Planning architect advice: a real-life example

Planning architect advice: a real-life example

In our blog Planning home improvements: what to expect when working with an architect we covered some of the questions you might expect when you begin planning a building project with an architect. So today we thought we’d show you how this might work in practice by way of a real-life example. 

Here’s what happened when we were appointed to design a house extension in Blackheath, London.

The initial meeting

David met John and Rachael to look at a house extension and alterations to a three storey Edwardian house close to Blackheath village and station. This was an early start – he met them at 7.30am so John could be involved in the meeting before going to work. 

It is important that we meet both members of any couple instructing us as often people can find they have differing views about key things even if they didn’t initially realise it.

Viewing the property

First, we looked around the property and discussed John and Rachael’s initial thoughts – what did they want from the project?  We looked at the house inside and out and John explained that he wanted to achieve more living space on the ground floor, a larger kitchen and to open up the space as much as possible. Ideally, he wanted to add another bedroom. 

We noted that the house had a small back yard wall on all sides and approximately 75% of the yard sloped 1.2m above the kitchen floor at the back of the property.

Discussing options

John mentioned that they had a large bathroom on the first floor, he wanted to discuss the possibility of moving this to the ground floor to create an extra bedroom. David noted that while this is possible it may not be a good plan for the only bathroom of a three-storey family house to be on the ground floor. Also, the bathroom would be very small, it would restrict the access to the rear garden and would seriously reduce the space available to the kitchen and living space on the ground floor. 

Addressing other concerns

John was able to use the meeting to ask any questions about things that had been worrying him:

“The house is in a conservation area. Can we extend it? “

John alerted us to the fact the house was in a conservation area. He was concerned that this might mean an extension was a no-go.   

David was able to explain that that’s not necessarily the case. You can extend buildings in conservation areas. The key thing is to respect the locality. The important feature is often the front elevation. All of the houses locally have retained their original features and together make a very important contribution to the Blackheath Conservation Area, but a modest single storey extension to the rear should be possible. 

“What about internal alterations?” 

The conservation area is concerned with external appearance so the fact that the building is in a conservation area will not restrict the making of internal alterations. 

However, if the building were listed there would be strict controls on alteration to the historic fabric of the building, so moving walls may not be permitted. 

“Will my neighbours be able to object?”

John was concerned about whether his neighbours could object to the development. David explained that the planners would consult with neighbours, so it is always better to discuss with them up front and keep them on board with your proposals. In fact, in this case the boundary wall was quite high making it possible to build an extension that did not protrude above the wall, hopefully lessening the impact on the neighbours. 

“Do I need the neighbour's permission to work on the boundary wall?”

David was able to explain that yes permission would be required because the party wall is jointly owned by John and his neighbour. Once detailed drawings were prepared, he would be able to approach his neighbour and try to obtain a written agreement. If this didn’t succeed it will be necessary to put a Party Wall Agreement in place. 

This is quite normal and something that Apex can assist with this. 

Discussing next steps

David explained that the next step would be for us at Apex to carry out a dimensional survey of the existing building and prepare plans and elevations. Using these drawings, we will prepare sketch proposals and then meet again to discuss them. 

Once John is happy with the scheme, we will prepare drawings in sufficient detail to make a Planning Application. 

Following the meeting David wrote to John with a fee proposal outlining our discussions, the project brief and describing our services through the process from design to construction.