Planning Consultancy

Every project we undertake requires decisions in relation to planning legislation. We have experience of a wide variety of applications from Full Planning Consent to Listed Building Consent, Certificates of Lawfulness to Change of Use. Where we can, we look to use allowances available under Permitted Development Regulations to avoid the need for a planning application.

We have a successful track record gaining planning approvals in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), in National Parks, for Listed Buildings and complex and heavily constrained sites. We have successfully gained planning approvals for many sites with extensive negative planning histories by our lateral thinking, leading to greatly increased land values.

As each client has specific needs and each site is totally unique, so each project requires analysis to establish its specific mix of constraints and opportunities. The breadth of current regulations means a multidisciplinary approach is required and we can help bring the right team of consultants to give up to date professional advice, in their relevant fields of expertise, and co-ordinate their outputs. 

Barn Conversions

The challenge…

Purchased with an existing approval and a short timescale before planning expired, our client wanted to entirely redesign to achieve a more contemporary and minimal design to suit their lifestyle. They also wanted to be as energy efficient / off-grid as was practical and include additional space for a control room for renewable energy system controls, storage and a utility, none of which were accommodated in the original permission.

Our approach…

We focussed on discharging the conditions, redesigned in parallel, with the goal of making a material start to secure the planning approval before it lapsed. The key would be to retain the character of the open fronted barn whilst making it a contemporary design, minimalist detailing, wheelchair accessible and achieve an A rating for energy efficiency, also approval for an additional link building which could house the extra utility room and wet room.

Our solution…

An A Energy Rating was given. The house was designed to incorporate underfloor heating, a ground source heat pump, mechanical ventilation heat recovery, solar photovoltaic panels and a rainwater harvesting system. A bat loft was integrated into the areas with flat ceilings but a vaulted ceiling on open trusses with large sliding glass walls in the living areas meant the open character of the barn was retained and extensive views out were achieved.

 

Urban Design

The challenge…

We were appointed to design a temporary staircase and ramp to get pedestrians and cyclists from the station into the town centre across the old railway goods yard. A 4m drop had to be accommodated, suitable visibility splays created for cyclists onto Canal Road, work with both the existing building (of local historic value) and unknown, future office buildings. Although not asked, we felt it should also be worthy of Taunton’s Garden Town status. Consideration needed to be given to people, place and planet.

Our approach…

As a lift was not in the brief, our first consideration was that the 84m of ramp required would not discriminate against wheelchairs users and those with pushchairs. We also wanted to create a place people would want to spend time in and not just a bland thoroughfare, somewhere that would also sustain wildlife. Another key consideration was designing for deconstruction, to facilitate being recycled at the end of life (an approach we first proposed in 1992). Finally, we wanted something that could last a long time if necessary.

Our solution…

The solution proposed would utilise all the concrete rubble that existed in huge piles on the old market site. Terraces formed from modular components, mechanically fixed would reduce carbon content and be easy to dismantle, remove and recycle at the end of life. Three Gabion modules, one ramp module and a modular staircase enabled everyone to be treated equally, share a south facing space to have lunch or listen to buskers. Elements of trees and planting would provide opportunities for wildlife and shade in the summer.

New Build

The challenge…

Our client had hoped to return to their childhood hamlet to build a traditional four bedroom Cotswold style home to retire to. This would also allow them to care for an ageing parent who still lived locally. However, they were told by the Local Planning Authority they could not build on the site they were to purchase as it was in the Open Countryside. The access was over tree roots on land not owned by the seller and the also client wanted a double garage with workshop and a home office over.

Our approach…

As style would not be the deciding factor to unlock the site, our strategy was to focus on the principal of a dwelling, safe access and the sustainability of the site – all issues raised by the planning officer for refusing any application. The bigger picture, rather than a single policy against new houses in open countryside, would be key to addressing any solution. Benefits arising from SuDS, Solar PV, electric car charging, a home office, etc. would reduce the carbon footprint of a development.

Our solution…

A case was made on the basis of the greater weight of material planning considerations for the house arising from National Planning Policy, County Council policies, the adopted and emerging Local Plans, the Parish Plan and relevant research statistics. After Outline Planning Approval was granted for Use and Access, we designed an A rated, energy efficient house that met Lifetime Homes Standards that gain Reserved Matters and Building Regulations Approval. Not only is our client delighted with their new home but so is the planning officer.

Community Housing

The challenge…

A Community Land Trust (CLT) was looking to maximise the potential of one of their underused existing urban spaces for a car free scheme, consisting of one bedroom flats at affordable rents. A heavily constrained urban site with neighbouring trees, listed buildings, land contamination, restricted access, acoustic issues and the need to retain open space for residents in the form of gardens and on site allotments.

Our approach…

Bringing together an archaeologist, an ecologist, a structural engineer and an acoustic engineer we were able to assess each of the technical issues and define the problem that we needed to design for. Despite being an urban site, we wanted to create multiple outdoors spaces to enjoy, as well as enhancing and encouraging wildlife. These outdoor spaces will support community activities and help maintain the wellbeing of residents.

Our solution…

The design screens out a factory and background noise, whilst retaining the historic ‘burgage plot’ form. An original air raid shelter is set at the end of an allotment area and three two-storey units create two distinct garden areas and a paved courtyard. A landscaping scheme with flowers and espalier fruit to attract insects and improve biodiversity. Rooftop solar PV panels reduce energy demands in use and a greenhouse for hydroponic plant cultivation sits on the roof of the rear building.

Self Build

The challenge…

Our client had purchased two barns with an existing Planning Consent for conversion, although with a limited time before expiry. The design and layout was felt to be dated and not maximising the buildings or the location. The site was also at the bottom of a hill and minimal drainage capacity.

Our approach…

Given the short timescale before expiry of the permission, all planning conditions were successfully discharged and material start was made to ensure the existing approval did not lapse. The work was to be phased with the smaller barn being implemented first to reduce the time needed living in a caravan.

Our solution…

A greatly improved design was presented to the Local Planning Authority and agreed without the need to submit a new planning application. Building Regulations approval followed with some construction details, which once completed, was given an A Energy rating. The big barn is now about to start construction.

Listed Buildings

We have experience of working with buildings listed Grade II and Grade II*  and are currently appointed to support a client with multiple applications on a site that contains Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II listed structures. As an owner of a listed building you become a custodian of a small part of the Nation’s heritage.

With listed buildings we start with a historic assessment to gain understanding of its history and the significance of what exists. This is used as a baseline to assess impact of any proposed works. Where works are agreed to go forwards, there will be a greater level of detail required to ensure the materials and method are compatible and appropriate.

Where new build extensions or freestanding buildings are sought within the curtilage of a listed building, any impact on the building and its setting needs to be carefully considered in relation to the specific context, as there are no hard and fast rules as to what may be approved. We seek to work closely from the outset with the local Conservation Officer and Historic England.

 

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

As Architects we help our clients take projects from early concepts to completion. This process starts by assisting in compiling client’s requirements, developing design options / site appraisals, before preparing planning and building regulations submissions. Then construction drawings & specifications are prepared for tendering before inspections and valuations during the build. Traditionally hand drawings and written specifications were used to describe the work but a major change is occurring with 3D Building Information Modelling.

BIM changes the workflow, with the potential to store information as the building is virtually built and decisions made. Where a team uses BIM, a more integrated team-working environment is supported. Our clients are able to take virtual building tours using the model. This means design changes can be made and visualised at each of the design stages. Being able to see the effect of changes means clients can make decisions with more confidence.

We are also able to run energy assessments for alternative designs using the built-in EcoDesigner tools; Virtual reality renderings are possible using the built-in Cinema 4D tool, which clients note helps to visualise room layouts or colour schemes. The free BIMx App, allows clients to view their 2D drawings and 3D model whilst on site. Self-builders in particular find benefits with drawings and specifications integrated into one 3D model when needing to brief suppliers or sub-contractors.