Call me old-fashioned – or an escapee lawyer – but in my world time limits matter. You say you are going to do something by a certain date and you either do it or you agree a new date. What you don’t do is either just keep your head under the pillow hoping no one will notice the dawn of another day and the passing of the time limit or just decide yourself to push back the date. Or is it only people with a bit of power who can do that?
If the planing rules were that the applicant had to get something filed by a certain date or the application would be deemed refused and they didn’t do it, that would be it. No amount of crying, shouting or begging would change the situation. And you certainly would not be able to just send an email saying that you were going on holiday and would not meet the deadline but would get to it when you got back. You can see where this is going.
So having thought that the deadline for deciding our planning application was the 24th October I spent all day waiting to hear. Nothing. Nothing from the planners – ok I get that I didn’t actually think she would call and confirm her decision, nothing from the architects who are liaising with the planners on this and nothing on the planning website. Ditto the next day. So I emailed the architects who came back later in the day saying that they had, the day before received an email saying that she did not get round to it before going on holiday and would finalise her report on her return. Return to beginning of this post for a repeat of my rant!
Two things wrong with this – well three – firstly a deadline is a deadline and technically I could deem this a refusal and appeal immediately – costly, aggressive tactic not really the thing to do at this stage. Secondly she should have got our agreement to the extension which of course we would have given but at least we would have felt relevant and thirdly when the architect received the email maybe letting us know would have been a good thing. It would have saved me having the planning authority’s website on speed search looking for a change in our planning status from ‘ pending consideration’ to, hopefully ‘application granted’.
What to do to fill the void left by the non-decision, and keep myself warm in my ‘there is no central heating’ house while we wait. Well firstly I had to contact everyone who I had been speaking to about starting the work and tell them that the deadline was not the deadline. I then had to keep myself busy – idle hands and all that.
Ever since our chat with the lovely Charlie Luxton and subsequent conversations at the Grand Designs Show we have been a bit all over the shop with the look of the house. We like the layout – we really think – well I really think that it’s the best that we can come up with without spending more money or getting to the stage of knocking down the house. But how to dress the outside of the house is driving me insane. Trying to visualise it – and hubby is useless at that. All he can see is what is here already and not how it might look when altered – and he actually likes the strangeness of the outside of the house – the ski-chalet in Essex look which is very fashionable right now.
So we have been experimenting with the excitement of design tools! Firstly we have used paper, pens, tracing paper and overlays. All very state of the art! But actually very useful.
Emboldened with these new skills we moved on to the computer. We tried an online design program which was helpful in getting the layout sorted. But very frustrating in that all the add ons – furniture etc seemed to be in french. Also it didn’t really give us the look of the outside of the house. I then discovered Sketch-up, a much-lauded design program which evidently was intuitive. As soon as I saw that word it was over to hubby as I am not intuitive at all – especially as I think that means that a 6-year-old could get a grasp of the program within 3 minutes and anyone over 40 (ok 50) need not apply. To his credit my husband spent hours playing with the program – well at least I think that is what he was doing in the study – and he did manage to get a pretty accurate diagram of the house in 3D and manage to manipulate it from different angles. What he could not do was figure out how to get different style windows into it, different cladding/render/brick combinations. He also could not get a sense of the new design sitting within the space of the existing house.
Cue Blue Peter skills – that reference probably escapes anyone under 30 – although I understand Blue Peter is actually currently on CBBC although allegedly ( funny how people say that when they want to make a statement which they don’t really know is completely accurate) a recent episode got no viewers – but Blue Peter was great for teaching children how to make things with a Fairy liquid bottle, sticky backed plastic and some string. Having grown up with those skills surely I could make a scale model of the house. And that is exactly what I have done. Huge amounts of fun, lots of sticking and pasting, use of a protractor and a bit of swearing but the results are a pretty accurate representation of the house. Even better I managed to print out the elevation drawings to the same scale and stick them onto the model thus getting a 3D impression of the finished house. I then copied the outline of the elevations and drew in different shaped windows, different finishes – it was genuinely really helpful and I recommend it to anyone thinking of renovating or building. Plus you feel so clever when the model actually resembles the drawings! I found the best thing to do once I had stuck on the elevation drawings in their various guises was to take photos then I could compare them easily.
Having seen the model we are happy with the outside of it, the actual shape especially with the flat-roof over the lounge extension and the covered seating area – thanks Charlie for the push and my friend Caroline for suggesting that a covered seating area would be an asset. It is also confirming our view that the style of the house has to be reigned in a bit from disneyesque colonial to a country house with a leaning towards Colonial/New England to tie in with the barn. So simpler windows, less fiddly bits – I’m even leaning towards a metal roof on some aspects – although I am not sure what the planning officer will think of that if she ever comes back to us!