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The Grand Designs which ended in tragedy and heartbreak


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It’s the must-see home renovation programme which has gripped millions of us – but there are tragic tales and outcomes to many of the Grand Designs featured in the Channel Four programme.

One of the biggest disaster has to be Edward Short, 52, the unlucky star of the ‘saddest episode ever’ who revealed he is still building his luxury lighthouse-inspired house 10 years later – but will never even get to live in it.

He is planning to sell Chesil Cliff House in Devon as it has plunged him into millions of pounds of debt, with the disastrous project’s costs spiralling to £6million.

The dad-of-two, who has split from wife Hazel since the episode aired in 2019, admitted: “It was my overconfidence and arrogance that got me here in the first place so I’m doing what I need to do.”

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Edward Short's marriage broke up from the strain of his 'vanity project' featured on Grand Designs
Edward Short’s marriage broke up from the strain of his ‘vanity project’ featured on Grand Designs

The luxury home, once complete, was planned to feature a huge circular tower based on a lighthouse design along with a spectacular ‘glass edge’ infinity swimming pool, a home cinema and a sauna and steam room.

Edward is now urging locals fed up with the unfinished eyesore to “stick with it”, although he admits it proved the final straw for his wife.

“The whole project has been a horrendous strain for Hazel, I have sunk our family purse into this and I really feel for her.

“I never meant to put her through any of this,” he told Devon Live.

Originally pegged to cost £3million, he says the figure has now doubled – but remains optimistic of putting the home on the market by the end of the year to recoup his losses.

Unfortunately, Edward is far from the only hopeful to see his grand plans go awry.

From tragic blazes that tore through the ‘UK’s cheapest home’ to vandals’ house parties and stress-induced heart attacks – these desperate projects will make you think twice about calling in the builders, reports The Mirror.

Edward Short never got to live in his Grand Design, and he and his wife split over the stress of the huge renovation project
Edward Short never got to live in his Grand Design, and he and his wife split over the stress of the huge renovation project

Houseboat

Chris Miller and his wife Sze Liu Lai were shown in 2007 renovating a ramshackle houseboat in Essex using recycled materials.

The couple planned to move out of London and enjoy life afloat with their two children.

But the £80,000 scheme, called the Medway Eco-barge, ran into problems and their 100ft boat was left moored unfinished in the Thames estuary near Southend.

It became a target for vandals and squatters and broke free from its moorings in 2011 before being found washed up on a beach.

Chris Miller's house boat project ran into problems and it was left vandalised and abandoned
Chris Miller’s house boat project ran into problems and it was left vandalised and abandoned

Steve Morgan, 29, from the nearby Barge Cafe, said: “I did not know what it was at first. Then I saw the roof and realised it was the boat from Grand Designs – it looked very strange just sat there opposite our cafe.

“The boat had been up the coast for a couple of years now – it’s a bit tatty to be honest with you.”

Cheapest Home in Britain

The Dale family were the proud owners of ‘Britain’s cheapest home’, which was built for just £27,000.

However, their plans went up in smoke on New Year’s Day in 2018 when an electrical fire ripped through the property and burned it to the ground.

The property was tragically destroyed by a fire on New Year’s Day in 2018.

The Dale family home was nicknamed the cheapest home in the UK - but it sadly went up in flames in 2018
The Dale family home was nicknamed the cheapest home in the UK – but it sadly went up in flames in 2018

Fire crews battled the blaze for six hours, while friends and family launched a JustGiving page to help Simon and Jasmine Dale rebuild their ‘hobbit house’, which appeared on the show in 2017.

The page read: “Simon, Jasmine and their two children have been residents at Lammas eco village, Pembrokeshire, since the start of the project. They have been working on their family home for the last six years.

“This beautiful building was featured on Grand Designs last year. Sadly a fire started on New Year’s Day and their beloved home was burned to the ground.

“Luckily no one was hurt but as you can imagine, the family are devastated.”

Speaking after the house was completed in 2014, Simon said: “I don’t think I could quantify it, but I can feel it in my heart when I walk around at the end of the day and see the bats flying round and hear the birds sing.

“It’s been hard and I wasn’t asking for an easy life. I like challenge. To put in a hard day’s graft and be tired at the end of the day. That exhaustion is a nice feeling.”

The campaign has since raised more than £35,000 for the family.

Eco Mansion

Robert Gaukroger’s beautiful eco-mansion was one of the show’s most impressive designs – but the building was feared abandoned in 2016, with its varnish finish looking worn down and the gardens left in a dire condition.

The Dome House eco mansion in Cumbria was left to rot in 2016 after the owner moved back down South
The Dome House eco mansion in Cumbria was left to rot in 2016 after the owner moved back down South

The gardens of the ultra-modern, seven-bedroom ‘Dome house’ looked scruffy and overgrown and there was no sign of the visionary proprietor, architect and owner Robert Gaukroger.

He spent two years building the unique property in the hillside above Bowness-in-Windermere, Cumbria, at a cost of £1million in 2011.

Robert and wife Milla told Grand Designs the whole project cost in excess of £1million, but he reportedly got locked into an eight-year dispute with a neighbour and decided to move back down south to study at university.

He tried to sell the luxury home for £2.3million in 2015, before dropping the price to £1.45million months later.

It eventually sold to Yvonne Malley – an anonymous donor who’d stumped up the cash to save the build five years earlier when the credit crunch left Robert with a half-finished house.

Robert said: “She said it was clear this was my dream and she wanted to help.”

Yvonne and her family renovated the dilapidated property and now run it as a luxury guest house which has top reviews on Tripadvisor.

Church House

Dean Marks suffered two heart attacks and his marriage collapsed while building his Grand Design
Dean Marks suffered two heart attacks and his marriage collapsed while building his Grand Design

Dean Marks saw his faith pushed to the limit when he decided to convert an 18th century church in Sanwell, West Midlands, in 2005.

He suffered two heart attacks converting an 18th century church in the West Midlands, and after battling his local council for planning permission for nearly five years, the builder’s marriage collapsed as tensions mounted.

As a final kick in the teeth, Kevin McCloud didn’t appear too enamoured with the final product either.

Speaking after the home – which features a swimming pool – was finished at last, he said: “It broke my heart to see so much of the character, the integrity of this place disappear, to be replaced by some pretty hideous features and a rather clunky layout.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, health problems appear to be a regular concern for Grand Designs stars.

Curved Home

Barry Surtees’ impressive curved home in Brighton was a true labour of love, as he battled a series of banking issues that pushed his body to the limit.

Barry Surtees suffered a serious heart attack while renovating this property, which was feature din Channel Four's Grand Designs
Barry Surtees suffered a serious heart attack while renovating this property, which was feature din Channel Four’s Grand Designs

During the project, Barry suffered a serious heart attack which led him to undergo five bypasses, while the home he stayed in next door also caught fire.

He later said: “It made me question everything, including whether I should be bothering with material things, including the house.”

After completing the home in 2007, it went on sale last year for £3.4million.

Author: [email protected] (Alex Bellotti, Frances Kingdon, Lisa Baxter)
This post originally appeared on Hull Live – Celebs & TV


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