Planning Permission UK - Articles and Opinions

Monday, November 07, 2005


Sorry for the delay in getting the first News letter of 2005 out to you but its the time of year when the mountains call for a cheap late ski deal. Don't you just love the design of some of these alpine chalets??!!**??

One year we were given a loft bedroom that you couldn't stand up in with no wardrobe space and another chalet only had 2 bathrooms for 18 occupants. Still, skiers are the kind of people that can ruff it for most times so its no major hassle.

But what if these kind of deficiencies were commonly found in ordinary homes in the UK? Surely no one would make such glaring mistakes on comfort and amenities when extending or developing their own homes would they?

OK, setting that little seed of doubt lets explore 6 of the most common design mistakes people can make when extending their homes. Most professional developers understand their market and fail to make these errors but most ordinary homeowners on the other hand have a totally different set of criteria and motivations when developing their own homes which can lead to some costly mistakes.

1. Small kitchens mean small appeal. - Failure to improve the size and usability of a kitchen to include for an eating area as well is possibly the most common error. Like all changing lifestyle issues, you have to differentiate between what are passing fads and long term preferences. Unless you live in a studio or one bedroom property, having a larger kitchen with a dedicated eating area for those all important dinner parties, household hubs and 'show' appeal is one of the most important alterations or extension you can do to a property. Many people embark on ground floor extensions aiming for larger living rooms, studies or a dedicated dining room when the existing kitchen is no more than a 3M x 2M corridor with cut across access.

2. Ground floor bedrooms to two storey dwellings - Sometimes people are so desperate for additional bedroom space they take the cheap option and decide on a ground floor extension. This invariably leads to poor access to the new room (say from the living room or kitchen for example) rather than off the main circulation areas such as the hall. Most people still like to see all bedroom space on the first floor. Unless the new bedroom is for an elderly or disabled person unable to navigate the stairs, or your property is a chalet bungalow, it is often best to avoid ground floor bed space unless the room is flexible for a re-allocated use later on.

3. Loft conversions with inadequate ridge height - Not all lofts are ideal for conversion. There is a fine line between a great loft conversion and a poor one. Most loft conversions involve a delicate balancing act between the new access, usable new space and compromised existing space. Get one criteria wrong and the whole thing often becomes a clumsy compromise of no real value. The biggest area of failure often arises when the ridge height is already quite low. Generally speaking in my opinion a 3M minimum joist to ridge height needs to be in place for the finished room(s) to be of a useful height for a functional bedroom for example. Anything less than 3M ridge height will simply end up as triangular tube with only being able to stand up in the middle - great for a childs play room but not for an adult bedroom.

4. The creation of extra space at any cost - Many homeowners just want the added space and fail to consider some of the detailed design elements that will make their extended home look good. The most common error is the simple 'block on the side' two storey side extension that runs level with the existing front and rear elevation walls. Yes this maximises the usable inside space but the external effect is to create bland long wall and roof lines with little interest or relief. It really doesn't take much effort or sacrifice of space to create a well designed and interesting extension simply by incorporating some simple design principals such as the 'jut it in and jut it out' approach for the new work were is adjoins the existing structure.

5. Mis-match of roof pitches - Sometimes the size of the extension forces a roof design that at first look is unable to match in with the pitch of the existing roof slopes which is invariable lower than the original. On most modern housing this can result in an awful jarring to the eye creating an unbalanced dysfunctional looking property. Installing matching roof pitches is a major design 'must do' for all extension developments. A more complicated roof line may have to be provided but in the end is well worth the effort and cost.

6. The piecemeal extension without upgrading the existing property - Spending money on an extension when the existing property is in a spoor state of repair or of limited facilities and failing to allow money for the upgraded of the existing property to match the new works is a false economy. Many homeowners who I see live in a property that could already absorb £30k for repairs, upgrades and alterations in itself without any extension works but have no intention of allocating resources for these works while the extension is being built. This simply devalues the result of the new works and can lead to future problems when eventually the existing services for example fail and are then difficult to integrate with the newer built works. Always thinking of the 'whole' dwelling and how it functions as one unit rather than having a selected piecemeal focus is the way to go for most development.

Some of these design issues are often now incorporated within most councils design guides and are prevented from being granted Planning Permission if prior consent is required.
Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved when developing a property.


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