Container rentals plan dreamed up after earthquake

A recent planning application to build holiday rentals out of shipping containers was dreamed up off the back of a natural disaster.

An earthquake in 2011 flattened the south island city of Christchurch, New Zealand – a planning application to build five container holiday homes was inspired by the city’s relief efforts.

Travelling the tiny nation with the goal of being a bridesmaid for her best friend’s wedding, Olivia Newnham flew into Christchurch in 2014.

Mrs Newnham, an Isle of Wight schoolteacher, was blown away by the use of containers in the “flattened” city and had something of a eureka moment.

Containers in Christchurch – photo by Olivia Newnham

“It was amazing what they had done with the city as it was completely flattened,” said the 35-year-old. “When the earthquake came, their town basically became the pop-up container town, that’s where it originated from – I thought they looked amazing. People had container homes, pop-up shops they were all kind of staggered, it looked really cool.”

Mrs Newnham’s mum and step-dad, Jane and Andrew Legg own a field off Forest Road, Newport – they have a few old containers from Mr Legg’s businesses on the field and have already began tinkering around with one container that they often spend time in relaxing.

The Leggs, Mrs Newnham, and husband Spencer Stephens, 36, have put a planning application into Isle of Wight Council for five up-cycled container holiday homes. The couple will split the business with the Leggs if planning permission is granted.

Christchurch shops made from containers – photo by Olivia Newnham

“We’ve got a couple of containers we use for storage,” continued Mrs Newnham. “One is full of logs and it reminded me of my New Zealand trip. I thought that if we ever wanted to develop the field, that would be quite a good idea’.”

The family have plans to erect L-shape structures made from the containers, with concertina doors that lead onto a patio area, some will hopefully feature hot tubs and they want to install log burners for the winter months.

Mrs Newnham added: “We’re aiming for a hot tub on two of them, a kitchen area, double bedroom, they’ll sleep four, we are encouraging families really, so a double bed with two bunks.

“Some of them will have log burners in them for use in the winter, so that’s where we are with them – it’s quite exciting.”

The team are hoping to have two containers ready for May next year and then continue to adapt and improve the rentals depending on feedback. The current plan is to have more finished units by August 2019.

Mrs Newnham admits they have lots of ideas about how else to utilise containers on the field, ideas for a cafe selling locally sourced breakfast and afternoon tea, a forestry skills programme for children, and even wedding hire aren’t beyond the family’s remit.

“We got married in the field and all my friends camped,” said Mrs Newnham. “It was extremely windy and tents were flapping around everywhere. Containers popped into my mind again and I thought how amazing and unique it would have been for a wedding.”

The family have a rough idea on their budget, with disused containers costing between £1500 and £2000 – they are hoping to turn one around for between £5000 and £6000 but they will be “tinkering around” so it could be more.

Mrs Newnham finished: “The main part of our plan is to be as sustainable and as eco-friendly as we can be. Things like; pick your own vegetables as we have a patch on site, plastic free, local produce on sale, only Island products used in the cafe.

“We are basically trying to support local farmers. Being from a farming background, my grandparents used to own Cheverton Farm, I’ve seen how hard farming is and with potential EU restrictions coming our way, we should be encouraging and educating the young on the importance of local farming and reducing air miles.”