Listed building? Tick. Conservation area? Tick. Green Belt? Tick. Protected trees? Tick.
Our clients had bought a lovely home for their young family but were just starting to realise how complicated adding much-needed space was going to be. They hired an architect and went for a pre-application meeting with the council, only to find that what they thought was a perfectly normal extension was considered too big and too modern in the context.
The council explained that both the fact that it was a listed building and that it was in the Green Belt were reasons why any extension to the house needed to be very carefully designed as well as backed up by a strong argument - while the firm they had been working with had provided no written explanation of how the design worked with the listed house.
So our clients went looking for a new firm, one that knew about listed buildings and the Green Belt, and that combined architectural and planning expertise. They found us. We listened to what they wanted from the house - including the fact that as a tall family, the height of some of the rooms was a bit of a problem - and then we talked about what they could - and just as importantly - couldn’t do. Because it’s crucial that everyone sets off with realistic expectations, especially when there are so many planning restrictions to think about.
We’d love to tell you that this kind of project can be quick and simple, but that would simply be untrue. For a start, a lot of people are involved - the tree and heritage consultants both had major parts to play, first establishing the current situation before we could even start design work, and then giving crucial information at important moments along the way.
This was also, though, a proper collaboration with the council. We went for another pre-app - this time submitting a design and access statement, a historical research document and a tree report as well as our designs. This became a negotiation with the heritage officers, during which we worked out how to keep as much of the original back wall as possible while adding two new rear extensions.
One of the extensions is a light-filled family room, with as close as you can get to a glass wall within a traditional design plus a large skylight. The other is two storeys, with a dining room on the ground floor and a new bedroom above it. Getting permission for a double-storey extension to a listed building is no simple task, and involved a slightly unusual arrangement to keep the original roof intact.
In fact, overall a fascinating compromise was reached: the new extensions are substantial and will be built in the same solid, traditional materials as the existing house, but if one day they are demolished, the original structure will be left almost intact.
This was a long and complicated project, but in the end, despite the listing, the Green Belt, the conservation area and the protected trees, we were able to deliver the changes needed to create the perfect family home that our clients had hoped for. A satisfying result all around.
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