Sunday, 28 July 2013

Planning Permission

Having some down-time every night with my dad gave us chance to sit down and bounce some ideas around about what this garage is actually going to look like.

I had already done some research on weather we will need planning permission or not and this is what it has to say on the planning portal website regarding garages:

outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:

1. No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.

2.  Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.

3. Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.
4. No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
5. No more than half the area of land around the "original house" would be covered by additions or other buildings.
6. In National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites the maximum area to be covered by buildings, enclosures, containers and pools more than 20 metres from house to be limited to 10 square metres.
7. On designated land buildings, enclosures, containers and pools at the side of properties will require planning permission.
8. Within the curtilage of listed buildings any outbuilding 
will require planning permission.

It's Rule three that's the only one of any real concern to us as we are well within two meters of the boundary in places. The long and the short of it is if we want to pitch the roof, we need planning permission, but if we do a flat roof, we don't. I think everybody would think it would look better with a pitched roof so I decided to apply for planning. A bit more research revealed I was going to need various types of plans, no problem, I'll just get my architect to draw them up..............Oh yeah, I am the architect!

There are some great forums and websites out there to help you draw up your own planning permission plans and put together an application (Diydata is a great one), all you need is an A3 pad, a scale ruler, a set square, a tape measure, a pencil and a fine-liner pen.

There are Four types of plan you need to submit with your application: a site-plan, a location plan, a 'elevations' plan and a 'floor-plan'. The two plans that were going to need the most work from me were the elevations plan and the floor-plan.

The elevations plan is basically a head on view of each side of your building, I drew mine at a scale of 1:50. We knew it was 7x7 sqaure and the eaves needed to be 2.5m (as stated in the rules). The apex of the roof we decided to set at 3.5 meters to keep it nice and low for everyone and run the pitch across the garage (rather than lengthways), one quarter of the way back from the main door. this would coincide with the pillars that would be built into the walls. My boss donated the windows that came out of his place when he was doing his house up a few weeks back so we knew how big they would be, a big double door is about 14ft wide and I measured up our back door to get a size for the side door. After a couple of hours I had something that looked like this

Floor-plan next:

The best advice I read about drawing your own plans is 'don't assume any detail', mark or write absolutely everything on your plans It's all the guy who's looking at it has to go on and your never going to get to talk to him.

These pencil drawn originals are your 'masters' so don't go over them with your fine-liner as you may need to make amendments to them depending on what the council say. I took mine down to the library and took a photo copy of each one, then sat down and went over the photo copy's with the fine-liner.Now they looked like this:

Now you can photocopy these as many times as you like.

The 'site plan' and 'location plan' are both basically maps of your site at different scales, you can buy them (as PDF's) from the websites recommended to you on the planning portal website. they need to be between specific scales and show your property and the proposed development edged in red. You can use the drawing tools on the website to mark the boundary's etc on your plans before you buy them, that way you don't have to get the red pen out afterwards you can just print them all off ready to go. I did get the red pen out though to mark on the drive and some trees just to be on the safe side.

Location plan:

Site Plan:

One thing I thought I'd better be double sure about is rule 5, 'No more than half the grounds of the 'original house' can be covered with new buildings'. This basically means the area of the whole plot, minus the footprint of the house when it was first built, so not including any extensions etc. You take that figure then half it, then you subtract the area of any extensions you or any previous owners have built and that tells you how much you have available for development, hopefully it's greater than the area of your garage.

Calculating the area of irregular shapes is quite tricky so it's best to split your plot into regular shapes, triangles to be exact. You calculate the area of a triangle like so: 1/2 Base X Height. you don't do this in the garden with a a tape measure either you, you can use your site plan and your scale rule, It's not an exact science but it will tell you weather your going to be marginal or not. Here's mine:

I was very conservative with my measurements but as it turns out I was well within my allowance due to the fact that I've knocked down the old garage and the coal-store. The total grounds were about 270 sq meters, so 135 available for development, minus 15 for the kitchen extension leaves 120. The garage is only going to be 49sq meters so definitely no problem there.

You also need to consider the type of planning application you need to make. As far as I understand it, unless you're planning to build an entire new house from scratch 'householder planning' will be fine, as this covers additions or alteration to a house that already exists. You can get a pre-application advice service but it costs well over a hundred quid so I decided to take my chances without it, I think as long as you do plenty of research and read the forms properly you should be able to find out everything you need to do. The application form also comes in pretty handy for letting you know what you need to mark on your plans. Once you've filled it in you make four copy's of everything (I also wrote a short covering letter) and send the whole lot in with a cheque (£172 in my case, there's a cost calculator on the planning portal). You can do it online too but you need your plans to be in PDF format.

And then you wait. I haven't had anything official back yet but they cashed my cheque the day before yesterday so I guess that's a good thing.

Seeing the garage come to life on the plans is a great feeling after it's been little more than vague imagining for so long, it's starting to feel like real progress is being made

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wall and Peace

There's a lot to bring everyone up to date on so I'll start with the wall.............

First thing to do was break out the cement mixer! At £325 it's the first major purchase of the build but we've got so much to do there would be no point in hiring one.

Also my parents had come to stay for a couple of weeks so my dad could give me hand, I've never built anything out of stuff that wasn't Lego before so I was going to need all the help I could get.

To build up, first one must dig down, so the first thing to do was dig a trench alongside the existing concrete block wall. we decided building in front of it was a far easier and less disruptive solution than knocking it down. The trench was about two spades wide and  deep enough to get down to the clay beneath. It quickly revealed that the existing wall was sitting in about 6 inches of top soil with very little other than luck and it's own weight holding it up. during the course of our digging we came across what appeared to be an old water pipe passing across the trench so we built a bridge out of old bits of block from the garage so that no weight was transfered onto it and began mixing up the concrete for the footings.

Mixing concrete is pretty straightforward, you go to B&Q and get yourself some 'balast' and you throw that in the mixer with some cement (it tells you the ratio on the bag) then you keep adding water little by little until it becomes wet enough, getting that right is the tricky bit but you get the feel for it. Once it's ready you tip it into your barrow and tip the barrow in your trench. We set the concrete about four inches deep.

Once it had all gone off a little we could lay the biggest of the foudation stones at roughly regular intervals using a string to keep the faces in line.

Then you've got to stop for the day and wait for it all to set.

Once the top half the trench was set we got started on the bottom half. While we were digging we came across a part of the wall, close the kitchen, That for some reason had a very substantial concrete footing that was interfering with where our trench needed to go, so we got started on chipping it away. As we were chipping it appeared a large cavity had formed beneath this concrete and seemed to extend toward the house. we assumed it was caused by the large amount of water that runs through the garden so we kept chipping away so we could get a better look at exactly how big it was.

We had been told by the neighbours about a well that was buried in our garden somewhere but no-one seemed to know exactly where it was................... Well know we knew (pardon the pun). Stone sides and all, it was a proper well and whoever built the kitchen extension had used the side of the it as a part of their foundation! We filled it, and the surrounding area with concrete once and for all and repaired the foundation of the kitchen. My dad did this while I was in work so I don't have any good pics but suffice to say it just looked like a smooth concrete surface once he was finished. Once the well was capped we could lay the big stones for this half of the wall and we were ready to go.

We started at the back and worked our way towards the the house, we knew there would be very little space between the garage and the wall so we built the wall at the back only a foot or so high to maximise the distance between next door's fence and the garage by allowing you to walk along the top of the wall to gain access to behind the garage.

I must admit I thought the whole wall would be done in a weekend but just this one small section took two or three days. It takes a long, long time to build a stone wall, mainly because of the time it takes to find just the right stone, you can look for fifteen minutes or more before you finally give up and move to a different part.

By now we were getting bulk deliveries of sand and cement, believe it or not, by the time we had finished we had got through at least three tons of sand and probably 20-30 bags of cement.

The best way to go about building a wall is carry over a load of stones to where your working so you have a good selection of small, medium and large ones to choose from, you also want a good selection of pretty ones and ugly ones as the ugly ones will come in very handy for filling in between the pretty ones and the old wall. Then you mix up some cement, we were using 5:1 sharp sand and cement, with water and a touch of washing up liquid to make it 'fluffy'. You definitely don't want to get it to runny this time as it becomes difficult to form it and the stones end up sinking into direct contact with one another, but not wet enough and it drys too soon, again, you get a feel for it quite quickly.

Take time to stand back and look at each stone you lay so you can see it in the context of the wall as a whole, keep checking everything with your string line regularly and it's pretty hard to go too wrong. I was building from the ground up to the last layer, then my dad was using all the small flat stones and a spirit level to get the top right. You build as much as you can for then day then you go in and have some tea (supper to you southerners), just before it goes dark you come out again to 'point' it. Pointing basically refers rubbing back the partly dry cement with a small wire brush to expose as much of the face of the stone as possible, I rubbed until the cement was about 5mm recessed from the face, then you kind of dab it with dry paintbrush to make it nice and smooth.

After about a week it looked something like this:

The plan was to knock off the top row of blocks but the neighbors wouldn't let us so we'll put some nice deep coping stones on top to finish off the top and bring it up to meet the block wall on slightly more equal terms.

I reckon, all in, the wall cost somewhere between £250 and £300 not including the mixer, but what a great skill to have learned! As you can see a bit has been happening since the completion of the wall and this picture being taken, I'll try to write all that up shortly.............