Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Hi-spec, energy efficient new-builds that are big on contemporary living

The (slightly) warmer weather may have got you thinking about the start of a new season, so it’s perhaps fitting that, in this issue, Lucy Boon is focusing on new-build properties in and around Henley

The (slightly) warmer weather may have got you thinking about the start of a new season, so it’s perhaps fitting that, in this issue, Lucy Boon is focusing on new-build properties in and around Henley - and these two, in the Prime market, are great examples.

THOSE in the know say that buyers are increasingly choosing to opt for new-builds, with all their energy efficient, chain-free, low-running cost, hi-spec advantages. What’s more, when you buy one, you are buying a home that’s neutrally decorated which no one else has lived in before, meaning it’s easier to put your own stamp on it. Sometimes it’s even possible, if you buy before the build is complete, to choose your own kitchen, tiling and so on.

This is certainly the case with our first property, Almondbury, three miles north-west of Henley in Shepherd’s Green. The project is the latest progeny of Monty Taylor, a well-known local developer who has been in the business more than 20 years.

“Almondbury is being built from scratch. I bought half the garden of an adjacent property - Woodvale, a Grade II listed building, originally a pair of farmworkers’ cottages knocked into one and extended over the years â?? and I’m building on the plot,” said Monty.

Because of its characterful neighbour, and the conservation area it sits in, he decided to develop a design for the new house that would be in keeping with both.

“It meant we had to be quite sympathetic with the neighbourhood and the trees on the site, and also make sure the house would not stick out like a sore thumb,” continued Monty. “We agreed with the planning and conservation officers on the concept of a barn conversion-style house to be in character with the adjacent house but more modern throughout, rather than oaky-beamy.

“That said, there is little to see at present, as the house and garage block are both still being built!”

The image you see here is the CGI created from site photographs and the architect’s plans.

When it’s finished, Almondbury â?? named after the grammar school Monty attended in Yorkshire â?? will measure more than 3,100 square feet and have all the advantages of a modern, 21st-century dwelling. Warmth will come from underfloor heating provided by an air-source heat pump and high-spec insulation, and the house was created with eco-friendly building materials and a flowing layout in mind â?? there is level-access that conforms with the Government’s user-friendly Code for Sustainable Homes.

“It means that it has to comply with a huge raft of new requirements to make it possible for a purchaser to live there throughout their lifetime,” said Monty. “For instance, if one became disabled nothing would need to be changed. The doors are wide enough for wheelchairs, and the downstairs study with an adjoining wet-room could be used as a bedroom and bathroom.”

Those in the business know that Code 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes is now the national standard adopted by many planning authorities for the sustainable design and construction of new homes. The whole idea is to reduce carbon emissions and promote higher standards of sustainable design above the current minimum standards set out in building regulations.

Monty said another advantage to having a new-build is the tech that is automatically built into it.

“There is CAT6 cabling throughout the house [standardised cable for Gigabit Ethernet and other network physical layers], which means that you have wired wi-fi from a single hub as the walls are so thick that, if not installed, boosters would be necessary to receive the signal.”

Another plus with buying Almondbury at this early stage is the new owner can have a say in the interior fittings and finishes. For instance, along with the four bedrooms, three reception rooms, study, utility room and kitchen/breakfast room, the buyer could choose (within an agreed cost) the kitchen design and appliances, and even decide on sanitary fittings and tiles for each of the four bathrooms.

Standard Property posed the question: “Why do today’s new-builds tend to have one bathroom to every bedroom?” (She wouldn’t fancy the task of keeping five bathrooms clean!)

“The general consensus now seems to be that people are much more conscious of showers,” said Monty. “Because they travel a lot more, staying in nice hotels with ensuites and would like to have the same thing at home. If you have two or three children all trying to get ready for school, two bathrooms just won’t work and local feedback I’ve been getting from agents seems to be that buyers are looking for additional shower rooms but without baths.”

Indeed, Monty is well known to local property experts.

“I was originally an estate agent myself, have worked with local agents for years and, over the last few, have built four properties in Paradise Road and two in Badgemore Lane, as well as others around Henley,” said Monty. “Having, as a chartered surveyor, specialised in planning, I tend to look for potential in a property and what might work. People are often tempted to convert and extend existing properties but when taking into account 20 per cent VAT on refurbishment against zero rating on new-build, a better result is often to raze it and start again.”

One agent, when asked his advice by a potential purchaser of one of Monty’s projects, once said, “If Monty Taylor is building it, you will be very satisfied”. “That’s great to hear!” said Monty, “as, obviously, it is my reputation on the line.”

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that Almondbury is not the only house which Monty has on the market. The newly finished Edwalton House, up the road from Almondbury in Rotherfield Greys, started life as a Sixties chalet. The plot can be found up a private drive (“you wouldn’t know it’s there unless you were going there”) and is surrounded by fields, so it’s a fantastic spot for a home.

Although both Almondbury and Edwalton House enjoy a semi-rural outlook and village atmosphere, each is well placed to take advantage of the local transport links to London or Reading thanks to only a 15-minute drive to Reading station.

“You could also go from Henley, and even go from Twyford if you needed Crossrail,” said Monty.

Henley and Sonning Common boast the nearest shops, restaurants and other amenities.

Edwalton House sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is wonderful for walks and other outdoor pursuits. But this meant Monty had to deal with a planning restriction on the maximum increase in the size of the original building.

“Due to complexities of permitted development within planning legislation I realised that we could, without planning consent, extend it to double the existing size, subject to certain parameters,” said Monty. “But once that was established, the challenge was then to obtain planning consent for a replacement dwelling which would not only look good but also provide enough space.

“Richard Clark, a local architect who had worked with me on other developments, came up with the current design â?? something totally different from anything I’ve done before. He chose Arts & Crafts as the theme because we were limited on the ridge height of the house, which meant that we could use a low-pitched roof covered with lovely green slates in keeping with that style of house.”

Edwalton House is a fantastic example of modern planning, without being too edgy. Full of contemporary features such as a large kitchen-breakfast room with orangery-style atrium and removable walls thanks to the bi-fold doors, this is a house built for those who want an easy life but don’t want to compromise on space. “The living room opens out on to the pretty south/south-west terrace and back garden which is perfect for barbecues and parties,” said Monty.

The property has heaps of room â?? more than 2,700 square feet of it â?? with four/five bedrooms, four/five bathrooms (of course!), a roomy triple-aspect sitting room with wood-burning stove, dining room, study and utility room, as well as the aforementioned kitchen/breakfast room â?? the wow-factor of the property. There is also a front garden and paved driveway which leads to the detached double garage.

“Edwalton House is named after the Nottinghamshire village where 50 years ago my wife Sue and I were married at Edwalton Church,” said Monty. “We decided to commemorate it! As with Almondbury, the house has been designed in such a way as to be high-energy and eco-friendly.”

As you would expect, the house meets Code 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

“Both the ground and the first floor flow very well,” said Monty. “When you come in at the front door you’re immediately struck by how airy it all feels, but I’m particularly pleased with the kitchen/breakfast room, which gets the sun the whole day long. We went for very high-spec here, with twin ovens, wine fridge, boiling-water tap for tea in seconds, and an integral coffee machine â?? everything you need for modern living. You can’t have a house without a coffee machine.

“My son can’t understand why I’d want to spend more on a coffee machine than I would on a TV!” (Caffeine addict Standard Property understands Monty’s logic perfectlyâ?¦)

As with Almondbury, Edwalton House would suit a wide spectrum of buyers, but Monty thinks a “downsizer with a bit of cash” would particularly find either of these houses appealing.

“Some downsizers, who have been used to living in a large house for many years, find it hard to adjust unless they choose something like Almondbury or Edwalton House,” continues Monty. “Imagine you are selling your Chilterns mansion and need somewhere smaller and more convenient yet still maintaining your previous lifestyle and having somewhere your grandchildren can come and stay?

“A house like this is less expensive to run, but not cramped like a bungalow, plus there will be no maintenance for 10 years, thanks to things like PVC guttering, and the 10-year guarantee [note: this covers structural work]. That said, I also think these houses are equally suitable to bring up a young family. They are a great choice for those looking for modern living.”

Almondbury and Edwalton House are both on the market with Knight Frank at a guide price of £1,750,000 and £1,495,000 respectively. Call (01491) 844900 for further information.

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