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Residential Property: Preserving rural character.

Byline: By Marsya Lennox Property Correspondent

Indignant developers are standing up to be counted in the national debate about barn conversions.

Smarting from comments about "horror" conversion projects and the "suburbanisation of the countryside" made recently by English Heritage, the specialists are answering their critics.

Among them is Roy Casewell of Cotswold Country Developments, currently developing Blackpitts Farm Barns at Aldsworth in Gloucestershire.

"We would be very disappointed if anyone ever described our development in anything other than glowing terms," he said.

"We have spent an enormous amount of time, resources and money in ensuring that the conversion of these wonderful and architecturally significant buildings was carried out in the most sympathetic manner and we have taken extensive, expert advice as to how best to preserve their unique rural character."

In the Cotswolds, barns for development are no longer easy to find. And in a part of the world famed for its architecture, from the villages and the country houses to the old farm buildings, the converters take their job seriously.

At Blackpitts Farm Barns, much of the materials needed has come from local suppliers, for instance stone for boundary walling and flagstones for the interiors quarried close by by the Downs Stone Company.

Even the green oak for the structural work came from a local sawmill at Coates. And all the development workers are local too.

"We have a policy of preserving as much of the original structure and fabric of a building as possible. Where renovation or repair work is required, time is spent sourcing materials to ensure that works are carried out as sympathetically as possibly while maintaining the character of the building," said Mr Caswell.

The company aims to create up to date living spaces while ensuring that the schemes blend easily into the Cotswold landscape, making as little impact as possible/ "As well as the architectural wellbeing of the scheme, we have also worked closely with our environmental consultants to mitigate the impact of the development on local wildlife."

Measures taken at this development have included a barn owl box, built specially into one of the barns. Also, special "homes" have been arranged within garage roofs for the Lesser Horse Shoe bat, new but suitable habitat for the endangered species.

There are to be seven barn homes on the edge of village site, with farmland surroundings and good rural views. Styles vary to include single, two and three storey homes, built of the local limestone under plain tile or slate roofs Gutters and drainpipes are even of cast iron, more costly but traditional.

Interior details include ledged and braced doors of oak, more oak in the skirtings and architraves and window sills of stone or slate as well as some flooring.

Underfloor heating has been provided to ground floors, security systems and sophisticated bathrooms and kitchens with Agas.

Some of the properties will also have wine coolers built in and there are other upgrade features on offer, among them saunas and steam rooms.

Two of the properties are sold and the latest to be released is The Old Coach House, a two storey home with two reception rooms, kitchen and utility plus two en suitebedrooms, garage and car port. The price tag is pounds 525,000.

Top of the range will be the five bedroom Cotswold Barn, due to be priced at more than pounds 1 million.

James Coker of the selling agents, Knight Frank said: "Whilst we acknowledge that there have been some disappointing barn conversion carried out over the years, we are delighted to be involved in Blackpitts Farm Barns which is an excellent example of sympathetic and imaginative use of a range of magnificent agricultural buildings which might otherwise have fallen into disrepair."

Details are available from 01295 659771

CAPTION(S):

The Old Coach House at Blackpitts Farm Barns, a converted two bedroom property by Cotswold Country Developments. It is available for pounds 525,00; The completed kitchen in the sympathetically converted farm building
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 9, 2005
Words:662
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