It’s easy to feel that when you get planning permission, it’s job done. But that approval will come with conditions, and sometimes a lot of conditions. That was the situation with this project - the clients had used another firm to get planning permission to add a pair of buildings to a Victorian terrace using an empty side garden plot. They would look identical from the street, but one of them was designed as a house and the other as a pair of flats.
The council was happy with the concept of new build houses on a side garden but wanted to make sure that everything that happened next was done correctly. So it imposed 19 conditions, many of which would need new surveys and expert advice. Sometimes councils insist on this information before they give planning permission, other times they are willing to OK a scheme but then give the applicant a lot of work to do before they can start building.
The client was looking for a firm with the capability to do the technical design - which is much more detailed than what’s needed for planning permission - and steer the project through building regulations approval. And, crucially, be able to brief and coordinate the many consultants that would provide the specialist reports to reassure the council. For this complex and patient task, they chose Urbanist Architecture
We came aboard what was already an interesting project. What had been designed resembled not a pair of original Victorian houses but rather two Victorian houses that had been heavily extended over the years. But before the new three homes could be built, there was a vast amount to be clarified, organised and designed.
Firstly, we needed confirmation that the land wasn’t contaminated. A sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS to people in the trade) had to be designed. Because the client was going to be building on a side garden, tree specialists had to make suggestions to ensure that the construction works wouldn’t harm the trees in neighbouring gardens. Energy experts came in to work out how to get CO2 emissions to be at least 35% lower than was asked for by the 2013 Building Regulations. That led to us adding solar (PV) panels to the scheme. Water usage, meanwhile, had to be designed to fewer than 105 litres a day per person.
We worked with landscape architects to specify the planting and handled the walls and the fences ourselves. There were also a couple of tricky things to help the owners settle: one was an arrangement with Network Rail, because the site backs onto tracks. The other was a Party Wall agreement with people whose house had previously been the end of the terrace - now they had to accept there would be new homes next door. (General point: if you are aiming to put a house or houses on a side garden, always try to get the neighbours onside as early as possible.)
That’s just a sample of the many tasks we work through and the main specialists whose contributions we had to keep track of and check before the council was satisfied and would allow building to begin. Local authorities, especially in London, are rightly demanding high standards, especially when it comes to the environmental aspects of construction projects. That means work that is time-consuming and detailed, something we are pleased to have shown again that we have the skills and the right approach for.
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