The build-ity­our­self is­lands

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Self Build -

In the wilds of the Shet­lands, con­struct­ing your very own home is a way of life, re­ports Richard Webber

Across the UK, 14,000 prop­er­ties will be built in the next year with the blood, sweat and tears of their own­ers, says the Na­tional Cus­tom and Self Build As­so­ci­a­tion (NaCSBA). This is up 12 per cent from last year. But in the far north­ern reaches of Bri­tain, self-build­ing has been part of life for gen­er­a­tions. Shet­land com­prises more than 100 is­lands; its heather-clad hills and wide, open spa­ces are sprin­kled with brightly painted self-build prop­er­ties, most en­joy­ing stun­ning sea views. Nowhere on Shet­land, which is closer to the Arc­tic Cir­cle than it is Lon­don, is more than three miles from the sea.

The ar­chi­pel­ago’s be­guil­ing land­scape forms the back­drop for BBC’s pop­u­lar crime drama, Shet­land, which starts film­ing for a fourth se­ries soon. Con­trary to what this show might sug­gest, the is­lands are not all tow­er­ing cliffs and ser­rated sea stacks rear­ing from the sea. Shet­land’s 1,700-mile coast­line is adorned with de­serted sandy beaches.

Lo­cal ar­chi­tect Alan McKay says Shet­landers’ love af­fair with self­build­ing has been long-last­ing. “His­tor­i­cally, peo­ple had lit­tle money so built their own homes,” he points out.

More peo­ple build their own homes in Scot­land than in Eng­land, ac­cord­ing to the NaCSBA; in the Shet­lands, that fig­ure is even higher as de­vel­op­ers rarely ven­ture that far north, with self-builders there tra­di­tion­ally opt­ing for tim­ber frame con­struc­tion.

Just out­side Leven­wick, 17 miles south of Ler­wick, Niki and Piet Steenkamp, both 44, are ap­ply­ing the fin­ish­ing touches to the five-bed­room de­tached home they built them­selves. “It’s taken us four years, dur­ing which time we lived in a car­a­van on site, but it’s cer­tainly been worth it,” says Niki.

Stand­ing out­side her Siberian larch-cladded home, Niki en­joys the un­in­ter­rupted views out across the North Sea to­wards Nor­way. “I adore ev­ery­thing about this place, in­clud­ing the weather and re­mote­ness. Be­cause it’s so safe, you don’t need to lock your house or re­move keysy from the car.”

Niki and Piet run un an online busi­ness, Heat­pressss UK, and swapped Southamp­ton for Shet­land in 2012. “We’d been look­ingng to buy land in the south of Eng­land so we could build our own home,” says ays Niki, who was born in Hamp­shiree but em­i­grated to South Africa in the e Eight­ies be­fore re­turn­ing with Piet. “Un­for­tu­nately, plots lots were too ex­pen­sive or too close to other prop­er­ties.”

Want­ing a break,k, de larg fou Robe £10,000-£20 fishin fi­nanc

Wild: Ar­chi­tect Alan McKay’s house, above, has views across the bay, the home to an­i­mals such as ot­ters, be­low

Niki and Piet Steenkamp, who built a home on Shet­land, above

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