One of the skills we pride ourselves on at RA Architects is our ability to help clients overcome planning constraints to gain a successful application outcome.
Each project we work on has individual planning considerations, however we thought it may provide an interesting insight to blog about one of our more contentious applications and the process undertaken by our colleague Cai to help secure planning approval for our private client.
The Vale of Glamorgan (Vale of Glamorgan Council.)
The Project Brief:
A change of use scheme where our client was looking to convert two retail units (one of which had lain dormant for several years) into a single residential dwelling.
Why did the Council recommend refusal?
The Vale of Glamorgan have a well-meaning policy (LDP policy MG15 as detailed below) which protects commercial units in local retail centres being converted to flats; however conversion to a residential dwelling is still permissible if it can be proven that the retail unit is no longer commercially viable.
For our client to be allowed to convert the property they needed to provide clear evidence that the shop units weren’t commercially viable. Our client submitted proof that they had tried to market the property for sale as retail units for several years but were unsuccessful.
One of the planners felt that the evidence submitted by our clients was not sufficient and suggested that the property could be rented or that our client could consider changing the use to other retail, commercial or community type services. The council questioned why there was not a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property.
Our client responded that whilst every effort was made to market the building they did not agree to a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property due to the potential negative impact it may have for the business of the client’s wife who ran a cake company from the larger unit.
Once the case officer confirmed that the evidence submitted by our client was deemed insufficient and the planners were going to recommend a refusal our clients called the application to planning committee.
What happens at a Vale of Glamorgan planning committee meeting?
The planning authority present the application and their recommendations and the applicant or agent (in this case Cai,) speak in favour of the scheme. The councillors then vote whether they wish to uphold the planners recommendation.
In this example, Cai explained the submitted evidence and also emphasised that the retail units were situated on the periphery of the retail centre, and were not a prominent frontage in the retail centre. As neighbouring retail units included a newsagents, pharmacy and Tesco express, Cai suggested that the change of use scheme would not affect the day to day needs of the local community.
The Councillors of the planning committee however upheld the planner’s recommendation and refused the application.
What can be done after planning has been refused?
Cai discussed the project with his clients and together they decided to appeal the planning decision. The case was passed to an independent, senior appointed planning inspectorate who would make a final decision. Cai wrote an appeal statement comprehensively explaining why he believed the application met the policy criteria.
What did the planning inspectorate find?
The planning inspectorate concluded that there was no evidence to suggest the marketing of the property had been insufficient and accepted our clients’ reasoning for the lack of a physical ‘For Sale’ board. The inspector also dismissed the council’s idea that the property could be tenanted if not sold. Commenting that ‘prolonging the period of vacancy of [the] retail units with no certainty that a sale could be achieved, would have a negative impact on the vibrancy of the centre.’
Finally, in consideration of all points raised by The Vale of Glamorgan council, alongside the evidence submitted by ourselves and our client the inspector approved the application.
If you are undertaking a project and would like to receive some advice regarding planning permissions, please do get in touch. Call the office on 01633 744144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free consultation.
There are a number of ways a person may seek to find an architect – most commonly through word of mouth referrals, via search engine sites or by asking on social media for recommendations. If using the latter how do you know which firms are competent and reliable to do the work you need, in the way you imagined?
Our top tips for choosing an architect!
- The first necessary step is to check they are registered with the ARB. (Architects Registration Board). The ARB was set up by the government to keep an official register of all individuals and practices who are legally entitled and qualified to use the patented term ‘architect’. You can check the architects register here – http://architects-register.org.uk/
- Whilst not a necessity we strongly advise using a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Chartered Practice. (Click here to read why you should a choose a RIBA Chartered practice.)
- Thinking about your project do you need a specific skillset or service? For example, if you are working on change of use scheme it would be beneficial to choose a practice which can demonstrate experience within that sector. We recommend asking how many projects of that type the practice has worked upon, if there are any finished buildings you can visit or if they can supply a contact for testimonial.
- Put together a shortlist of architects to speak to in person about your plans. Most firms will offer a free consultation or initial discussion. This is a great opportunity for architects to demonstrate their creative ideas and general enthusiasm for your project.
- Ask the practice for their track record with approvals – try and suss out if they have a good relationship with local planners.
- The fee proposal – don’t necessarily go for the cheapest bid. Weigh up everything you have learnt about your potential architect so far. A good practice will always devote time to explaining their fee proposal and clarifying any points you may be unsure of.
Want to read more like this? Delve into our previous blog topics –
We would love to discuss your plans and ideas, contact the team today on 01633 744144 to arrange your free one hour consultation!
Following the Newport City Summit 2018 meeting that was recently held at The Celtic Manor Resort, our director Richard was interviewed by new South East Wales publication 'The Business' to discuss how we would approach the major changes soon to come to our city! Great magazine, highly worth a read!
CLICK TO VIEW>>>
We have explained in past posts, why working with an architect will save you money and we’ve also touched upon why you should choose a RIBA Chartered Practice, so we thought it may be useful to explain a few reasons why using an architect will minimise your build’s risk when working with a contractor.
We’ve all heard the horror stories and we’ve all seen ‘Cowboy Builders’. Choosing a contractor to carry out your building work can be a daunting task. How do you find a good builder – ask for recommendations on Facebook? Trawl through the yellow pages? Architects such as ourselves have a list of recommended contractors that have been proven to be reliable with an excellent standard of work.
Each project has a careful specification regarding the type and quality of materials to be used. We check that contractors who have tendered have adhered to our specifications and have provided an appropriate quote to reflect this. Through regular site visits we make sure that the materials and quality of work provided is at a standard reflected in the original tender and would be approved by building regulations. We also have a wealth of knowledge regarding product suppliers and can source the best products at the most competitive prices for our clients.
We ensure that every appointed contractor has the appropriate levels of insurance in place prior to starting work. Additionally we ourselves also have insurance in place, for example clients would be covered if in the rare instance an architect misspecified a building material. Architects also make sure that there is insurance to cover the replacement of contractors on site. This is a highly unusual event but would mean the client would not be out of pocket.
A common concern amongst our client is that the building costs will spiral from the original quote. A massive benefit of working with an architect is that we act as contract administrators for our clients and stipulate to our contractors that any additional costs/ changes must be sent to us in writing for us to inspect, advise upon and confirm with our clients. Builders cannot add on costs to items that have been specified and agreed upon in the original tender.
During the design and planning process of a build, architects take reasonable care and precaution to highlight any foreseeable hazards within the design of the building. Architects also undertake regular site visits, during which they can assess and ensure the safety of residents or visitors throughout the build.
It’s common to hear of builders, going off site for days and sometimes weeks at a time. To ensure this doesn’t happen to our clients, we work into the contract a timeline for the project. Occasionally unavoidable delays can happen, however an architect will work hard with the contractor to minimise delays and finish the project within the schedule originally quoted.
It is important to remember that architects do not gain any financial rewards or other benefits for completed buildings and can be trusted to remain an impartial ally throughout the build process. When you’re spending tens of thousands of pounds, if not more, why risk not using an architect!
If you have a project you'd like our help with, please do not hesitate to contact the office today!
As we are heading into winter it is the perfect time to start planning and designing your project ready for building work to commence in the spring and summer. We have complied a series of blog posts to equip and support you with as much information as possible through this process as part of our #designinwinterbuildinsppring campaign. Enjoy part one of our latest read, explaining why extensions are not as simple as you may think…
We are often approached by clients looking to maximise the space in their property through the addition of an extension. Whilst it may sound simple enough, there are many important considerations to be made when joining a new structure to an existing one and it isn’t always an easy process when each project is different with a unique set of challenges.
Architects need to determine how a potential extension might impact upon what is already existing at the property, even if it is not always immediately visible. Drainage is a prime example of this – architects need to check the position of drains, if they are private or shared, they will also look to see if there is a need to contact the water board for a build over sewer agreement.
There are other types of considerations to be made also. For example, will a potential extension be a concern for neighbouring buildings? Will the extension obscure the view for next door? Will the proposed window placements be a cause for complaint? If the extension is to be built astride a boundary wall then a party wall agreement will need to be in place.
Architects will also think about how the local planning office may respond if the proposed works extend beyond permitted rights development, they will also be checking if there are certain legal permissions that need to be adhered to. Whenever there is a modification to an existing building, then there is a need to apply for building regulations in order to obtain Building Control approval. This means submitting a set of drawings to the local authority and having on-site inspections by the Building Control Officer during the build.
Is the site within a conservation area or an area of ecological interest? If the development is within a conservation area then the planning application will need to be assessed by Conservation Officers as well as going through the usual local authority procedures, where a Design and Access statement explaining the designer's intended design ethos needs to be submitted also.
Are there physical concerns with the build? Will certain materials need to be used or avoided? How will the new structure attach to the old building in a way that will ensure it is watertight, insulated and sound proofed?
These are just a few examples in which an architect may need to examine, plan and research in detail prior to the fun part of actually designing your build. Your architect will be able to advise you of the individual concerns for your property at initial visits and solutions for how they will overcome these obstacles.
Once architects physically find a way to connect the new to the old, whilst designing a structure that both addresses potential challenges and at the same time satisfying the client’s design brief, they then need to be able to communicate all this information across to the contracted builders.
So as you can see there is a vast amount of work that goes in behind the scenes before a builder even steps foot on site. Our very own practice has great experience with extensions for both residential and commercial schemes and we currently offer a free 1 hour consultation to discuss new projects.
Part two of this post, will showcase a recently completed residential extension from the design brief right through to the completed home. It is a great opportunity to become familiarised with the stages of work involved, get an idea of how we looked to overcome the challenges for this particular scheme and see through a series of photographs how our client’s ideas are refined and brought to life. We also have a testimonial from our client explaining how she found the process of working with us. Packed full of top tips and advice it is not to be missed.
You can keep up to date of our latest news and blogs here and please feel free to contact the team on 01633 744144 to discuss your own project.
You're embarking on a new project and are about to meet your architect to discuss your ideas. But before you do, we advise taking time before your initial meeting to gather your thoughts about the project and help set a clear brief from which your architect can work.
"The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief, your ability to clearly describe for your architect the requirements and functions of your building, and proposed methods of operation and management." RIBA, (Royal Institute of British Architects)
There are a few questions listed below which you may wish to think about. The answers should be able to help form a good starting point for your architect to design from.
What do you wish to achieve with your project?
Are you looking for a commercial new build or an extension to an existing home, maybe you are embarking on a leisure or educational scheme? Whatever the project it is useful to sum up simply what it is you are setting out to do.
(If applicable) Think about your current building.
Take a moment to list what works, what you like about it and similarly what doesn’t work and what you wish to change.
Who will be using the building and why?
For a residential home you will need to take into consideration the residents (plus any pets). For a public building it is useful to have a think about who would be visiting the space and why. For example, a library may be used by both staff working at the building and different members of the general public for study or community activities.
How will the rooms in the buildings be used?
Keeping with the library as an example, we may find the building may require staff rooms, community areas, spaces for children to learn and play, plus study areas in both individual and communal settings. A home environment may have different needs, would your family prefer open plan living? Think about your storage needs, what will you need to store in each space?
What do you need to prioritise?
For example will your property need to be wheelchair friendly? Do you work from home and need a quiet space to concentrate? Communicate to your architect what your property must have. It is also helpful to note anything that your property needs to fit, for example, if you wish for your super king bed to sit comfortably in your newly built bedroom, you need to let your architect know at the start. Likewise if you are passionate about creating an ultra-sustainable build, now is the time to discuss ways to achieve it.
Do you have a timescale in which to complete the work?
Your architect can discuss this with your contractor when your project goes to tender.
What is your budget?
It’s always best to be transparent about how much you wish to spend, so that your architect can maximise the design accordingly.
TOP TIP – Get registered on Pinterest! Share and gather images with your architect to help refine your design style and easily communicate likes and dislikes!
We offer a free one hour consultation where we meet with you at your property to discuss your ideas. Now that we are heading into winter it is the perfect time to start designing and planning. Just think, by spring next year your build will be under way and by summer the end result could be better than you could have ever imagined!
If you saw our infographic ‘How to become an architect,’ then you will know it takes several years of intense study and practical experience to become a fully qualified architect who is registered with the Architects Registration Board. (ARB).
What many don’t realise is that architects become not only experts in the architectural field, but also need to train extensively and gain a vast body of knowledge in other disciplines also.
Effectively architects have to know about several other professions namely Structural Engineer, Quantity Surveyor and a Builder/Contractor. We also have to adhere to legal processes and be equipped with project running skills. Then comes buildability of the design versus creativity. Always a challenge but one we enjoy!"
Richard Andrews – Director, RA Architects
In a typical working week an architect will wear the hat of many professions, so as such we thought it would be interesting to highlight a few common examples;
Structural and Civil Engineer - As the design lead for a project, an architect needs to ensure that the structure of the building they have designed can withstand the stresses exerted on it through human and environmental factors. It is crucial that an architect be able to anticipate and solve potential structural problems during the design process.
Building Contractor – It is an architect’s responsibility to create a set of documents that can be relayed accurately to (and understood completely) by a building contractor. These documents not only convey the aesthetics of a build but also the detailed technical instructions on how to physically make it. Architects will continue to monitor the build process through site visits to ensure that the design brief is being met in full.
Quantity Surveyor – Cost consultancy plays a role as an architect needs to be able to accurately assess building costs and work collaboratively with a quantity surveyor to ensure the budget for the build stays on track.
Construction Design Manager (CDM)- Architects need to ensure that the correct health and safety regulation requirements within the design are being adhered to. With rules updated frequently this is an area to which an architect needs to keep on top of the newest best practice.
Ecologist- Surveys for trees, plants and protected species are a common occurrence and one which an architect needs to be well equipped to understand and advise upon.
Contract and Construction Law – Architects need a thorough and up to date understanding of both contract and construction law as it is utilised daily. Construction law incorporates topics such as building and planning regulations and an architect may use contract law when dealing with sub-contractors as it covers topics such as dispute resolution and avoidance, liability and insurance to name a few areas.
Researcher – You may have noticed in our own list of services we offer options to carry out research for our clients, with flood risk assessments being one example.
And finally, as the design lead on a project, an architect needs to act as both project manager and communicator bringing together all the different contractors; ensuring the correct products have been selected and installed properly all whilst making sure our client’s brief has been fulfilled. A lot of work, but as Richard said, always a challenge but one we enjoy!
We hope you have enjoyed this post, keep following us to be kept updated on future posts as we have lots of behind the scenes tips and inspiration lined up to show you! As always if you'd like some help or advice on a project feel free to get in touch on 01633 744144.
Continuing to answer our most frequently asked questions, today we are discussing 'Why Should I Choose a RIBA Chartered Practice?'
RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) is a professional body that enforces a strict criteria threshold for potential architectural practices to adhere to if they wish to be classed as a RIBA Chartered Practice.
By working with a RIBA Chartered Practice, clients can expect to receive a quality service that meets a recognised set of standards. Clients will also find peace of mind that the RIBA will only endorse and support practices who can demonstrate effective business performance with a commitment to excellence.
RIBA state that all practices must;
- employ a required number of individual RIBA Chartered Architects
- have appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance
- have an effective Quality Management system
- have comprehensive Health and Safety and Environmental policies in place
- are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with a Code of Practice in a manor appropriate to their status. View the full Code of Practice.
They are committed to excellence in design and customer service. That's why the RIBA only promotes accredited Chartered Practices to clients.’
How do I find out if my architect is a genuine RIBA Chartered Practice?
RIBA keeps a directory of all current members (including Richard Andrews Architects) on its website which you can visit at www.architecture.com
There are a few questions that architect practices get asked on a regular basis. So to help our clients become better informed we’ve decided to talk about our most frequently asked questions, starting with the most common; ‘Will my build need planning permission?’
Every project undertaken by ourselves is assessed on an individual basis as to whether or not planning permission is required and it is something we can advise further in our initial consultation, but here’s some information to help gauge whether your project is likely to require planning or not.
What is planning permission and when might you need it?
In simple terms, planning permission is a request (usually to your local planning office) to carry out a specific type of building work. It ideally needs to be granted before any work begins. So whether you are thinking of adding an extension to an existing home, creating a build from scratch or maybe even looking to change the use of your building, you may require planning permission.
However you can also perform certain types of work without the need to apply for planning at all, as these fall under the category of ‘permitted development rights.’
Permitted development rights, derive from a general planning permission issued by the government and can be more restrictive in designated areas of the country – For example, if your project resided in a national park.
(It is important to stress that permitted development rights, differ between commercial, and residential properties. With differences between domestic homes such as houses and apartments again. So it is especially important to seek expert advice prior to starting a build).
Where to find out more?
With so many different factors it can be tricky to know where to start finding out the correct information for your build.
To investigate the particular planning constraints for your project we recommend the following;
Speak to your local planning department - The government have given the main responsibility of planning to local council authorities, if you have a specific question regarding your proposal your local planning dept. should be able to help answer it.
Look online – There are several reliable online resources you can turn to in order to find out more information regarding planning; most notably planningportal.co.uk. Here you can find comprehensive information (including several interactive guides) relating to the planning constraints of properties in Wales (as well as England).
You can also review documents on the Welsh Government’s planning policy by clicking the link below;
Chat with us – You can always utilise our team’s knowledge. As experts in our field and thoroughly up to date with local planning we will happily talk you through your proposal. Call us today on 01633 744144.