Consult planners before you apply

Other preoccupations, not least the virus, have distracted us from working on the building, though the list of jobs remains long.

In the meantime, we have moved forward on a plan suspended 10 years ago, the construction of a proper outbuilding. You can’t accuse us of rushing things and, as often happens, delay improves an idea.

We had planning permission for a garage and cart lodge, which is valid indefinitely rather than expiring after three years, because we started the work by building a concrete slab for a new entrance from the road plus hard standing with a turning area inside the garden.

However, the original plan for the building was not well thought out, so we have applied to change it to a garage with attached store room.

The idea is to make it look more like the sort of outbuilding that would have been on the site when it was a farmyard, rather than a garage and cart lodge of the type built alongside many of the more upmarket new homes in the county. It will have brick footings and a clay peg-tiled roof, and be clad in black weatherboarding. To blend it into the garden, we will let climbing plants, including roses, run all over it, aiming for the overgrown look of The Old Brewhouse when we first saw it.

The front door, hidden by flowers – how we first saw it.

We paid £80 for a pre-application comment from the planners, who basically said the new design looked fine but added that we still had to make a householder application (an easier route than a full application, costing £210).

We have found at every stage that the pre-application consultation makes all the difference, because it is an opportunity to test a plan before it is finalised. Other people we know have run into a brick wall by going straight to the application stage without consultation

The conservation officer wants to add some conditions about vetting materials and window designs (according to his online comments) because there were no windows in the old design. But otherwise we have no reason to think it won’t go through shortly.

In any case we could always revert to the original plan, which is one third bigger in floor area, a size we thought would overwhelm the look of that part of the garden. Not many applications for altering a permission actually downsize. It is usually the other way round, and much more contentious.

There is still a long list of jobs to do on the old part of our house. The biggest, which we keep putting off, is removal of cement render from the north wall and replastering with the correct lime-based breathable material. That will have to wait a bit longer.

In the meantime, we have started, and hope to finish this autumn, a book about saving the Old Brewhouse, including advice on some of the techniques we have learnt.

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