Within a few weeks we’d hired an architect who drew up some plans which unfortunately were a million miles away from our vision and so was the build cost, we’d worked out that we had circa £150k to realise our dream. The architect came in at double this and although his plans were nice they were not for us.
We’d never been involved in a building project before and believe me the learning curve is steep, on the programs and in the magazines it all looks relatively easy, find a plot get an architect and get building, the reality is quite different.
We found another architect who was more in tune with our vision and submitted planning then waited an agonising 8 weeks only to be turned down by the council. You can view the whole planning process online which for me was painful, my job involves hours at a computer so I’d visit the council planning portal sometimes 2 or 3 times a day willing it to speed up, but there really is no hurrying these things. In a world of fast everything I’m used to moving at light speed, fast food, superfast broadband and quick thinking, all these go out of the window and patience has to be learned when dealing with planning permission. The council writes to all your neighbours telling them about your plans and gives them 21 days to object, you can view any comments they make on the planning portal (the name the council gives their online system). In our case there were no objections, zero, but still we got turned down, massively disappointing.
Our architect has since told us he’s going to appeal on our behalf cost free due to the fact he feels the planning officer did a rush job on our application decision, in fact they left our application to the last day (due to a heavy work we were told us in an email) they visited a neighbours garden, took a photo of our house and bang..Denied. That’s it all our dreams on hold, now I can understand if we’d had a truck load of objections from people around us, being a back-lands house we kind of sit at the bottom of about 20 gardens, I guess either the neighbours have better things to think about in their own busy lives or simply didn’t see the application as an issue, in any case we’d be giving them a much prettier view as part of our application included a sedum roof which would have grown wild flowers, much nicer than the 80’s weather board and concrete roof they now have to look at. The final reason for denial was lack of light to one neighbour (the one the picture was taken from) that our house would cause to their garden ??? We’re some 20 meters from their house; I can only think whist the planning officer was there the neighbour released their overall objections, which is unfortunate as these are not noted which means the official complaints process was circumnavigated and we have no record of the neighbour’s objection(s) to work around.
So in we go with the appeal, which leaves you feeling deflated, we’ve come so far and put everything on the line to this point. We’re in for the fight now and can only hope the appeal process will give greater consideration to the fact we’re actually building a more energy efficient property of architectural merit. I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime if you are considering your own major project don’t go in all dewy-eyed like we did the reality is not always happily ever after.
On the positive side we’ve learnt an awful lot about a subject we’ve become passionate about and in the back of my mind I already think this won’t be our last project (a rolling stone). We’ve got lots we can do under permitted development so are pushing ahead with some major changes to our ground floor (an extension and kitchen renovation) whilst the appeal takes its course. As a “kind of apology” the planning officer said they won’t charge us for a resubmission of the plans so we have a 3 pronged approach now. Appeal and see what happens, resubmit a less than desirable plan to appease the neighbour and his garden whilst we on with the work, if we win the appeal we’ll have already begun under the permitted rights. If we don’t we’ll have to think of another tack.