Nick and Laura Tipper Britain's Empty Homes


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Nick and Laura Tipper

Property series. Presenter Jules Hudson helps two aerospace engineers who are on the hunt for a wreck of a house with real potential to turn into their very own marital mansion.


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There are nearly one million homes lying lost and abandoned in the UK,

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waiting for someone to put life back into them.

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So whether it's a tired semi, or a rambling mansion,

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we're on a mission to rescue Britain's Empty Homes.

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It's many a person's dream to escape from the rat race and find

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a derelict cottage or a rundown barn that they can turn back into a stunning family home.

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But often the reality of renovation is far away from the romantic idyll.

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'Today, I'm going to share my knowledge of renovating a wreck

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'to help a couple work out how big a project

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'they're prepared to take on.'

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We know when we are out of our depth. We are pretty close to being out of our depth!

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'I'll introduce them to other homeowners who have taken on ambitious rebuilds

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'so they can learn from their experiences.'

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I've loved seeing how you have made this so crisp and sharp and modern but it works

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so well with the old bits.

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'Plus, we follow an empty property officer, charged with

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'finding residents for rundown residences.'

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Cobwebs, all the way up, it's never been opened in a long time.

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Buying a house is far and away the biggest purchase that any of us

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will ever make.

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But the idea of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a building

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that's tired, derelict and pretty dated may seem like a bit of a gamble.

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But, provided you're prepared to put in a bit of hard work,

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it's a leap of faith well worth taking.

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Nick and Laura Tipper are both engineers in the aerospace industry.

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They tied the knot three years ago and now they want to find a house in the countryside near Preston

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to turn into their very own marital mansion.

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We're passionate about properties that we can put our mark on.

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The period properties that we've been looking at have not been

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cared for and need help, just need someone to take care of them.

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They're not afraid to get stuck in and get their hands dirty.

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Laura did a plastering course

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when she couldn't get a plasterer one weekend.

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She got cross and went off and did a plastering course.

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And then plastered out the utility room when she got back!

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Nick did a tiling course. He's already tiled the whole bathroom!

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They have £500,000 to buy and do somewhere up.

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But there's one small flaw in the plan.

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You look at some properties and you think, "We could do this in here."

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We've looked at some others

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and you think, "I haven't got a clue where we would begin in this house

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"to make it work as a 21st-century home."

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Hi, Nick, nice to see you. Hi, Laura.

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'I'm here to equip them with some know-how and confidence to help tackle their renovation.'

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It's really nice to see you here up in Yorkshire.

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Quite an endeavour that you're thinking of undertaking.

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Give me a sense of how you've got to this point.

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Well, about three years ago,

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we bought ourselves a Victorian semi-detached house and we have

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knocked some walls down, put new kitchens in and new bathrooms, and we've enjoyed that.

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We're keen now to do something a bit bigger.

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Give me a sense of the sort of building that would be of interest to you.

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We're in a town now, and it's a nice town,

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but we'd like something with a bit more space and land.

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The bigger the better, the more interesting the better. As long as we can do it with the budget.

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I get the sense that it's the scale of the project that will sell it to you.

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Whichever building you fall in love with, it's going to have to be a real whopper.

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Yeah, we don't want another decorating,

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get a new kitchen and bathroom and it's done project. We've done that.

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On the face of it, this sounds very doable for the pair of you. Quite gung ho, if I might say so.

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There must be some real concerns underneath it?

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The real underlying worry is that there is some aspects that we haven't thought about.

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The schedule gets blown apart and consequently so does the budget

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because you come across something that you didn't envisage.

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-The can of worms scenario is the big headache?

-Yes.

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We can give you a few tips and tricks, you've come to the right place.

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-That's great.

-Fantastic.

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'I'll be introducing them to couples who have taken on projects similar

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'to the one they're planning.'

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Nick and Laura seem to have the enthusiasm to tackle

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an empty property, but I'm keen to see if they have a real eye for it.

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Without me there to guide them, I'm sending them off to have a look at

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a fantastic if daunting example of the sort of thing they could take on.

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The question is, will they fall in love with it, or will they run a mile?

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Oh, look at that. Look at that!

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-Oh, my God.

-It's in the hillside.

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This fantastic Victorian pump house building is in Cranshaw Booth.

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It's covered in plants and ivy.

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Completely shrouded by woodland and a cloak of nettles,

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the building sits in the grounds of a local manor house.

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-This is amazing!

-It's got tonnes of windows. One, two, three, four...

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Seven doors, windows?

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Yes, there may be plenty of windows, but for £299,000,

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-there's no electricity, no gas and no running water.

-Oh, my.

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Unless you count the damp running down the back wall.

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There's stuff coming down from up there!

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Look, it's like an arched tunnel! Has it been like a drain?

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Some sort of washing type thing?

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There's a lot of sort of heavy plumbing round here.

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Were they storage pits for things...

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OK, given we don't know what it is, what do we do with it?

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What could you do? We have these columns. It's one big space.

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Blast these columns, and make them... They're all rusted.

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How does it become a living area?

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Crucially, there is planning permission to convert it into a four or five-bedroom house.

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But can Laura and Nick spot the untapped potential?

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I am blown away by the building. It could be something really special.

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I'm struggling to kind of make that leap as to how you do it well.

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-It is a bit overwhelming.

-It is absolutely vast.

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If you put a sofa in here, it would be lost!

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You're trying to think how you make it into a four-bedroom house

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without turning it into a bunch of boxes.

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I can see these two were slightly overwhelmed by the pump house and are struggling to see it could be

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a truly remarkable home,

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but I'm hoping they won't be put off just yet.

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Lots of questions to be answered. Definitely, one to pursue?

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Yes, definitely something to pursue.

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Very excited about it, the more I think about it.

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The renovation required here would be a major challenge

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even for an experienced developer, let alone complete novices,

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so I want to make sure that these two are not getting in over their heads.

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Now, you said you wanted a big, monumental project,

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so we sent you off to have a look at that old pump house.

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Quite a number. What did you reckon?

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It was a bit of a shock when we first saw it.

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You still have in your head that it will be an empty home,

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not just an empty structure that was never a home.

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But it grows on you pretty quickly.

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I get the sense that this building isn't just of interest,

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-this is a real goer?

-Definitely. We're very excited about it.

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As soon as we had done looking at it, we looked at the planning permission

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and we tried to figure out what we could and couldn't do.

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I mean, this will take some vision

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to turn this into something that will fulfil a family home?

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We know when we're out of depth and are pretty close to being there! LAUGHTER

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Yeah, we want the challenge, we want the risk, but this is pushing the boundaries a little bit.

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Let's get you off to see a couple of projects at various stages of renovation.

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One very much at the beginning, one at the end.

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We can meet the owners and, hopefully, it will arm you

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with a few things that you will need to take this one on.

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It's a really exciting project.

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'Taking on a complete wreck is a major undertaking and Nick

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'and Laura will have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.'

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Just as Roy Gaskill found

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when he bought Westwood Lodge near Manchester back in 1995.

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When we found it, it was actually all overgrown so you couldn't see

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as much of the property as you can now.

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Immediately, I thought this is the place

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for me to buy. It was what I wanted all my life.

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He may have paid a reasonable £90,000 for the lodge,

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but there was one major stumbling block.

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The hardest part with the property was getting the planning permissions.

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-The red tape.

-That is the hardest part of it.

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It took five years to get permission to carry out the renovation.

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He and wife Yvonne have carried out an extensive renovation on what

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was a semi-derelict building.

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It was just really like living in a cave.

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There was no paint on the walls.

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Obviously, the floors had been lifted.

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It was just horrendous, you know.

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Even just to be able to make it habitable

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took a matter of quite a few weeks of hard work.

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Following a £100,000 spend on the transformation,

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Roy and Yvonne now have a home worth more than £600,000.

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It's nice to know that it's got that value in it, but in one respect

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it doesn't mean a lot, cos it's our home and we're going to stay here.

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We have put so much into it, it would be very hard to move on.

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The kitchen is my favourite room.

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I find it wonderful, to just sit there and look round and think,

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"Gosh, from what it was, to what it is now, it is like a palace."

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It used to be derelict. Now it's a home, and it's our home.

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It's a really nice place to come home to.

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I would do another property again.

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I don't think you have that much time left!

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-That is the problem!

-The mind is willing but the body has gone.

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I'm now 59 and I think if I was looking to spend

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another 15 years on a property, it would take me past my sell-by date!

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Often houses sit empty and decaying

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because nobody actually knows who owns them.

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In many parts of the country, it's the job of a person called an empty property officer

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to find out whose name is on the title deeds, to try and track them down

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and, with any luck, get the building back into use again.

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In Nottingham, the man on the hunt for new owners

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for disused buildings is Andrew Vickers.

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It's very satisfying seeing derelict properties returned

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back into use as family homes. That's the goal.

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After 30 years in the police force,

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he joined up with the city's housing department

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where he's managed to bring 350 properties back from the brink.

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I particularly enjoy tracking people down,

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tracking empty home owners down.

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I pride myself on having a high success rate in finding them.

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I would say it's roundabout the 99% mark.

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It's an impressive track record and today he's been called

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to another empty house by a concerned neighbour.

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I want to see the complainant and see what the situation is with the garden.

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This detached house is on a quiet residential street

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and, as yet, Andrew has no idea who owns it.

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Drawing on his years of experience as a policeman,

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Andrew needs to look for any lead that could provide a clue

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-as to who the owner is.

-No...

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Cobwebs all the way up it. It's never been opened in a long time.

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Lean-to outhouse full of jam jars. Perhaps she liked making jam.

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This is the garden that's causing the problem.

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It's got brambles and obviously it's had years of neglect.

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True to form, probably home to foxes.

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Andrew has found the house empty, so goes next door

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to meet the neighbour who made the complaint.

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-Where are the foxes getting through?

-They come from that side and they have created a hole down there.

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Every time I block it up, they move the bricks.

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They will, they are powerful diggers.

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They dig away at the ground and they will move those.

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There's a shed on the other side

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and I bet they have an earth underneath the shed.

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Dense brambles on the other side.

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Is there anything that the city council can help me with this problem?

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We treat the foxes as wild animals and try to deter them

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rather than exterminate them.

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What we need to do is trace the owner to get that garden sorted out,

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to get the shed and the fox earth sorted out, get it blocked up, to deter them and drive them away.

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The overall thing is to get to the bottom of the ownership of this house.

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He's got a problem with foxes, you can see where they have been digging.

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The garden is densely overgrown with brambles. It's a mess.

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It has newspapers piling up at the door.

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Andrew is no nearer to discovering the identity of the house's owner.

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But he prides himself on hunting people down.

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With his track record to uphold, we'll catch up with him later to see how his investigation is going.

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If the idea of taking on a wreck without a roof or windows

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floats your boat, there are a couple of places where you can start your search.

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Local estates and auction houses are a good place to start.

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You can also try some of the charities, like Save Britain's Heritage,

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or the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

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Both of them carry lists of properties crying out for a bit of renovation.

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Nick and Laura Tipper are after a project.

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They've seen an old Victorian pump house they think

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could be turned into their perfect home.

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I am blown away by the building. It could be really special.

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'But their lack of major renovation experience could be

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'holding them back and they aren't sure whether to go for it.'

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Come on through. 'So I'm going to introduce them

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'to a couple who have done this sort of thing before in the hope that

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-'their experiences will inform and inspire.'

-Pleased to meet you.

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As far as wrecks go, they don't come much more ruined

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than this agricultural building near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

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David and Karen Shuttleworth, are farmers

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and have had the property for years.

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But until recently, they had never given it a moment's notice.

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We hadn't used the sheep pens for seven years and they were derelict.

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There was a lot of nettles and thistles around it. It was a mess.

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Everything was to do to it.

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This place will be lived in by their extended family.

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It's a long way from completion, but should give Nick and Laura a sense

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of the scale they're contemplating taking on.

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I love it.

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The stone windows, the reveals, the sills.

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Have you designed this yourselves?

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The windows and the sills, they all came

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and I had a look at them, and I said, "I don't like them,"

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so we sent them back to the stonemason

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and he chamfered the edges off a bit more.

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We want to make it look good, cos we're looking at it every day.

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As it's never been used as a dwelling before,

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Karen and David have started from scratch.

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When you build a house in the middle of nowhere, getting mains gas,

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electricity and water is a big consideration

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and needs to be planned to avoid any unexpected problems.

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Did you have to bring utilities in?

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They're not on site, but there was a development going on down the field.

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They've got electric, so we have sorted out with them,

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which would have cost us £20,000 if we hadn't had that opportunity

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to get the electricity to there.

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Now it will cost us just over £1,000.

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The guys were worried about opening the proverbial can of worms.

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A bill for £20,000 is exactly that.

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That's the sort of thing that worries us,

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that sort of unknown quantity that just kills your budget.

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'With this build, the Shuttleworths

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'have meticulously planned everything down to the last detail.'

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I love what you have done with the big sandstone blocks.

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What's the idea here? Are you going to plaster up to them?

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It'll be plastered and then painted in between the blocks.

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'They have also thought about how future residents may use the house in years to come.'

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That big gap, what is that?

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That will be a dining room. We did put that wall up.

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Because we've made the house sort of wheelchair-friendly,

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in the event we don't need it as a bedroom, it can be an office, the dining room, a play room.

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It depends on the people that will live here.

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Was that a planning constraint, the disabled access?

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No, it is something we wanted to incorporate.

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And pushchair-friendly, we've widened some of the door ways.

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Interesting.

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If anything happened to David or myself or David's parents,

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it needed wheelchair access, it's always there.

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It's better to do it when you're building it rather than retrofit.

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It is interesting to stand here and hear what you are saying about

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the forward planning and be in the middle of that forward planning.

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It is not just looking at a drawing, you have really thought about it.

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Both in the sympathetic nature it sits in the landscape,

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and practical nature of building, it's fascinating.

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This really is a major project.

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I wasn't sure whether Nick and Laura would be put off by the scale.

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Look at all the mess and the mud and unexpected costs that can crop up.

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But so far, so good.

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They're still pretty gung ho, which is good news.

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As for David and Karen, they're creating a building

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that will look as at home in this landscape for the next 200 years,

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as the fields around it. I love it!

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Back in Nottingham, empty property officer, Andrew Vickers,

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is continuing his investigation into the house he was called to earlier.

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In order to solve the vermin problems,

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Andrew needs to trace the owner of this vacant property.

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I have various tools that I can use to help me.

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My first one is access to our council tax data.

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In this particular instance,

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the council tax data wasn't able to help me.

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They indicate that the owner is deceased.

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Not letting this stop him, his next port of call is the Land Registry.

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The Land Registry reveals that the title, the registered title

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reveals that the owners seem to have Eastern European names.

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Now that he has a name,

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Andrew can tap into the sources of a genealogy website.

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It's ideal for people interested in tracing their family tree.

0:18:430:18:46

But equally, it's useful for Empty Homes Officers

0:18:460:18:49

in tracing births, deaths and marriages of people

0:18:490:18:52

who may be the owners of empty properties.

0:18:520:18:55

The website provides a breakthrough.

0:18:550:18:58

The beauty of this Eastern European name is, it is unusual.

0:18:580:19:02

It only brings back 14 of that surname in the entire country

0:19:020:19:06

and there's only one in Nottingham and he died in 1995.

0:19:060:19:11

Andrew now needs to get hold of the death certificate,

0:19:110:19:14

which will give him some vital information.

0:19:140:19:17

The person who reported the death is usually a next of kin

0:19:180:19:24

or someone close to the deceased who may be dealing with the estate.

0:19:240:19:30

In this case, the house.

0:19:300:19:32

His trip to the city's register office

0:19:330:19:36

throws up a surprising twist in the tale.

0:19:360:19:39

The death certificate has informant details

0:19:390:19:42

who only lives three doors away from the actual empty.

0:19:420:19:45

Great. Good result.

0:19:450:19:48

It turns out the person who registered the death

0:19:480:19:51

of the owner of the empty house lives just a few doors away.

0:19:510:19:55

So Andrew heads back to the same street to see if anyone is at home.

0:19:550:19:58

Well, that's disappointing.

0:20:050:20:07

No reply. I've left a calling card.

0:20:070:20:10

If he doesn't call, I'll chase him up. I want to get this moving.

0:20:100:20:14

I'm hoping he might be able to point me towards who's dealing with this house.

0:20:140:20:18

It could be a firm of solicitors, extended family,

0:20:180:20:20

or it could be family in her homeland.

0:20:200:20:23

The death certificate says she was born in Lithuania.

0:20:230:20:27

So there's a possibility that this investigation may go overseas.

0:20:270:20:32

It's an unusual and slightly frustrating case, but progress has been made

0:20:320:20:37

and Andrew is hopeful that he'll track down the owner before too long.

0:20:370:20:42

Nick and Laura Tipper have seen a fantastic but daunting ruined Victorian pump house.

0:20:440:20:49

Oh, look at that! Look at that!

0:20:490:20:52

They'd love to buy it, but are worried they might be biting off more than they can chew,

0:20:520:20:56

so I'm trying to give them the confidence they need to put an offer in

0:20:560:21:01

and have introduced them to a couple in the thick of an ambitious renovation.

0:21:010:21:05

'Now I want to show them why these projects are so worthwhile.'

0:21:050:21:09

-Have a look at that.

-That's fantastic.

0:21:090:21:11

This is how it was originally.

0:21:110:21:15

It's just a bit different.

0:21:150:21:17

When Karl and Janet Zaldat

0:21:170:21:20

found this old, agricultural building in Woodplumpton in 2001,

0:21:200:21:25

it had been out of use for two years.

0:21:250:21:28

It was a barn, there was chippings in the lounge.

0:21:280:21:32

It was full of cobwebs.

0:21:320:21:34

The space was there and the fabric and the build of the place

0:21:340:21:38

would really make something decent.

0:21:380:21:40

They started out with a very clear vision

0:21:400:21:43

which helped motivate the transformation into a unique home.

0:21:430:21:48

Come on in. ..Nice to see you again.

0:21:480:21:52

'Having snapped up the building for just £65,000,

0:21:520:21:56

'architect Karl and his wife Janet spent £160,000 on the renovation.'

0:21:560:22:01

-Fantastic.

-Lovely wood ceiling.

0:22:010:22:04

It's no longer a mess, it's no longer a nearly tumbled down barn.

0:22:040:22:09

-It's what we hope is a very nice home.

-It's our home and house which we made our own.

0:22:090:22:14

'The Zaldats were inspired by the work of the famous early 20th-century architect

0:22:140:22:20

'Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The results are outstanding.'

0:22:200:22:24

-Do you feel like you're living in a museum?

-No!

0:22:240:22:28

We just love the design of the furniture.

0:22:280:22:31

We already had some pieces so we wanted to use them

0:22:310:22:34

and enhance what we like.

0:22:340:22:37

This is our (but it's my) dressing room.

0:22:370:22:41

Next to the bedroom...

0:22:410:22:42

-Right.

-..I've made a storage space on both sides.

-Amazing!

0:22:420:22:47

Then another door, to let the light through from outside,

0:22:470:22:52

another door with the panels on.

0:22:520:22:54

-That's great.

-I'm going to come in this way and keep exploring.

0:22:540:22:59

-It's great this. Karl, you must never tire of it?

-Not at all.

0:23:010:23:05

It's a pleasure waking up thinking this is ours.

0:23:050:23:07

What would be your top tip as an architect,

0:23:070:23:11

for Nick and Laura taking on a building which is historic

0:23:110:23:16

but has to be radically transformed to provide a modern home?

0:23:160:23:20

You've got to be honest with yourselves of what you want,

0:23:200:23:23

what spaces you want and how you're going to live in it?

0:23:230:23:27

See it as a home, not just bricks and mortar.

0:23:270:23:30

I've loved seeing how you've made this so crisp, sharp and modern

0:23:300:23:33

but it works so well with the old bits of the building.

0:23:330:23:36

'By taking on an empty property,

0:23:360:23:38

'Karl and Janet have created a bespoke home that fits their lifestyle.'

0:23:380:23:43

I get the sense that as an architect you must have lapped this one up.

0:23:430:23:48

-This is you doing your thing?

-It is. I'm probably my worst client!

0:23:480:23:52

I'm that pernickety trying to get the detail right, thinking should it be here or there?

0:23:520:23:57

-Did you do that at the drawing stage?

-Yes.

0:23:570:24:01

You probably poured over your drawings again and again until you isolated that detail.

0:24:010:24:06

We even had a cardboard model, a card model, to show us the scale of it.

0:24:060:24:12

-This is planning, you know, in some measure.

-It's fantastic.

0:24:120:24:17

We're already thinking of how you live in the space

0:24:170:24:21

and where you'd want electricals and plumbing,

0:24:210:24:24

just making sure you get those details done ahead of time.

0:24:240:24:27

'I hope that seeing this place has given Nick and Laura

0:24:270:24:30

'the confidence they need to take on the renovation

0:24:300:24:33

'of that incredible pump house.'

0:24:330:24:35

We set out this morning with you saying we're up for a major project.

0:24:350:24:39

Have we put you off big projects?

0:24:390:24:42

-No, not at all.

-Not at all.

0:24:420:24:44

-It's gone the other way?

-I think so.

0:24:440:24:47

We have a bit of confidence, we're thinking about the right things.

0:24:470:24:52

I suspect, if anything, you're feeling that bit more inspired?

0:24:520:24:56

Absolutely, that's what we are going to do and we've set our hearts on the pump house at the moment.

0:24:560:25:01

If it turns out that the pump house isn't for us, because it's too much, so be it.

0:25:010:25:05

We're not going to find out unless we pursue it.

0:25:050:25:08

What would you say are the three key things you've taken away from today?

0:25:080:25:12

The end of today and seeing what Karl and Janet have done here

0:25:120:25:16

is really inspiring, how they've created a whole space,

0:25:160:25:19

a whole coherent thing that's more than the sum of its parts.

0:25:190:25:23

That really inspires me to try and emulate that in some way.

0:25:230:25:27

I think having the vision, some of the things

0:25:270:25:30

that David and Karen were saying about putting in the wheelchair access ahead of time

0:25:300:25:35

and thinking about how people are going to use the space

0:25:350:25:38

so even though they're not going to necessarily live in it,

0:25:380:25:40

they're designing it with an idea of how it's going to be used as a proper home.

0:25:400:25:44

The key thing is planning. It's all about the planning that Karl and Janet here demonstrated.

0:25:440:25:50

The level of detail they put into their planning before they did any building work at all.

0:25:500:25:57

We'll take that away. It's really important for us with the listed building, the pump house,

0:25:570:26:02

to get it right on paper before you even start, get all the permissions in place,

0:26:020:26:06

know what you're doing before you start.

0:26:060:26:09

That certainly is a big project.

0:26:090:26:12

You have it running through your veins that this is what you want to do next.

0:26:120:26:16

Whether it is the pump house or not, it's going to be fantastic.

0:26:160:26:19

-Best of luck and let us know how you get on.

-Great.

-Fantastic. Thanks very much indeed.

0:26:190:26:25

It certainly can take a lot of nerve to take on a building

0:26:250:26:29

that doesn't have a roof, maybe is missing one or two walls not even a water supply.

0:26:290:26:34

Certainly renovation can feel like you're pouring money into a bottomless pit.

0:26:340:26:39

Hopefully, today, we've managed to prove to Nick and Laura that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

0:26:390:26:44

If they DO take on the pump house,

0:26:440:26:46

I'm sure when they finish with it, it will be truly remarkable.

0:26:460:26:50

'Since I met up with Laura and Nick, they've put in an offer which has been accepted.

0:26:500:26:54

'If all goes to plan,

0:26:540:26:57

'they'll be working on their own renovation very soon.'

0:26:570:27:01

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:180:27:24

E-mail [email protected]

0:27:240:27:27

Nick and Laura Tipper, both engineers in the aerospace industry, are on the hunt for a wreck of a house with real potential to turn into their very own marital mansion.

Jules Hudson is on hand to give them the know-how and confidence they need to tackle a big renovation; sending them to view a remarkable abandoned Victorian pump house and introducing them to the owners of an old agricultural building near Preston which has been transformed into a unique home, inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.