This little piggy goes to market

Fancy a Lake District plot with a difference? At Ravenscreek you can go the whole hog, says Chris Partridge
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The Independent Online

National Parks are pretty much a no-build zone, so the auction of a site with planning permission for a four-bedroom house in the Lake District next week is understandably attracting world-wide attention.

National Parks are pretty much a no-build zone, so the auction of a site with planning permission for a four-bedroom house in the Lake District next week is understandably attracting world-wide attention.

The site, Ravenscreek, at the foot of the Newlands Valley near Keswick, is stunning. The views are pure Beatrix Potter - anyone who has read The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle will know the landscape already.

Two acres of land surround a shabby former piggery built in the 1950s. At the moment, the building is the workshop and home of Adam Wilde, joiner, furniture maker, kitchen designer and climber. When he moved in about 10 years ago, the long, low building had been converted crudely into a workshop with a small bunk house constructed illegally inside.

His first battle with the planners was to establish his right to live in the place at all, on the grounds that the authorities had taken no steps to boot his predecessor out for so long that the bunk house had become an established home. That done, he applied for permission to convert the building into a proper house.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Lake District Authority was quite sympathetic to his application. This was probably something to do with the ugliness of the structure and the mess the whole site had been left in. "The place was a notorious tip. We took out 16 skiploads of metal," Wilde says. "Since then we have planted 350 trees, mostly native English hardwoods, and we now have badgers, pipestrelle bats and a barn owl living here."

The application did not go smoothly, however. Local opposition forced Wilde to go to appeal. "That was actually much better than getting permission from the National Parks Authority, because the appeal granted outline permission for any house as long as it is within the walls of the old building," he explains. "The Authority would have only granted detailed permission so a buyer would be limited to exactly what was shown in the drawings."

Another major plus is that the permission comes without the restrictions that national parks usually impose to encourage full-time occupation and prevent the park becoming a sterile holiday playground with no full-time residents. The owners of Ravenscreek will be able to live there, holiday there, rent it out in the summer or whatever they wish.

The conversion will still be a major job. The corrugated iron roof will have to be replaced and the outside re-rendered. The inside will have to be stripped out and completely rebuilt. The result should be worth it. A single-storey, four bedroom house with a workspace big enough to carry on a small business should that be the aim. Wilde is hoping to take a year off from furniture-making once the place is sold, to indulge his other passion for rock climbing around the world.

If auctioneer Niel Foster of CSH Property Consultants in Penrith does his stuff on Friday, he should be able to do it in some luxury. "The guide price is £275,000, but I will be disappointed if it does not go up to £350,000," he says. "There has been huge interest, even from abroad because of the internet."

The financial rewards are likely to be rich as well. "We are looking comfortably at a three quarters of a million pound house," Foster says. "But it will probably be bought by someone wanting to create their own home rather than a developer."

It seems almost certain that Ravenscreek will sell to a private buyer and become their dream house, but nobody seems to have any idea who will buy the Reading Room at Watermillock, to be auctioned on the same day.

It is one of those properties that seems to have no viable use whatsoever, which is a shame because it is full of character and located in one of the most desirable villages in the Lake District, on the northern shore of Ullswater. It is one of those tin huts the Victorians scattered over the countryside, donated by some local philanthropist for use by the villagers.

Conversion to a house is precluded by the D1 classification, which limits its use to an exhibition or meeting hall, or doctor's surgery. And there is not enough land for a car park, which pretty well rules these uses out as well.

So the auctioneers are looking for a very creative business person who can see a use for this quirky building. They expect it to go for about £40,000.

Both properties will be auctioned on 11 June. For details, call CSH Property Consultants (01768 864541)