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Saad & Umair
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Norren Bird

Extremely archaic bureaucratic process which benefits no-one. I once lived in a conservation area and it took 9 months to obtain planning permission for a stone extension on our barn conversion. We were not idiots - we researched our materials carefully and the project eventually cost £50k including 4 tonnes of Yorkshire stone for the roof. I make no apologies when I say that the council employees are not qualified or experienced enough to make sensible decisions - no doubt they have their own red tape to tie themselves up with. It was farcical and expensive, and we had to sit in on a council hearing with a dozen other applicants all equally as hacked off as us. One applicant was a farmer who wished to erect a building for his livestock- this was rural Lancashire - hardly the employment hotspot! I was in tears as was another applicant. The finished result was stunning - but my husband was made redundant on the day we finally completed it and we had to move anyway. This was probably 8 years ago and the ferocity of my feelings about this subject has not lessened! Good look to everyone going through this process.

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I am perhaps luckier than most in my experience with local planning.

I am about to undertake the total renovation and reconfiguration of a 3 story Grade 2 listed house that has served many purposes throughout its long history. It has been the workshop and home for 4 families of wool carders, functioned as a chapel and served the home guard during the war to name but a few. Last year it took me hundreds of hours to write up the required Listed Building Planning document and draw up all the plans for my proposal to convert it into two dwellings. The process also involved researching everything down to the finest detail from foam glass under floor insulation to upgrading historic sash windows. There was also the all too important research into the history of the house to give meaning to my proposal.

I have no formal training or experience so it was a huge undertaking for me but a little under eight months after submitting my application I received the green light for absolutely everything. No one could have been more surprised than I was!

Some of my proposals I imagined to be definite no no’s but I now believe they were well received because I emphasised throughout that I don’t want to change the character of the house. My aim is rather to create two comfortable homes well suited to current expectations whilst at the same time preserving and enhancing the buildings historic features. I will also be adding another historic layer to the houses multifunctional usefulness.

The best thing I did was to seek out the advice of the Council’s Heritage Officer through a pre planning site meeting before I even purchased the house. It was definitely money well spent. She was clearly knowledgable and interested in preserving our built heritage. She also appeared to understand that in order to preserve an historic house it needed to be used. LB Planning officers get a lot of bad press, some of it, I grant you, may be well deserved. I do however feel that if, from the onset, you demonstrate that your intentions are in the best interests of the house then you will likely be supported throughout.

I do have to agree though that there is much about the planning application process that is challenging, confusing and downright frustrating. However, whether you chose to undertake the task yourself or to bring in the professionals for some or all of it, remember to never lose sight of what attracted you to the house in the first place. Working with the house and not against it can often liberate good, creative ideas and solutions.

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