Monthly Archives: February 2012

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.’