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.
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!
Architect: Richard Andrews Architects, project overseen by Associate Lewis Shaw
Works Undertaken: Feasibility and planning, detailed design and tender plus contract and project overseeing.
Client: Private Domestic Client
Cost of Work: £100,000+
Contactors: TLC Building Services
To create a contemporary single story rear extension, with enough room to accommodate a kitchen, dining space and family area. Also to add a side extension to make room for an office and library space.
Unique Design Features – Once finished the exterior to the property showcases a beautiful white render contrasted against timber cladding. A wrap around window on the corner of the office side extension enhance natural light. Crittall style doors frame the view from kitchen to garden and allow a smooth transition from inside to out and the addition of skylights and high placed windows spanning the width of the extension bring a bright and airy family space.
Our clients contracted TLC Building Services to complete the work with ourselves overseeing the contract administration and project management.
There is still a tiny bit more work to do before the propery is complete (namely applying the crisp white exterior.) However already we can see what an improvement the new living space has made for our clients. If you're thinking of embarking on a similar project, we'd love to get involved. Contact the team on 01633 744144 or email email@example.com.
Our clients approached us looking to create a sympathetic double storey extension to their cottage home. Having already being in possession of a design they were happy with, we were instructed to oversee the project works. We implemented the RIBA domestic works contract between our clients and their chosen contractor, Fern Bay Properties, ensuring over five seperate site visits that all work was being completed safely and adhered to both building regulations and the client's original plans.
We regularly undertake a range of commissions varying in scale and complexity. We can take on 'Full Service Appointments' which run from conception to completion and we are also happy to assist clients in any isolated project stages. If you would like to talk to us regarding your own scheme, please contact the team today to book 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>>>
Last month our company reached it's five year business milestone – what an achievment! To celebrate we held a little party at Depot in Cardiff, inviting friends, colleagues in the industry and a few clients who supported us in the earlier days, we've posted some photographs of the event below! We also put together a little video to look back on over the past five years, which we'll share very soon. We've got some excitng events in store for Richard Andrews Architects over the next year or so, with some incredible schemes to be working on. We cannot wait to share these with you in due course and we look forward to seeing where the next five years will take us!
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.