Category Archives: architecture

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.


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.’

Ask The Architect – The ridiculous and sublime

Last Friday was the second series of free design clinics in Shrewsbury, hosted by Lanyon Bowdler and I had some interesting questions and topics to consider.

Planning and Change of Use

The afternoon started with a semi retired couple, who I shall call Mr & Mrs Brown, who live on a small holding of about 6 acres with a large fishing lake set in attractive countryside.  They had recently completed the build of a boat house with workshop, that was originally given planing approval in the 80’s.  As you might imagine the late completion of an old approval gave rise to some complaints being made, resulting in a visit from an enforcement officer, which must have been a little worrying.

Fortunately the planning approval had been secured as work started very soon after the approval was given and the enforcement officer went away happy that all was as it should be.

At the time of the planning approval, the Browns owned the lake and land around it and the building of the boat house was put on hold, because the Browns bought an adjoining plot of land with a house on it and were busy moving in and getting on with other things.

Like a lot of people, the Browns have reached a stage in their life where they want to live in a smaller house that will suit them for now and the rest of their lives, I don’t think the word ‘downsize’ really manages to explain the details involved with this process.  Quite understandably, the Browns would like to sell their home, they even have someone who is keen to buy, and move into the boat house after giving it a bit more space and making it suitable.  This is where things start to get more difficult.

As luck would have it they had a visit from a planning officer, regarding the building of the boat house, who told them without prompting, that they wouldn’t get approval for a change of use.  I thought this was refreshingly direct for a planning officer, especially when the Browns have not made any applications to do so.

I think the help of a planning consultant is required so the Browns can get a full understanding of their situation.  Unfortunately they have already approached a consultant but did not get a very warm reception and as a result were less than impressed with their approach.  I suggested someone I know who I think would be very helpful in this case.

I think there are a few areas that might help in the case for a change of use.  The first comes down to proving a need for the boat house as a dwelling as the building lends itself to living in retirement years much more than their existing home.  The second possibility is to explore covenants on the building linked to the owners and use of the land.  Finally I would like to know more about the terms of the original application to see how it categories the boat house, is a boat house really that different to a garage?

Hopefully I shall hear more when a planning officer gets involved.

World Class Architecture

The most interesting session, from an architectural point of view, came later in the day.  Due to the nature of this session I shall have to keep some of the details to myself, but I want to share some aspects with you as this is a very interesting project.

I met someone who is planning a unique social enterprise based on a grand vision of community, education and awareness of a particular topic that we as a society do not know how to deal with, talk about and react to.

After our introductions I was given a brief and interesting background to my visitor and they went on to tell me why they were setting up a new venture and what they wanted from a building as part of the enterprise.  As part of this introduction the work of Daniel Libeskind was mentioned in detail, with particular reference to the Jewish Museum in Berlin and bookmarked pages of his book Breaking Ground.  It turned out that my visitor wanted to approach Libeskind and work with him on this project, this had been suggested to them recently by someone who knew Libeskind and thought it he would be interested in the project.

We started talking about the theory of architecture, how buildings can make you feel or think and the way that the decisions made during the design process all come from the concept and context of the project.

I found it very exciting to be discussing such an interesting project and approaching a brief by talking about emotive and subjective concepts.  The idea and theory behind this project and what the building should be like and how people respond to it, could be set as a project for a diploma course in architecture.

I hope to be able to tell you more about this project and I look forward to seeing it develop.

All in all a very enjoyable day helping people and I’m looking forward to more in the New Year.

Ask The Architect – Shrewsbury

Following the success of Ask The Architect in Shrewsbury last month, we are running another afternoon of free consultations on Friday the 2nd of December.

Once again the kind people at Lanyon Bowdler will be providing the venue for the day and bookings can be made directly with them or me. Please see the other posts on this website & you can always follow us on twitter.

Ask The Architect On Tour

Coming soon to an office near you & featuring life’s classic questions such as
“How much will it cost?”
“Will I get planning permission?”
“Does my Bosch look big in this kitchen?”

Ask The Architect On Tour – Live and unplugged, in full 3D and stereo

The kind people at Lanyon Bowdler have agreed to host a series of Ask The Architect sessions starting this Friday afternoon in their Shrewsbury office.

I will be holding a sreries of half hour sessions where anyone can ask me about architecture and design.  For example, you might be thinking about a building project or need help with design or construction.

So if you want to make a booking all you have to do is contact Sarah Jones at Lanyon Bowdler and I will see you on Friday.  If you want to know more about Ask The Architect please tweet me on @ShropsArchitect or get in touch using the mbf DESIGN page on this blog.

We will be tweeting on the day so you can ask questions on line and if you want you can follow our blogs about the live sessions.