Saturday, 26 September 2020

Update to permitted development rights to blocks of flats

As in a previous post I have stated that there are some changes to the planning laws and I thought I would go into a bit more detail. These are relatively new and everyone is trying to get their head around them, including planners. So forgive me if I don't manage to answer all of your questions!

Today I am going to discuss the changes to the permitted development rights to blocks of flats. These changes came into effect from the 1st August 2020 and only apply to purpose built blocks of flats that have been vacant for at least 6 months prior to the application. The extension must not change the footprint of the original building, so building upwards is the way to go. The extensions are to be for self contained flats to be built on top of the existing building and  the extension must not exceed more than 2 storeys. These rights will not apply to listed buildings or buildings that are in conservation areas and the existing building will need to have been built between 1st July 1948 and 5th March 2018. The extension itself can't be taller than 7m in height but with a combined height (from the extension and the original build) of no more than 30m. 

As you can imagine there will be certain criteria that you will have to meet and there are permissions that you will still need to gain. It would be best to speak with your local planning office to ensure that your project meets the criteria that is outlined in the new documentation and you will also need to get permission from  transport and highways. Considerations must be in place with regards to flooding, noise, appearance, design, amenities, traffic etc. So there is still a lot to think about and it isn't quite as simple as building on top of your current building; let's face it, it never is.  

The Government is trying to provide ways for us to extend what we have and make use of it. This should help to bring existing buildings back to life. It will provide more homes and opportunities for the public and jobs for developers, builders and planners. So on paper, it's a win, win situation. In reality, I will leave that for you to decide. 

The existing footprint of the building must not exceed more than 1,000 sq m and have a maximum height of 18 meters. There is a lot of material out there regarding these new rights, some which go more in depth than others. I found that this site was one of  the best for finding material and answering questions. Bear in mind though, these regulations are new and people are still, as I have said, trying to get their heads around them so give it time. These things are not easy to manage. Visit your local planning office and talk with your planning officer, get as much information as you need. Soon, these will be second nature but if you can take advantage of these new regulations now, then why not? I can only hope that the quality of builds is not compromised, I imagine that as you are  still required to maintain the same level of excellence there shouldn't be a problem. However, I am sure there will be some extensions that are not to everyone's taste and 2 storeys make quite a difference, especially if they are not to your liking. These are questions that no one can answer, not yet anyway.

These new rules will hopefully have a positive impact on both our construction industry and environment, with buildings that were once left to just watch from the sidelines breathing life again. How will these new rules affect you? Are you positively excited or quietly nervous? These changes, with the other developments, are some of the biggest we have seen in years. 


Thursday, 24 September 2020

Update to the use classes

From September 1st 2020 an update to the use classes came into play. I have briefly touched upon this in the outline blog but I hope to be able to give you a touch more information here. 

The broad outline here is that the ease for a potential change of use should be much simpler. To find out the changes to the use classes see this site. It has a very good table to determine your class.

I can see that these changes will provide our local high streets with a chance to potentially supply what is needed rather than what was permitted under the previous use class system. This alone should allow for local high streets to have more scope with regards to what shops/business are allowed. It has become evident that in recent years the main complaint from the public has been that their high street offers variations of the same types of business. Whether this had any impact on the recent review, I don't know, but I do hope that it will bring back some excitement to our shops. 

These changes will allow more flexibility with a building's use and allow existing companies to be able to potentially change the use of  their nature of business should they see fit. In recent times, dealing with Corona, we have all found our work to have been affected in some way, some businesses more than others. This should allow for these businesses to be able to discover new opportunities, and let's face it, in times such as now, this news is welcomed. 

If you're confused and want to check what you can or cannot do I would always say that you should contact your local planning office for clarification. You could also use the information from the site above to work out what category your business falls under. It is always best to check your rights, especially when talking about new changes. There have been a couple of updates to the planning system recently and there is quite a bit to get your head around. However, if you manage to get things sorted, these changes could be beneficial to you, financially and personally. 

Keep an eye on my blog for updates, changes and anything construction related. Check out the link above for more updates to the change of use laws and let me know how this is going to affect you. I hope these changes are not only going to be good for business but I hope they're going to enrich our high streets and bring out the shoppers in us once again. 

Friday, 18 September 2020

Designing your dream home? What are the starting points?


When taking on any project there is a lot to consider and when you're thinking of designing your own home there is even more!

Firstly you need to think of where you want to live. This sounds simple enough but getting the right plot is sometimes harder than you might expect. You will have to think about locality and whether you would get permission to build your home. In order to do this you will at least need to know what type of build you would like and then choose an architect, one that you trust and work well with, to complete your drawings. Obviously there are many more steps in the beginning but this is just a very brief summary.

The biggest part of getting your dream home is in the design.  You need to know what you would like  from your build. Will you be employing green technology? If so, what?

Eco living is often seen as a given these days especially when building from scratch. Why wouldn't you use the technology available to you? We have come so far with technology and compliances to ensure that we really can build the best.

You need to know what you want from your home, so essentially you have to be able to set up your brief and get it right. Take a look around and see what is about. It is far better to know what you would like from the outset. It will be an expensive job to make alterations down the line, especially if construction has already started.  When you talk to your architect provide all the information that you can, extra if possible. Do you have a model, pictures or even sample materials? If not then you should really try to get these or at least some of them. Look at what the materials can do for you, look at what they can do for your build and look at what the aesthetics are like. What design do you want to achieve? There are plenty of ideas out there, you just have to be able to narrow them down.

What will the layout of your home look like? What do you need it to provide? Check and check again that your build will be able to give you the space, room and light that you want. This is your home so don't let anyone else tell you or influence you otherwise. Yes it is a good idea to get advice and feed off the knowledge of others but don't be swayed by someone else's opinions and desires.

When you choose your architect you need to ensure that you both have a similar style as this will help with the design. If you're reading from the same page it makes the whole process a lot easier, believe me.

You also need a budget and timescale and they must both be realistic. If your timescale goes over, then your budget will be affected. If your budget goes over and you run out of money your timescale can be affected. They work together and need to be thought of as a team.

Designing your own home is more than just the 'drawing', it is the idea, the passion and the dream.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Eco builds-what do you need to know when taking on an eco construction? Build for the future!


When taking on any build there is a certain amount of planning and understanding required. There are many ways in which you can research different methods, materials and design and work out which are best suited to your needs. There is a vast array of information, all you need is Google. But, is this all correct? Is it all helpful? You need to know what to look for, what to believe and what not to believe!

If this is your first eco build and you're starting from scratch, (we all have to start somewhere), then I would suggest seeking out the help of an expert. There are many places you can go for this. ATSPACE ( has a number of experts who will be able to point you in the right direction. Use them, feed off their knowledge and expertise. You will have to undertake all of the usual compliances, water testing, air testing, extractor fan testing etc and everything in between. However, with an eco build you will need to be able to reach the highest standard in these compliances. What you must remember is even the design of your build can have an impact on the eco standard. So, you should find an architect who understands the impact and who will be able to implement this into your design. This doesn't mean that you can't have the home that you want. Eco isn't there to stop or hinder your dream it is there to enhance it. Your architect will be able to work with an assessor and by getting these people together your green build is half way there. 

Your next step is to think about what level of 'green' you want to go to. As with anything you can just reach the basic level or you can aim to surpass that. Let's face it, there is no point in going through all of this and trying your hardest to be able to be a part of the future of construction if you don't aim for the highest of eco that your budget will allow. 

You must understand that whatever material you decide to use will also affect your build's eco standard. You need to know what you ultimately want from your materials in both style and use. You must use materials that are fit for purpose and each type has its own pros and cons list. Talk this through with your architect and assessor to work out what will suit your build best. With green technology you don't need to compromise on the style of your home. This is often thought to be the case and sometimes is the reason why people steer away from building green; but things have come so far. There are no compromises with eco standard anymore, there is just a bright future to look forward to. 

When you're employing workers to help with your construction it is best to make sure that they understand what you're trying to achieve and preferably have worked with your materials, or at least similar, before. I know everyone has to start somewhere but if you're doing this for yourself then trust the experts and work with those who can help you learn. One day, when you've completed your build and moved on to the next you can repay the favour and pass down any knowledge you have to others. This is your chance to help to shape the future of construction. 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

What does the future of construction look like? Building for generations to come.


I have written a few blogs about what construction looks like in the aftermath of corona and where we expect to be down the line. Unfortunately things are looking as if they're going to take a touch longer to get back to normal than what we had all expected and hoped. But what we have to understand is that we have a new 'normal' and we need to work towards that and not look back at what 'was'.

Construction is changing and not just because of the recent events but because of the influence of technology, new materials and the new way of living and we, as builders, business owners, labourers and trades need to find our place and build our own 'new normal'.

Technology is a driving force within our industry and thankfully it is forward thinking which enables us to build the amazing constructions we have today We have new technology, advances in materials and experience to thank for the rise in eco living. The Government has a deadline of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions and this is achievable. We must remember that we can do this and surpass this deadline if we put our minds to it and work together. From low energy bills right up to passive house standard, and everything inbetween, technology plays a huge part in allowing us to progress swiftly forward.

More and more builds these days are adhering to eco standards and in turn we are expecting a lot more from our homes. Not only do we have expectations of lower energy bills and a cleaner healthier environment we also expect our homes to be more versatile. Over the last few months we have experienced many challenges, some of which are still continuing. For example, we now await materials which in turn causes a delay in the construction. I imagine we can expect this to continue for a while, certainly until things start to become a bit more 'normal' and there isn't much we can do to change that. We can, however, look elsewhere, use local suppliers, look at different materials and plan ahead. Is this an ideal situation? No, of course not but it is the hand we are dealt and we need to be able to work with it.

The way in which we utilise our homes has changed. As I have said before, we have new ways of living, we expect more from the same builds. We need more, we need offices, places to school, home gyms and entertaining areas but we don't necessarily have more money to spend to achieve this. As builders we must be able to provide what people want without letting the standards slip. We know what we can do, we have been doing it for years. Let's not let a few inconveniences get in the way. We can and must carry on building the best, building for the future and building green. Construction is a forward thinking, versatile industry and it has proven that more than ever over the last few months. We are lucky to be a part of something so prominent. Let's be grateful, positive and happy that we are the future.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Planning law changes - how will Government changes affect you?

A few new rules have been introduced by the Government over the last few months, and we are all still trying to get our heads around them. Even those in charge can get confused; It's easily done.  Hopefully, this document will at least, be able to shed some light on the never-ending questions.


The changes that have been announced refer to a range of new permitted development rights (which will be discussed further down in this blog) and the class order for businesses. Essentially, from the 1st September, the class orders are being altered. This means you could change the use of your business building without requiring "change of use". This will be good news for owners who rent out premises as they will have a broader clientele with more scope on what businesses can open. The more opportunities there are, the more interest you'll get from others. Hopefully, this will also encourage the use of commercial builds that we, as consumers, want, rather than what we are told we need. There are obviously some restrictions with certain classes, but actually, there are more that fall under the change than those that don't. You can find out more information here


The Town and Country Planning permitted development rights have also been updated, and if there wasn't confusion at what you could do before, there certainly is now. The permitted development rights now say that you could possibly have the right to extend your home up by two storeys. This applies to a detached, semi-detached or even a terraced property. There are obviously restrictions. You can't just add as much height as you'd like, as the maximum allowable height is 18m in total including the extension, so essentially from the ground to the tip of the new roof. But for a terrace, you can not extend more than 3.5m higher than the next tallest house in the row.


If your house was built between 1st July 1948 and 28th October 2018, then you fit into the right bracket and have ticked the first box. These new rules DO NOT apply to homes that are in conservation areas, so you really need to check that out. You can find out your conservation status with a quick call to your local planning office.


Permitted development rights essentially allow you to make certain changes, extensions and alterations to your build without gaining planning permission. You must remember though, that just because you don't require planning permission, you will still need your building regulations certificate so you must involve building control and get each stage signed off. These new changes can make the difference to a family either having to move in order to gain more space or being able to extend and staying put. We have found that recently we have needed our homes to be more flexible and this is certainly one solution. For years now, we have had permitted development rights that have allowed us to make certain changes to our homes, but, never on the scale that has been put forward here.


From the 1st August 2020, we will also benefit from the change to permitted development rights to blocks of flats. Essentially flats will be able to be extended upwards with a lot more ease than before. More information can be found here


These new rules make quite an impact and, I think you will find a lot of people taking advantage of the changes. I will reserve judgement as to whether this is a good thing. It is early days and we seemingly have to put a lot of trust into other people that what they're doing won't change our landscape forever.


Friday, 4 September 2020

Can a mezzanine work for you? Create more space on a cheaper budget.


When you're looking to update your property or even to add a bit of flair to your build, you might consider a mezzanine floor. This is a raised platform that fits between the floor and the ceiling of the building. The sizes and shapes of these can vary and can be designed around your build. They have the ability to add extra space, additional rooms and fit around your home or business premises.

Mezzanines can work well for office spaces as well as homes. They are relatively cost effective and can add value to your build. If you're thinking about work these are a fairly simple way to add space. To be able to add one of these you would need to use the height of your structure. You obviously won't be able to even consider adding  a mezzanine if you have low ceilings; this really does go without saying.

If you're in the catering/restaurant business these can be an excellent way to make your business more profitable. It will allow for more space to add more tables, for example, which in turn will allow for more business. Some restaurants don't have the space to expand outwards so this can really be an excellent answer to what can seem an impossible problem.

If you're in the retail , leisure, gym or spa business you will often see a mezzanine. Businesses like these really do need to make the most of their space and these levels are an impressive and, as stated before, a cheaper way of expanding. Relocation can often be expensive, as can buying land to be able to extend outwards. Companies really do need to consider their options and I can completely understand why they so often decide on a mezzanine .

Some people do have mezzanines in their homes and they really can look magnificent. These are great, if you're able to include one, and they can really show off the design of your home. It is easily removed should you ever decide to take it out; although once you have one I can't see this ever happening. They are beautiful to look at and to use, they can show off the style of your home from a different angle, allow you to see every corner of your space and create a special piece of tranquility.

So essentially mezzanines are often found in business premises and it is clear to see why they are so popular here. With the extra space they create, the cheapness of construction and the relative ease of removal (should you ever need to do this) they really have very few downfalls.

If you're one of the lucky ones and have a house that will happily withstand a mezzanine level then the benefits from the extra space, the stunning beauty and the views of your home will just wow you and all of your guests.

Any update to your home or business should be carefully thought out. However, if you have that desire, that passion and the means to do it, don't question yourself. Your home is there for you and no one else.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Are you solar ready? Let's find out!


I know I often talk about renewable energy and preparing for the future but this topic is really important and should be at the forefront of our minds, especially if we have the means to implement some of these techniques.  Unfortunately not everyone is currently in the position to do so, but if you are, where should you start?

One of the simplest ways to improve your home and benefit from eco living is to provide solar panels. These can be fitted to existing properties as well as be integrated into a new build. 

Your home, whether it's an existing build or new build will need to meet certain criteria in order to work with the solar energy system.  You will have to think about things like the location of the building and whether or not it receives enough sunlight, where the sun rises and where the panels would be best placed. If you're thinking of enhancing your home then you really need to make sure that you have the optimal positioning for your new system. 

A solar energy system takes all of its energy from the sun, so it goes without saying that you must ensure that your build isn't surrounded by shade; tall trees, tall buildings etc. These systems can be excellent and really enhance your property as well as reduce your energy bills and if something is worth doing, its worth doing right. 

There are a few places where you can fit your solar energy system; the most popular is to install the panels on your roof. If this is your preferred option then you really need to think about the structure and material of your roof and if it has the strength to withhold the weight of the panels. Houses that were built without these systems obviously didn't have to factor in this extra weight. If you're building from scratch then this is something you will need to consider.  There are other ways to install a solar energy system. 

Some people opt to put the panels on the ground and this works well if you have a large outside space which has little shade. There is also the option of solar tiles, so there are plenty of ideas to suit various needs. You just need to work out what suits you, your property and your budget most. 

You will have to think about where to place the rest of the equipment as there is obviously a lot more to your solar energy system than just the panels. You will need  to know how the panels are going to be fitted, where the electrical conduits are to be placed and where you will position the inverter and safety equipment so it can be integrated seamlessly into your design. 

You will also have to decide whether you want an uninterrupted electricity supply or whether you will need to be able to store your electricity.  A lot of these answers can be based upon how big your house is, what you use electricity for and what you might need from it in the future. It is important to consider your future in this home; the last thing you want is to install a solar energy system that works for now but that isn't fit for years to come. 

There are a few things to consider when thinking about any type of update to your home. Remember, improvements are not just about getting things done right for the present but they must be able to withstand any future additions and extensions. 

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