In my third blog on the subject of barn conversions, I want to take a quick look at some more of the salient points you will need to consider when kicking off your project.
This is where you first see your dream on paper and it can be quite emotional!! Do some homework and try to find a really good architect as they are honestly worth their weight in gold! Our architect sent over three drafts before we agreed on melding two of them together to get what we wanted - oh, and be prepared to compromise! You can't always get exactly what you want. We decided that we wanted to oversee the build ourselves using our own contractors and the architect can produce the building regulations they will work from. How in depth you want them to go with this will inevitable have a direct bearing on cost. Having found a good, competent builder, he was able to work from the drawings provided.
Such a key point but also so easy to overlook that I nearly forgot to include this! You cannot get electric/water etc. without an address. After quite some time spent searching for how to do this (and I mean ages!!), I decided to speak to my guru (Frank Whittaker take a bow yeat again) and it was sorted in 5 minutes! You will need to speak to ‘Street Name and Numbering’ at the local council and they will set the wheels in motion for you – a tiny bit of paperwork and a fee later - all done! In my case, welcome to the world of addresses ‘White Willow Barn’!
If you have not had any experience of barn conversion or new build projects before, maybe the words "building" and "control" used together wouldn't worry you too much. Having worked in the residential and commercial property sector for many years, unfortunately I had heard all sorts of horror stories about building control and was worried about what a first had experience of them would be like. The answer is - if you’re doing it right, have no fear. In fact the Building Control Officers at Bolton Council were very helpful and extremely approachable. They will come out to site during various stages of the build – remember, each statutory visit will cost!
The stages are via Bolton Council Building Control:
Bolton Building Control will require notice to undertake the following inspections:
At the beginning of the work on site, including any site stripping and/or foundations excavations/preparation.
Following the installation of any foundation concrete, damp proof courses/membranes and prior to any conditions beneath the site being covered over by concrete.
Following the installation of, or alterations to, any structural elements and prior to covering up structural work (pre-plaster check).
Before the back-filling of any drainage installation, and the witnessing of any drains tests.
Prior to occupation or at the time of completion.
Additional inspections considered to be of critical importance by the Building Control Officer following a risk assessment will also be carried out. These additional inspections are based on the following:
Structural elements and components, the failure of which would be significant.
All works which constitute unusual designs or methods of working.
Work relating to fire safety.
Additional areas of work necessary for the subsequent issue of a completion certificate.
Yet again I enlisted the help of Frank Whittaker to assist with the submission of the building regs and our architect also got involved. With a few minor amendments and after a period of approximately six weeks, I had full building regs. Phew!
I think it's fair to say I found a gem here! Nigel Toole from Foxx Structural Engineers checked out the structure of the building for us. It would have been heartbreaking if he had said it’s a no go but obviously better the heartbreak at this stage than further down the line when significant costs had been incurred. Fortunately, all was fine - subject to a hefty amount of steel beams being installed!
Okay, so now you have a planning permission decision notice in your favour...brilliant! Now what?
Twenty or so conditions to which you have to adhere.
We found that the easiest way to do this is to make three columns "PRIOR TO COMMENCEMENT", "PRIOR TO OCCUPATION OF THE PROPERTY" and "PERMANENT CONDITIONS".
List each condition under the relevant heading and start by working through those under prior to commencement. These are usually material samples/specification etc./bat surveys! Just work your way though methodically and speak to planning if needed - they are really helpful. Each condition will need discharging and remember, it's better to get as many discharges as possible on one application – one fee! You will receive a notice when the condition is discharged – it is very important that these are done (and the paperwork stored securely) in case you want to sell in the future.
In case I missed anything!
Even though we are doing the project ourselves, there are so many steps to go through that there is a good chance I may have missed out some relevant information that you may need. This goes back to one of my earlier points - if you employ the assistance of a good builder and architect they will ensure you do not miss anything.
I'm really looking forward to my next blog as we will have kicked off the build and have some different pictures for you of what's been going on. If you are considering a conversion project yourself, please remember that I'm more than happy to have a chat with you about my experiences. I'm not always going to be able to help as each project will have its own challenges and quirks but sometimes, a problem shared.......