A PLANNING CONSENT STORY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF OAKWRIGHTS ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER, JOHN WILLIAMS:
Patience, determination and passion are all attributes that will benefit the self-builder! Looking back from the comfortable surroundings of a beautifully finished oak-framed house set in picturesque grounds, you would have no reason to know the trials and tribulations that had been overcome along the way.
I first met Richard and Pam at an Oakwrights Open Day in Herefordshire. I remember them producing the site-plan drawing of their plot – a triangular shaped piece of ground, at the bottom of their garden, separated from it by a stream. It wasn’t small, but it was by no means generous, and it was easy to see that there were a number of constraints. Nonetheless, in a delightful semi-rural setting, there was clearly potential, and we discussed options with them as we sat around the dining table in the Oakwrights Show Home.
Shortly after our initial chat, we were invited to visit the site, to see for ourselves the constraints and opportunities that were available, and to go through Richard and Pam’s brief in detail. Though the plan was to move into the new house, they were clear that it should be designed and laid out to avoid any negative impact on their existing property, which would be sold to new neighbours in due course. As is often the case in established residential areas, the prospect of new development can make some living nearby nervous. In spite of the high trees and hedges along the boundaries that helped to screen the site, during the course of the planning application concerns were raised. As a result, the application was referred to the committee, to be determined by a vote of local ward councillors, rather than by the planning officer himself. Richard chose to attend the meeting, a nerve wracking experience for anybody with an application under consideration. With a supportive presentation from the planning officer, it was a great relief to be granted approval and get the green light to move the project forward. That would be enough stress and drama for most applications, and it often is! Unfortunately, silently lurking beneath the plot had been a problem that would mean the approved designs would have to be abandoned, and the layout completely altered.
Richard and Pam discovered that a main foul sewer from a nearby housing development passed across their site, below where the approved garage had been due to be located. There are strict criteria about building near or over pipework belonging to the utility companies, so back to the drawing board we went. Luckily, given the setting of the plot at the bottom of their existing garden, Richard and Pam were able to think creatively, and reassign the plot boundary, to create an area adjacent to the road to move the garage to. So far, so straight forward, apart from the fact that this ground was on the opposite site to the brook that ran along the edge of the site. A bridge was needed, which while no small undertaking, was the key to making the new layout work, and enable the project to progress. The second planning application was determined without recourse to the Committee, and finally the project could move into the detailed design phase.
However, that wasn’t the last of the dealings with the Council planning department; as the planning drawings developed into Oakwrights’ models and details for Building Regulations, so a few tweaks and changes needed to be made. Fine tuning the position and scale of roof-lights and windows, and making sure the garage and garden outbuilding design were just right meant a couple of trips back to planning to gain approval for ‘Non-material Amendments’. Patience and attention to detail pays off. Long after the official paperwork has been put away for safe-keeping, the homeliness of the interiors and the sophisticated but understated look of the exteriors, are a true reflection of Richard and Pam’s skill and persistence. Positively overcoming everything that was thrown in their way, they have created a beautiful oak-framed home that will be a lasting legacy.