Ask The Architect – On Tour 2013

Free studio Friday is coming to Shrewsbury this Friday afternoon, marking the start of the live clinics for 2013.

At this time of year a lot of people make plans for house extensions, home improvements or building projects and the free clinics are there to help.

Visitors can talk about any subject no matter how big all small, from design theory to planning applications, sustainability and construction.

The sessions are around 20 to 30 minutes and need to be booked in advance, by contacting Rachel Donaghey on 01952 224047 or email

For more information please go to the Ask The Architect page on this blog, where the service is explained in more detail and you can find links to facebook and twitter.


What sort of work is covered by Building regulations?

Building regulations often gets overshadowed by planning approval and as result a lot of people are not fully aware of the requirements and their duties when it comes to building projects.

The responsibility of complying with the regulations usually lies with the person carrying out the work.  But as a building owner its worth bearing in mind that you may be served with the enforcement notice for anything that doesn’t come up to scratch.

In general the type of projects that require approval are new buildings, extensions, alterations, some changes of use and replacement services or fittings like bathrooms, hot water tanks, drains, windows or heating systems.

The scope of building regulations is very wide reaching and it’s often the small jobs that are less well understood.

The projects need to comply with the appropriate technical requirements detailed in the building regulations and they must not make other building elements less compliant as a result.

When changing the use of a building it might not comply with the regulations that apply to its new use, so parts of the building will need to be amended to meet building regulations.

Before starting work you can check what is covered in Regulation 3 of the building regulations, or if you are in any doubt just ask the architect.

Spam on Linked In – Social media, not soap box media

I’ve recently started to increase my use of LinkedIn and for once I’m actively reading and following the discussions in groups that I am a member of.

In general I think it’s going well and I am enjoying the experience, I think it’s a bit early to tell what the affect might be from a networking point of view but I am learning, sharing and helping.

With some groups I found myself wading through a lot of broadcasting posts and struggling to find a lot of discussions.  This got me wondering why there was a lack of discussions and a surplus of self promotion, spam or posts of questionable content, call it what you like, not to mention the number of posts in the wrong sections, like jobs and promotions.

Apart from the annoyance of scrolling past the posts I wasn’t interested in I also wondered why people took the time to broadcast and waste time posting in the wrong place.  How can this be effective?

It obviously got other people thinking too, because I found Duncan Baker posting about Spam On LinkedIn, in the Shropshire Business group, so I decided to post my own question in an Architecture and Interiors group, about the lack of real discussions on LinkedIn.

I felt that the potential for some groups was being missed as they present a great opportunity for people to share information, learn, network and generally benefit from diverse and active discussions.

I was pleased with the responses on Twitter and LinkedIn to my question, which ended up talking about shop or supplier’s drawings on building projects, as well as the discussions that resulted from Duncan’s post, which moved more towards how to choose topics for social media discussions and blog posts.

For people like me who are relatively new to LinkedIn groups, the Shropshire Group gave us some good tips on how to deal with inappropriate posts, by using the flag button, which a lot of people seem to do, messaging the group moderator and generally managing your group feeds.

On reflection I was encouraged by the number of people experiencing and dealing with the same issues and it just shows how important it is to connect with the right people for you and your business.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Feel free to join in and add to the discussions.

Free Architect consultations – Shrewsbury May 18th

If you are thinking about a building project, want some help with planning, design or construction we are running another afternoon of free architecture clinics in Shrewsbury on 18th of May.

It’s a great opportunity for home and business owners to discuss any issues they might have relating to design construction and property.

Bookings for 20-30 minute sessions can be made directly with Rachel Donaghey on 01952 224047 or email

I have posted recent questions from the live sessions on this blog and for Hub Magazine and created an event for Ask The Architect on Tour on Facebook

Live design surgeries – March

I will be holding free Ask The Architect clinics at the Shrewsbury offices of Lanyon Bowdler in the afternoon of Friday 9th March.  Anyone can make a booking to discuss anything from small domestic projects to large commercial works.

More details and how to book here: Ask the Architect Clinic Offers Free Advice

These clinics are in addition to the usual twitter & email service held every Friday afternoon.

Farms, houses & barns

We had another round of live Ask The Architect sessions last Friday, a selection of which is  below.

One of the first visits was from Mr & Mrs S, I shall call them the Smiths, who live on and run a small farm east of Shrewsbury.  They want to build a new house on their land so they can downsize, for their retirement years and sell their current house.

I have seen an increase in people wanting to downsize in this way and in this case the main decision is where to put the new house as the farm presents more than one option for development.  The Smiths have tried to talk to the council about the proposal, only to be frustrated to learn about the charges for pre application enquiries and other new initiatives like CIL & affordable housing contributions.

The Smiths have a number of options to consider in addition to building a home to move into:

They could sell off some land with planning permission to build a house, but this wont make them as much money as selling their own home and it still leaves them with the ongoing maintenance and living costs associated with a large house.

Another option would be to build two or more properties, giving them one to live in and others to sell or rent.  This increases the expenditure but also provides an income for the future.

The next stage in this project is to look at the planning issues, to see what the development options might be and how likely they are to get planning approval.  As the land is mainly used for farming, any development for an open market house might be limited, depending on change of use or location for example.

When the Smiths know more about their chances of getting planning approval, they will be better placed to make a choice between making a pre application enquiry or a full planning application.

The Smiths were kind enough to give the following feedback ‘very helpful, we now know what route to take and how to get started with our project’

In a later session I had a visit from another farmer and his wife, who I shall call the Matthews and they are looking at the possibility of developing some barns, which is something else I have been asked about a lot recently.

The barns in question are both brick-built and appear to be very close to their original design, as there is no evidence of recent additions or new openings to the buildings which is sometimes the case on a working farm.

The location of the barns will have a bearing on the type of development that is most suitable and what might gain planning approval.  For example, the barn might be near or part of a village, which would help make a good case for use as a house or houses.

The local council look favorably on conversions for use by rural businesses, rural workers dwellings, affordable homes and even holiday lets and in some cases it is likely that they will require evidence that the development being proposed will be sustainable and supported by the local economy.

In this instance the two barns are at right angles to each other which presents an opportunity for an extension to be added where the barns almost come together.  Whilst the council might consider an extension, it may prove difficult to get one approved and it will need to be designed and presented well to give it the best chance of success.

Projects like both of these examples would benefit from preliminary discussions with the planners, it would give the client an early indication of the chances of getting approval, what could be developed and what sort of work would be involved.

To progress this project would require a similar process to the one above, assessing the development options in more detail to give the client some idea of what might be possible, which will help them to make a decision on how to take the project forward.

Balconies & Buildings

This years first live sessions of Ask The Architect were held in Shrewsbury last Friday and we had some interesting discussions, showing the range of work in architecture and the complexities involved in apparently simple projects.


One of the first visitors, Ms K C from Shrewsbury, wanted to know what was involved in making a planning application for a balcony on an existing house. The house in question is in Shrewsbury and its living rooms are on the first floor to provide expansive views over the river.

The route to making a planning submission was explained: Draw a balcony following client’s instructions and approval, check structural requirements with engineer and prepare and submit forms and information to the planning department, sit back and wait for a decision.

The options for construction were reviewed and the position of the balcony suggests that it should be cantilevered off the house, to avoid any party wall issues with structures on or near the boundary, disruption of the existing boundary wall and also avoid the current access around the house being restricted.

The house is located next to a vacant plot (owner unknown)  that is part of an ongoing planning application for two large ‘luxury eco homes’ and the balcony position faces the vacant site, with the house being approximately a meter from the adjoining boundary.

This is where the assessment of the proposal becomes more complex and involves a full knowledge of the proposals for each site.  The question that Ms K C faces now is whether the work and time involved in making a planning application is worth it?  Surely there is only one way to find out.


Later on in the afternoon, I was talking to Mr H K about his plans to make a planning application for a new house at the end of his garden so he could then sell the land with planning permission.

Mr H K wanted to know where to begin and what was involved, as he had been planning this development for sometime and was now ready to make a start.

It was suggested that one of the first things to do was get a good understanding of what would sell well on the plot, perhaps by discussing the details with an estate agent, the type of house, its size, and who would be buying it for example.

In addition to what would sell, we needed to look at what would get planning permission, and without making a full planning application the alternatives are limited.  The site is within a conservation area, so applying for outline planning permission was not an option and planning departments now charge for pre application enquiries and in this case the fee is almost as much as a full application.

Obviously, both of the above will have a bearing on the design of the house, which would be the next step towards making a planning application.  During the design process more detailed information from planning policy and requirements for planning applications would be considered to inform the design.

Testimonial Mr H K: ‘Very pleased that you are offering a free consultation service in a convenient location.  Thank you for the good advice and helpful comments.’