North Leeds is jam packed full of fabulous homes and so it takes a lot to impress residents and would-be buyers in this upmarket enclave of Yorkshire. Wow factor? They’ve seen it before. No expense spared interiors? This is an area with a high proportion of big spenders who think nothing of paying £60,000 plus for a kitchen. Prime location? Rural but accessible for both central Leeds and Harrogate is already a USP for the most sought-after villages in this location.
To turn heads here, a property has to have all the above and more, which is why The Old Reservoir is causing a stir. It began life as a service reservoir to store fully-treated, drinkable “corporation pop” but was recently pronounced redundant by Yorkshire Water.
When the concrete structure was built in the 1970’s, turning a reservoir into a luxury home would’ve been unthinkable but by the noughties Channel 4’s Grand Designs and its silver tongued presenter Kevin McCloud had shown that unconventional buildings could be made into magnificent properties with the help of a good imagination and a great architect and builder.
Keyland, the property trading arm of Kelda Group and sister company to Yorkshire Water, spotted the potential of its redundant asset immediately.
The setting is sublime. The reservoir, which has thick concrete walls and floor and a concrete roof, is on Wike Ridge between the sought-after villages of East Keswick and Bardsey and it sits high with breathtaking, panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, which stretch to the White Horse in Kilburn on a clear day.
Keyland wasted no time in getting planning approval for the retention and conversion of the existing former reservoir to create what it described as a “hidden home” with an acre of land.
It’s something they had done before, most notably in another spectacular location on the moors above Menston, near Ilkley.Among those bidding for this latest opportunity were Michael McDonnell and his brother, John, business partner David Aspland and their developer partner Darran Clemmit of Project Design Services, who were bowled over by the setting and the chance to create an architectural legacy.
The McDonnell brothers turned their attention to commercial and residential property development via their company Illuminating Investments in 2013 after selling their successful electronics business Harvard Engineering. “We like properties that are a bit different and are of real quality, which is why we were drawn to this,” says Michael.
One of the first tasks was to take away the 2,000 tons of earth that covered the sides of the reservoir, though grass banking at the rear and sides was left and turfed “Teletubbies” style to soften the look of the building. Next was to alter the suggested design of the property. Darran is a builder with a passion for designing and constructing interesting one-off properties and with his knowledge of what is and is not possible, it was he who suggested a host of ideas that improved on the original plans.
Rather than build a standalone home within the drained reservoir, like the house above Menston, he suggested using the robust concrete walls and roof as part of the new property thus maximising space, utilising the thick, solid structure and retaining more of the character of the original building. To improve the exterior appearance, the concrete is clad in charcoal coloured cement panels.
“It wasn’t as easy as building from scratch because there was a lot of technical detail involved and we had to make sure it was waterproof and super insulated. Other builders might see that as a problem but I see it as a challenge and I enjoy finding solutions,” says Darran.
He and the rest of the team were also keen to preserve as many of the original concrete pillars as possible. Some are supporting the roof but others are now purely decorative and all add character and interest to the conversion.
“There were quite a lot of changes to the suggested interiors on the original plan. We added ensuites, a study/snug and a boot room and we created an internal courtyard,” says Darran.
The latter, which involved cutting a hole in the one foot thick concrete roof, added to his workload and tested the skills of the structural engineer but it now brings both light and interest to the single storey home.
The heart of the 4,300 sq ft, single storey property is the open plan living/kitchen/dining space with a kitchen from Nest and with a dual aspect fireplace from Stonehouse Fireplaces, both based in Harrogate.
The house also has a utility room with a back kitchen, a boot room, study, cloakroom, a room that could be used as a cinema room, games room or gym and four ensuite bedrooms with bespoke fitted furniture. There is underfloor heating, high spec. windows, smart home technology from Inspire AV at Thorp Arch, bespoke 2.4m internal doors, a front door that cost £12,000 and a flash double garage with underfloor heating that Darran describes as “a bedroom for your car”.
Buying a further one-and-a-half acres of surrounding land from the nearby farm has given the new home spacious grounds and the finishing touches now are being applied, including the landscaping. “I’m always a bit sad when we sell a property because we put so much into it. You live and breathe it seven days a week, see it grow and then you have to say goodbye to it,” says Darran.
The house with 2.2 acres is “over £2m” For details call 0113 873 0379