Fans of television’s Grand Designs will remember the enormous, modernist ‘light house’ that was built to replace a family’s North Devon clifftop family home – and the fact that it wasn’t finished. When the episode was shown in 2019 it was branded by Twitter users as the ‘saddest ever’ Grand Design project.
Edward and Hazel Short bought Chesil Cliff House for £1.4 million in Croyde after moving from London in 2004, along with their two children, who have since grown up. They borrowed £1.8 million to finance the project which involved demolishing the original house and replacing it with a new family home. A second property would be built alongside Chesil Cliff House, which the couple intended to sell to further finance the project.
Planning permission was granted in 2010 but so many elements of the build came in over budget that the project ground to a halt in 2017, leaving the family in debt. At this stage, the project looked far more like a 1970s concrete car park than the intended rendered white building that would ‘bounce light off the sea’. Grand Designs presenter, Kevin McCloud himself described the building as a “desolate carcass”.
The dramatic building features a four storey rotunda, six bedrooms and 60ft glass edged infinity pool. The building overlooks the sea at Down End Point near Croyde, one of North Devon’s finest beauty spots, and its prominent location makes it highly visible from across Croyde Bay.
However, in its current state it has been compared to a North Korean missile bunker than a family home.
In March 2020, Mr Short apologised to local people who were largely appalled by the unsightly unfinished building. He said: “I know it’s a mess, and I have to fix that – but when it is finished it will be amazing. Judge it when it’s finished … but I am confident I can finish it.”
Mr Short doesn’t regret the additional £2.5 million of private investor money he has had to borrow, more the ‘terrible time’ the process has been for his family and the fact that it destroyed his 20 year marriage. The couple separated during filming of the programme but are still on friendly terms, and now rent property in Bideford.
Ten years after the start of the build there were signs of deterioration but that didn’t stopped Mr Short from carrying on.
Building work resumed in April 2020, and a month later North Devon Council issued an enforcement notice for the removal of the white hoarding that had been erected behind the stone built boundary wall, restricting the wide ranging view across the bay. The fencing is still there, described by the builders as necessary on the grounds of health and safety.
Soon afterwards, cranes could be seen on the site, brought in to carry out remedial work to repair weather damage caused by exposure to the elements.
Finally, a year later, glazing has been installed to the 9ft windows in the rotunda, which has now been painted white. Let’s see if it ever actually gets finished.
Chesil Cliff House isn’t the only modern building in Croyde, the face of which has changed considerably in recent years. The once Olde Worlde village that was popular with surfers, beach goers and holiday makers is slowly becoming something of a millionaire’s enclave.
If you’re considering buying property to update or rebuild, make sure you get advice from an independent Chartered Surveyor before you begin the project.