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 email@example.com to arrange a free consultation.
We’ve blogged before about the many hats worn by an architect and spoken about how the role is much more varied than just drawing a few plans, so with that in mind we decided to record a ‘day in the life’ of Richard Andrews Architect’s Associate, Lewis, to help give a real understanding of what a typical day for an architectural professional looks like.
6.30am – The day starts early, I set a 5am alarm so that I can get to a 6.30am business networking event in Cardiff. The group is high energy, though I get a chance to talk to all the attendees and explain a little about the services we offer and the projects we’re currently working on, I then set follow up meetings with potential clients and business contacts over the next couple of weeks.
8am – Back at the office, I like to check through my inbox and respond to emails from the night before, plus double check my calendar and to –do list for the day ahead. The first job of the day is to explore a technical issue on an existing scheme – where we are converting an old surgery building into flats. The build is currently at stage 3 (contract and project overseeing of our design process) and I need to find a way to waterproof the floor between two buildings at different levels.
8.45 - The next task on my list is working on the detail specifications for a £1million pound plus meeting facility scheme. I read through the construction design installation and chase roofing contractors for further information.
9.15 - I check in with the rest of the technical team and sit with my colleague Seb to look over feasibility designs for a two storey house extension, satisfied the project is going to plan I then follow up with another of our architectural assistants Antonella who is working on value engineering a separate house extension project.
10.30 – I have a telephone meeting booked with our quantity surveyor to work on the final account for Cwmbran Village Surgery’s building works which totalled around £450k. We also discuss tender proposals regarding a second GP surgery project in Pontprennau, Cardiff. I will later relay our discussions back to the client so that they can make the most informed choice regarding the construction tender bids for their project.
11.45 – Time to grab a quick lunch at a cafe in Caerleon with practice director Richard, smoked salmon baguette, a slice of lemon cake and a chance to catch up!
12.30 - I start the afternoon by responding to some of the emails and telephone messages that have come in throughout the day, then I turn my attention to some drawing work using our 3D modelling software Revit. A few of my newer colleagues are also learning the software so I use this as an opportunity to help them improve their skills.
1.45 – 3D drawing completed, I finish costing and writing up a client fee proposal for a potential residential extension I had visited the previous day. The client had some great ideas for their home and having seen the space I have many thoughts on how we can improve their initial concept to further maximise the use of light and space and improve their quality of life.
2.10 - Email to the client sent, fingers crossed we get the commission. I check my to-do list, and start work on a pen and paper sketch for a 16 unit new house layout in the valleys, this is an enjoyable way to get some ideas down early in a project.
3.00 – Time for a Site visit for a local householder project in Newport regarding planning enforcement. The quality of works carried out by the appointed construction team is good and to our original design specification, I update our client and the rest of the team.
4.00 – I quickly pop back into the office to respond to some more emails emails and telephone messages before heading back out to a ‘snagging’ appointment for a new build house in Newport.
5.30pm - The meeting goes well, all parties are happy with only some minor items to rectify, so for me; it’s time to head home to rugby training this evening!
We hope you enjoyed reading this post and gained a better insight into what our team does on a daily basis. Feel free to contact us regarding your scheme – we'd love to help!
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!
Following the last post in our ‘Design in winter / build in summer’ campaign, we’re back with the second instalment. Showcasing one of our favourite residential extensions from the past year as a case study, we talk you through our three stages of work with step by step images from the initial design stage right through to completion.
THE BRIEF: To create a new single story extension to the rear of the existing property for family room / kitchen space.
Stage one – Planning & Designing
Our client wanted to create an airy and light cooking/ entertaining space that would maximise their views over the surrounding countryside. Following collaborative design meetings, we came up with a scheme that encompassed a large kitchen extension. We allowed room for an island to act as a casual seating area and to provide further food preparation space – with a more formal dining area to the side. Opposite, we proposed a large orangery with an oversized roof light over a bright, relaxed, open plan entertaining area.
Stage Two – Detailed Design and Tender
Whilst Stage one is all about feasibility, planning and design – where we work with our client to produce a number of design options for their project and supporting them through any planning applications, stage 2 is where we apply our detailed understanding of construction and regulations to the drawings, to provide a comprehensive package for builders to work from that meets all the requirements set out in building regulations.
For this project we administered a tender package to several building contractors to get the best price and quality for the build works. In this instance our client chose to work with Tim and his team at TLC Building Services.
Stage Three – Contract and Project Overseeing
With TLC Building services now on board, we administered a contract between them and our client. This contract was based on our detailed drawings, our understanding of construction laws and contract negotiation. We oversaw all the building works onsite to ensure the work was delivered in line with our drawings, regulations and was the standard allowed for in the original tender.
Progression of work…
The building contractors began to dig the foundations for the new extension to which the drainage, pipework and any other services needed to be laid. All work required signing off from a buildings control inspector, following which the concrete footing needed to be poured into place and again approved by building control.
Next, the builders turned their attention to damp-proofing. This can be achieved in several ways, such as through a damp-proof course, damp-proof membranes or integral damp proofing. Following this step is an exciting stage where we see the framework of the new build coming to life. Below we can see the creation of the block and brickwork, with wall ties fixing the walls together. The contractor was busy making sure that the cavity walls were insulated and that the lintels for doors and window spaces were fitted correctly. Following which the builder began to assemble the internal walls and lay a floor screed.
At this point the contractor constructed the roof structure and completed the rafters which were fitted with membrane and covered with our client's choice of material – roofing tiles. The contractor also started work on fascia’s, guttering, drainpipes and soffits.
The next step was to add the doors and windows into the framework, complete the internal plumbing and electrics. It was at this stage where stud walls were erected and internal insulation fitted before plastering. Following this stage, the new kitchen and flooring was also completed. Our client chose to render the exterior of the property to match beautifully with the original part of the house.
With building work completed our clients received a final certificate of approval from the building control officer. After which all that was left to do was relax and enjoy their new space!
What our client thought about the process;
‘I found RA Architects through a Google search and took a chance as the business was pretty new. I was immediatel
y impressed by Richard's profession alism and his ideas. He listened to how we wanted to use our extension and came back with a number of options to talk through.
Once we had agreed a design and a cost Richard and Lewis took away all the pain – they drew up the planning application produced the tender documents and sourced a number of contractors for us to meet and submit a tender. It was reassuring to know that the people tendering were approved by Richard and had all the necessary insurances and track record in place. We decided upon TLC Building Services in Cardiff and we couldn’t have been happier. Tim and his team were the perfect fit for us and we would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone. They worked tirelessly to build an extension we love and did so in good humor- they were a joy to have around. Richard and Lewis visited at regular intervals to inspect the project, again taking away any stress.
Throughout the process RA Architects exceeded our expectations and I will use them again for any future projects I undertake.’
We genuinely love this type of work as to make someone’s quality of life better, truly is the passion behind our practice. If you have a similar scheme in mind please do not hesitate to contact us on 01633 744144 to book a free 1 hour consultation.
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.