Dorking couple decide there’s no place like home

Case Studies, General
Dorking couple decide there’s no place like home

Poppyfields barn after

In 2012, Paul and Ann Saines decided it was time to downsize. They’d lived in their house near Dorking for thirty-two years and needed a change. However, after eighteen months of unsuccessful house hunting, they realised that they simply couldn’t leave their beloved Parklands. Instead of moving, they decided to convert the two barns that already stood on their land and make one of them their new home.

The timing of the couple’s decision was perfect, as recent changes in legislation meant that it was now possible to convert barns into dwellings without a formal planning application. Thanks to the new Prior Approval process, Paul and Ann were given the go-ahead in August 2014, although they had to ensure that both properties kept their existing footprint, height and floor area.

Unfortunately, work on Parklands Barns didn’t begin until April 2016, due to a minor legal issue. However, architect Nigel Bradbury used this time to provide construction drawings and secure building control approval. Designer Peter Arnold also came on board, to help Paul and Ann clarify their ideas and to assist with the layout of the barns.

While the couple planned to convert both barns, they decided to move into the largest one, known as Poppyfields. Their new home would feature a breakfast kitchen, utility room, dining room, living room, double height hall, study and 4 ensuite bedrooms. The master bedroom would also include a walk-in wardrobe.

Guided by Peter Arnold, Paul and Ann chose their doors, windows, bathroom appliances and kitchen at a very early stage. Doing this resulted in greater pricing accuracy and the final cost of the project was only slightly above the contract sum.

As well as being ambitious, the Parklands Barn project was impressively eco-friendly. From the outset, it was decided that all fabric elements would exceed building regulations requirements, as this would lead to reduced energy costs, a low environmental impact and a cosier home. Taking this approach also meant that smaller heating systems could be installed.

Dorking couple decide there’s no place like home

Poppyfields kitchen

Although their new home includes underfloor heating, it is not used very often, as the property’s large thermal mass and superb insulation maintain the temperature well. An expanse of high performing glazing allows the couple to enjoy their favourite views and mid pane blinds provide excellent shading during the summer.

Poppyfields also features internal and external LED lighting, which reduces running costs and Co2 emissions. Dimmer switches allow Paul and Ann to create a variety of ambiences and the external lighting looks stunning at dusk when the sun is setting across the fields.

Every building project encounters problems and Parklands Barns is no exception. Early on in the process, the team successfully negotiated the relocation of an overhead power supply which ran close to the barns. They also arranged for the asbestos roof panels on the barns to be removed by a specialist.

Poppyfields’ roof created problems too, as PAP limitations meant that its shallow angle couldn’t be altered, despite the risk of leaks. To avoid any future issues, Buildwise opted for lightweight aluminium tile panels, which resemble clay tiles.

Dorking couple decide there’s no place like home

Poppyfields lounge

Paul and Ann were particularly keen for their living room to include a working fireplace, but because no flue had existed on the original barn, they had to find an alternative. Thankfully, the couple were able to install a clean burning Bio Ethanol fire, which uses ethanol from renewable crops and doesn’t require a flue.

Complying with fire safety requirements was also tricky because the area outside the barns isn’t large enough to accommodate the turning circle of a fire engine. After some thought, the team decided to install sprinklers in both barns, as these are incredibly effective when it comes to controlling a fire.

As well as organising materials and subcontractors, Buildwise’s project manager visited the site regularly, liaising with Paul and Ann and their design team, and offering expert guidance when necessary. The project manager made sure all parties were informed and aware of the project’s progress throughout.

Building control surveyor Paul Ratcliffe was impressed by Buildwise’s relationship with his workforce, stating that the Parklands Barns project is “one of the best examples of teamwork and quality of standards and workmanship on a project we have been involved with.”

Paul and Ann are also thrilled with their new home, as they are now able to enjoy the familiarity of their much-loved landscape and the comfort of a modern, eco-friendly house.

The Parklands Barns project has recently gained ‘Highly Commended’ status at the LABC SE Building Excellence Awards for Best Change Of Use Of An Existing Building Or Conversion award.

Project Team


Bradbury Design, Nigel Bradbury, 01689 852609


The Buildwise Construction Group, 01483 658370

Building Control

Southern Building Control Partnership, 0330 024 9355

Homeowner Guide

Guide to Extending Your Home

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