’t lie low: Property owners who don’t think their property meets the new letting rules, but who are paying business rates, are advised to inform the VOA as soon as possible

I don’t think my property will meet the criteria for last year. What should I do?

Some holiday let or second home owners will not be able to prove that their property was available to let for 140 days and actually let for 70 days in the past year. 

The government says people in this position ‘should notify the VOA as soon as possible, so that their property can be assessed as domestic and revert accordingly to (or be given) a council tax valuation.’ 

It adds that failure to do so could result in a large, backdated council tax bill.

How will it be policed?

When seeking a new business rates valuation after April 2023, second home owners will need to provide evidence that their property was let or available to let for the required periods.  

The government has said will communicate the exact method for collecting evidence before the new rules come into effect.

However, this is expected to include things like the property being listed on rental websites, and evidence of payments from guests.  

‘Evidence of lettings will be required, such as at least one website or brochure used to advertise the property and letting details and receipts,’ says Boulger. 

Those already paying business rates on their holiday let or second home, and who meet the letting requirements, do not need to submit anything. 

However, they should ensure that they have evidence of the last year’s lettings by April 2023, as the VOA may ask for them at any time. 

‘The only impact the new rules will have on genuine holiday let properties might be the need to provide the evidence outlined above, but this information should be readily available for the owner’s tax return,’ says Boulger. 

What if the property is used by family and friends?

Those who regularly allow family and friends to use their properties for free could find they are no longer eligible to register as a small business under the new rules. 

The government says lettings counted in the 70-day period must be on a ‘commercial basis’ at ‘market rates’ and that ‘lettings to friends or relatives at zero or nominal rents will not be covered.’ 

No more mates rates? Money will need to change hands when the property is let, or it will not be counted as a holiday letting under the government's new 70-day rule

No more mates rates? Money will need to change hands when the property is let, or it will not be counted as a holiday letting under the government’s new 70-day rule

Of course, if there are 70 days of commercial lettings on top of discounted ones to friends and family, this will not be a problem.  

Boulger says owners should still be able to rent to people they know at a small discount as part of the 70 days, for example if they are deducting the fees that a listings website would normally charge for a letting via their platform. 

‘It should not prevent the owner offering a reasonable discount to family on friends if, for example, they can avoid the normal commission otherwise payable to the sites advertising their property,’ he says.    

What are the rules outside of England?

Wales has already had similar rules for holiday lets in place since 2010, and the new legislation will bring England in line with those.

The Scottish government is also set to introduce a requirement that holiday lets are rented for 70 days and available for 140 days in a given year, following a consultation called the Barclay Review. 

These rules are set to come into force from 1 April 2022. 

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Man admits to abduction of four-year-old Australian Cleo Smith

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A man has pleaded guilty to abducting a four-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year.

Police found the girl, Cleo Smith, alone in a house in Carnavon, a town of 5,000 people, 18 days after she went missing last October.

Terence Darrell Kelly (36) admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon on Monday in a video link from a Perth prison, 900 km to the south.

He faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16. He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.

Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date. – AP

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