WWhen Edward and Hazel Short used their savings to build their dream home on the coast, they hoped it would change their lives for the better and provide their two children with a fantastic childhood.
Instead, the luxury home is up for sale after more than ten years, the couple’s marriage is over and millionaire Mr. Short is still paying off some of the money he borrowed for the ambitious construction project.
The Chesil Cliff House in Croyde, Devon, continues to divide local opinion to this day. It’s certainly a spectacular creation — a clean-lined, all-white-and-glass Art Deco property with a four-story tower reminiscent of the lighthouse that originally stood on the site.
Perched right on the cliff’s edge, it features triple-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic ocean views and an infinity pool.
In 2019 it was shown on Channel 4 Great designs, dubbed by viewers the “saddest episode ever” as it shows the family borrowing £500,000 from a hedge fund and then a further £2.5m from private investors. A smaller house should first be built next to the main building so that he could secure a larger loan.
The shorts’ daughters said they even held trunk sales to raise money for their parents’ dream build.
But as host Kevin McCloud said in the episode’s introduction, “If a lighthouse has one message to cry out, it’s this: ‘Stay away or risk destruction’.”
His warning was perhaps even more important than he realized. Not only is the Chesil Cliff House, which has never been lived in, up for sale for a second time after an initial proposed deal fell through, but the construction cost the couple their 20-year marriage.
Amid skyrocketing expenses, crippling debt and sleepless nights, Mr. Short found himself under increasing pressure, which he says ultimately contributed to the failure of his marriage to Hazel.
Although he qualified that construction isn’t the only reason the couple’s marriage ended, he said The sun Last July, he expressed regret for the stress his “failed dreams” were causing his wife and two daughters, Nicole and Lauren.
“There’s no doubt what I did to Hazel was horrible,” said the former music industry sales executive. “There’s a lot of guilt there. But once we started, there was no way out. If we hadn’t made it, we would have been in big trouble.
“It was horrible for the family because I pulled the stability blanket off them without being able to give any answers on how to get out of there, otherwise I had to move on.”
The ambitious plan was hugely expensive and with the cost of the work escalating over the years, Mr Short was reportedly at one point in debt of £7million.
There was also skepticism locally. When the Shorts first demolished the 1950s house on the site and the diggers and trucks rolled up, there was much murmuring about the disruption.
Mr Short brushed aside concerns about coastal erosion putting the house at risk of falling into the sea and said it would be dramatic if it hung over the cliff’s edge.
But during the planning permission application, local objections were raised, including that the light coming through the windows would blind motorists on the main road above and that the unobstructed view of the cliffs would be lost.
And then there was the huge cost, which embarrassed some locals.
Any potential buyer would need to spend an estimated £10m in total for the property – £7.5m for the main house and an amount yet to be negotiated but estimated at around £2.5m – for the three-bedroom annexe next door.
“It’s overkill,” Braunton Councilor Derrick Spear said of the design. “You could say it’s avant-garde – or, more likely, it doesn’t blend in with its surroundings, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“Here we’re trying to get affordable houses – which there is a great need for here – but this is obviously a home for a very wealthy person,” added Mr Spear, who said he was appalled at the estimated price.
But the TV show brought about a shift in attitude on the ground as people saw the human story unfolding behind the years of construction.
“After the documentary came out there was a lot of sympathy for Ed,” says a North Devon resident. “He used to be a councilor and I knew him a little bit. I can’t speak for the people of Croyde but prior to the program people were concerned about the cranes and the size for a long time. Every construction site is difficult for neighbors.
“But what he has done is great. The actual building is fantastic now. It just took a long time.”
Even after all these years, the house itself is still not entirely habitable and the kitchen still needs updating. According to Agent Knight Frank, it was “completed as an exciting blank canvas, giving the new owner the opportunity to design his own interior.”
The agent’s brochure describes Chesil Cliff House as “the perfect property for enjoying the sunsets, dramatic storms and surfers of Down End Point”. And privacy is paramount at “one of the most spectacular new build coastal homes in Britain”, it says.
To date, opinions are divided in this area. “It’s beautiful,” one user wrote on Facebook when the episode aired again. “The rotunda looks great,” wrote another. Others called it an “eyesore” and wondered how the permit could ever have been granted. “Too close to the water for my taste,” read one comment.
Local MP Selaine Saxby said she was frustrated by the high level of vacant properties in the area, including holiday homes, but had no complaints about Chesil Cliff House.
“Everyone sees the difficulties behind it and wants to see it finished,” she said. “It’s so sad when they’re empty – properties need to be filled with life.”
A decade later, Mr. Short is optimistic himself – about his life and possessions. He has a new fiancé, nurse Jalia Nambasa, while he and Hazel, who also has a new partner, are “still best friends”.
“I think the story has a happy ending because we managed to get a divorce and ended up having a bigger family and a better relationship,” he said Sun.
Daughter Lauren seems to agree, saying her parents are much happier now than they were before.
“What happened between my mom and dad probably would have happened without the house,” she said on a follow-up episode of Grand Designs last October.
As for the property, a foreign buyer reportedly came close to signing the dotted line last month but failed to do so.
Mr Short remains confident the deal goes through, a source close to the sale of the property said MailOnline.
He also hopes the house itself will one day lose its ‘saddest’ label – something a £10million signature could finally solve.