When I first read about government plans to extend the 10 national parks in the UK, I worried the move would restrict the few areas left for sensible new development even more.
However, I can see the benefit of extending protection for these jewels of the countryside. Only around 8% of the UK is actually built on, so it’s going to make very little difference if these plans become a reality. Rather than fret about expanding national parks, I’d be far happier if more unloved and unlovely plots were liberated for self builders to create homes.
During my years delivering courses at the NSBRC, I’d try and inject a little realism into the process of land searching to disabuse people of the notion they’d be able to construct a dream house on a dream plot – as I simply don’t believe such sites exist.
However, I found myself eating my words the other day when Alison and I visited the Gower Peninsula in Wales. The southern and western coastal areas of the Gower are spectacular places.
Designated as the first official area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in 1956, it has been kept virtually untouched since. As you’d expect, the mass developers have not been allowed anywhere near the place, but there were one or two superb replacement houses.
One that caught my eye was above the famous Three Cliffs Bay. The dwelling was brilliantly designed to be unobtrusive from the highway. Looking back up from the beautiful golden coast below, I could see how the spectacular sea view had been exploited by the addition of huge glazed panels to the front of the property. Alison and I just fell in love with the place, both agreeing there couldn’t be a better location anywhere in the country.
Then, as we turned the corner we saw what must be the plot of the year, possibly the century – a foundation slab, just waiting for a new dwelling to be built on it with an unrestricted view of Three Cliffs Bay to the front.
This spot was voted the second best view in Britain (it lost out to a place in the Lake District). Alison and I briefly discussed selling up Brock House, donating a kidney each and making an offer for it.
If the ideal plot doesn’t exist, this was as close as we were ever going to get to it. Congratulations to the lucky owner – I may have to change my script after all!