Self-build home modelled on history

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Mike Dodsworth’s love of historic architecture and his attention to detail is apparent in his multi-functional self-built home. Sharon Dale reports.

The destruction of Bramley’s historic buildings in the bulldozer-happy 1960s has always been a source of sadness for Mike Dodsworth, who grew up in the area.

Mike's first floor living accomodation

Mike's first floor living accomodation

His love of old houses is one of the reasons why he has spent almost 30 years rescuing and restoring what has become his own little hamlet in this West Leeds suburb.

It started when Mike, an electrical contractor, bought a converted grade II listed police station in 1988. He and his late wife, Yvonne, renovated the property and took great care to make sure it reflected its early Victorian roots. He added an extension in 2004, which is so seamless it’s almost impossible to tell old from new.

Later, he began buying up the small row of old cottages next door, sensitively restoring them before letting them to tenants.

His latest project has been his most challenging yet thanks a frustrating and lengthy planning battle and yet the self build has also proved the most satisfying.

Mike's multi-functional coach house is an office, garage and a home

Mike's multi-functional coach house is an office, garage and a home

The multi-functional property is in the grounds of his home and he designed it in the style of an old coach house with the help of architectural technician Kate Lindsay.

The 180 sq m building has two garages, an office and a utility room on the ground floor and an apartment on the first floor that he can downsize into now that his two sons have grown up and left home.

But wrangles with the council meant it was four years before he could begin. He was forced to fight for planning permission, which cost £7,000 and took 18 months.

While Leeds City Council planning department had no problem with the design, the location was an issue for its tree preservation officer.

The bespoke stairs were designed to maximise space

The bespoke stairs were designed to maximise space

He claimed that the trees in the neighbouring park were “important” and that the proposed building was too close to them. Professional reports disagreed and warned that the trees had major structural weaknesses, but they were ignored and Mike’s plans were refused.

“Nine out of ten people would probably have given up at that point but I was very passionate about the build and I had already put a great deal of effort into the project. I wanted to fulfil my ambition and see my design and vision become a reality, which is why I decided to take the matter to appeal.”

A government planning inspector ruled resolutely in his favour and praised the proposed coach house saying he had “a special regard for the design, positioning and character of the building which would be a significant contribution to the street scene and enhance the wider conservation area.”

Celebrations were short-lived as Mike then discovered there was a council covenant on the land. It took another two years of negotiating to remove it at a cost of £16,000.

The bathroom is from Symphony Bathrooms

The bathroom is from Symphony Bathrooms

“With the planning issue and the covenant I had spent £20,000 before I even started,” he says.

Fortunately the build went without a hitch with Mike taking a hands-on approach to everything from sourcing to labouring, while managing what he says were an “amazing team” of contractors.

Determined that the coach house should “look as though it has always been there”, he spent time a lot of time on the design.

Sourcing the right stone was vital and he found it at Mone Brothers, who supplied the distinctive and hardy Bramley Fall stone from their Blackhill Quarry in north Leeds.

More than 300 tonnes of Mone Bros stone was used on the building, including 25 tonnes of beautiful granite cobbles for the drive reclaimed from a recent refurbishment of Leeds Markets.

Mike also included a number of architectural features including arches, a plinth and string course and sunburst windows along with traditional sliding sashes.

The reclaimed stone sets are from Leeds Markets via Mone Brothers

The reclaimed stone sets are from Leeds Markets via Mone Brothers

“My aim was to design and construct a building with features that echoed the ones in the police station and perhaps may have been contemporary with a coach house of the Georgian period,” he says.

His friend Gary Hobson and three young builders, Tim Nutter, Michael Bows and Peter Barton, were invaluable.

“The three lads built the house with me and they were there every day, including most Saturday and Sundays. They were excellent and a pleasure to work with.”

The building and all the extra costs added up to almost £300,000 and may have been more if he hadn’t employed an accountant to control all financial aspects of the build.

This also allowed him to focus on managing the site.

Mike also suggests checking out the rules on claiming VAT back on the materials used in a self-build project. He was unable to claim as his building was classed as “ancillary accommodation” on the planning applications.

“That one word ‘ancillary’ cost me £50,000 in lost VAT but I was so stressed with the tree issue, I didn’t realise it would be an issue.”

He is now putting the finishing touches to the property’s interior and would love to think that one day his coach house might be deemed special enough to be a listed building.

“It’s been hard and expensive getting to this point but it has been worth every penny and this building should be here for hundreds of years.”

*Useful Contacts

Mike Dodsworth, Dodsworth Electrical Ltd.,

Nest Egg Developments building contractors, Elland.

Mone Brothers,

Tadcaster Building Limestone, internal limestone flooring, tel: 01937 833956

Templeman Ross chartered accountant,

Kate Lindsay Fine Black Line Architect,

Cad Ventures, AutoCAD technician,

Totali, hardwood windows and doors,

William Duce Heating Engineers,

Accent Building Control,