Monday 22 September 2014

Conversions and Extensions Explained:
If you are considering converting or renovating your home, be it a loft conversion, extension, or renovation, there appears to be a million and one obstacles in your path. Financing the project, Planning Applications, Building Regulations and the duties and responsibilities of the homeowner may appear daunting. However, with the right knowledge and guidance, the experience can be a rewarding and enjoyable one.

Step 1: What Project?
The first step in the process starts with the home owner. What aspect of your home is it that you want to improve? Jotting down your ideas and aspirations for the project is a necessary first step. A simple sketch is also a good way of understanding the limitations of the project and the extent of the alterations that may be required to achieve the results you desire.

Step 2: Appointing a qualified Architect or Engineer:
Finding and appointing a specialist in the construction industry, such as a Structural Engineer or Architect, with appropriate experience, will be invaluable. Managing such a project alone is often difficult and time consuming for someone unaccustomed to the process, so we strongly recommend seeking early advice from a qualified professional. The specialist will discuss the practicalities of your ideas and will explain what is necessary to complete the project. The final layout will often be dependent on undertaking a measured survey of the building to enable initial drawings to be produced. Having established and agreed a working plan, the formal process of acquiring ‘Planning’ and ‘Building Regulations’ approval for the proposed work is the next important step.

Step 3: Design – Planning Application Process:
The Local Planning Department must be approached at an early stage to determine whether the proposal will need a formal application, or whether, in fact, it can be deemed to be within the rules of ‘Permitted Development’. This is an important point. If the proposed extension is deemed as ‘Permitted Development’, then the normal eight week planning process will be avoided and a ‘Certificate of Lawful Construction’ will be issued to confirm its compliance. A cost saving is a further advantage, since the Permitted Development fee is substantially less than the formal route, normally £75-00. Your Professional Advisor will advise you about such matters and ensure that maximum advantage is take from the available systems.

*Failure to appoint a qualified specialist who will design the project in accordance with Planning and Building regulations, as well as ensuring the structural integrity of the property, may result in difficulties selling the property at a later date. Furthermore, if your project is not designed by a professional then structural problems may occur.

Step 4: Design – Building Regulations Approval:
Once the building or extension has received ‘Planning Approval’, compliance with the ‘Building Regulations’ will be the next step. In brief, this means that the proposed building, its structure and fabric, must comply with the current Building Regulations Standards which are summarised in a well recorded set of ‘Approved Documents’ dealing with a whole range of technical issues. The Approved Documents can be viewed on the Governments Planning Portal -

The approval process under the Building Regulations is formalised in two parts: The ‘Plan Stage’ and the ‘Inspection Stage’, although for very small projects, such as a new opening in a wall to form a larger open plan room, there is a process known as the Building Notice route.

The ‘Building Notice’ is available for small projects and allows the work to commence within 48 hours of submitting a formal application. Our advice is, nevertheless, to obtain all structural calculations, and a suitable drawing of the proposal, to accompany the application prior to the commencement of works. A Building Inspector will visit during the construction works to check compliance with the drawings, calculations and the Building Regulations generally.

For larger projects the proposed work must be properly designed and defined by drawings, calculations and specifications which are submitted to the Building Control Department of the Local Authority, or a Private Building Control organisation, for the plans and other documents to be vetted for compliance with the Building Regulations. Assuming the proposals comply, a formal ‘Plans Approval Certificate’ is issued and the project can commence. A Building Inspector will visit during the construction work (Inspection Stage), to check compliance with the drawings and calculations and the Building Regulations generally.

Fees are chargeable for all three stages and these are normally available online at the particular Local Authority’s website

Permitted Development Rights - In recent years there has been a move towards simplifying the planning process for domestic properties. Much information about what is permitted without the need to follow a formal Planning Application process is available to anyone by viewing the Government’s ‘Planning Portal’ website -, where specific advice is available. However, providing certain project restrictions are met, and as long as the Permitted Development Rights have not been removed, or previously used, it is often possible to plan and construct a loft conversion, or indeed a simple extension, without the need to obtain formal Planning Approval. Small extensions to the rear or side of a building and roof dormers to the rear are typical examples of what might be possible. It is, however, necessary to ensure that your plans comply with the stated requirements, and, to this end, your Professional Advisor will need to be involved at the beginning of the process. Providing the relevant planning office agrees with the conclusions that the project will comply with the ‘Development Rights’, your advisor will formalise the process by obtaining a document entitled a ‘Certificate of Lawful Construction’. Unless the project fits with the stated rules, then a formal Planning Application process will be required involving the submission of detailed plans and other documents, which will be defined by the Planning Authority - the whole process will take at least eight weeks to complete. Both the formal application process and the Permitted Development process attract a fee for which your Professional Advisor will be able to provide guidance.

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas – For Listed Buildings and Conservation areas, Permitted Development Rights will, more often than not, have been removed and the formal Planning Process, together with Listed Building Consent, must be applied for. In this regard, and in the specific case of a Listed Building, it is important to appreciate that even internal alterations will be covered by the Listed Building Consent process which is a type of Planning Control protecting buildings of special architectural, or historical interest. It is very important not to be tempted to make internal alterations or any other alterations to a Listed Building without such consents. *Please note: it is a criminal offence to carry out work which needs listed building consent without obtaining approval beforehand.

The Construction Process and Project Costs – This is a subject covered by other articles produced by the Practice, but a brief comment is applicable here. Once all design documentation is complete, and depending on the size of the project, at least three experienced building contractors should be asked to provide a fixed price for the completion of all work associated with the project. This should involve a breakdown of costs and a definition of the quality, or specification, of specific items included in the price. For extensions, expect to pay in the range of £800 to £1500 per square metre plus VAT, of total internal floor space provided in the new extension and subject, of course, to the quality of the specification. Professional fees will vary depending on the extent and detail of work provided, but for a good quality Professional Service to include both Architectural and Structural Design, expect to pay between £1000 to £2500 to cover the initial Survey, Planning Applications and Building Regulation design process. In addition, Local Authority fees will also have to be paid which, for a small extension, is likely to cost in the region of £1000-£1500.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Structural, Architectural & Surveying Consultancy: South & East Office Relocation to London

“The South East Office is now located in Kensington in Pembroke Road in a building owned by one of our Clients and offers all the Practices Services to London and the South East generally.”
London Office 
New offices acquired by James Halldron Associates in London forms an important step in the strategic expansion of the Practice.

The transfer  of the South East arm of James Halldron Associates commenced in July 2014 replaces our original Cambridge Office and forms an exciting and vibrant location from which its South East operations will be conducted. With its Central London location, the Practice will enhance its current position and offer its excellent package of construction design services to a broader base of clients.

Our diverse range of construction design services will continue to provide the high level of expertise developed in our existing offices in Devon and Manchester.

Range of Services and Helpful Guides
Visit our other Posts to obtain helpful information and guides about various projects and our services generally.

Friday 2 March 2012

James Halldron Associates has extended its geographical reach through the transfer of its South East regional  office to London effective from July 2014. Its broad client base, depth of industry knowledge and extensive commitment to customer support and care will provide the South East with high quality Structural and Architectural services offered in other parts of the UK.

This expansion comes amid turbulent economic times. The global recession, having so badly affected all areas of business, including the Construction Industry, meant the loss of many clients in the Housing Development field. However, in order to meet the challenges of such times, it is the Practice’s belief that expansion and development of services will provide a resilient framework upon which the growth of James Halldron Associates will be managed. Our strategy for 2014, therefore, requires our continued commitment to provide an extensive range of services for our clients in the construction industry and further its commitment in providing the best customer care throughout the full range of the Practices services.

Since 2011the Practice has seen some significant developments: in 2011 the Practice moved its Devon offices to the new premises in the centre of Torquay, where the location and close proximity to the Practices Associates in the construction industry have greatly increased its workload and client base; the opening of a new office and continued development of its client base in Manchester, the Midlands and North West projects generally, also began at the end of 2011. This latter move had been anticipated for some time by the development of client relations and the increased need for services within the North West & Midlands counties. Finally, the decision to open offices in Cambridge in March 2012, followed by the transfer to London in July 2014 together with the earlier developments outlined above, has given credence to the long term commitment of the company to develop from a regional based practice into a Nationwide operation.

Manchester Office News:
19/02/2012 Recent encouraging activity in the Manchester based operations has come with an instruction from Santander Bank to proceed with the hitherto suspended project involving the Professional Supervision of the first stage of the remedial/completion work for one of the practices existing Client’s projects in Stoke. The Principal, James Halldron, referring to the projects initial problems, commented last week that “the difficulties with the project are typical of so many developments throughout the UK during the last three years.” However, he continued, “the initial work on this 11 unit Apartment Development in Basford, Stoke, despite its difficulties, commenced last week with the inspection and issue of Contract Documents to the Bank, intended to facilitate the final construction work.”
22/09/2014 Considerable effort by the Practice and co-operation with other  Practices (Architectural - Richard Drinkwater, Planning-Ruth Jackson Planning Ltd  and Barrister Tony Gill - Kings Chambers) over the past two years  has finally resulted in a positive outcome to Public Inquiry fully resolving  the original  problems with the Stoke based project. It is now anticipated that  a Contract to modify and update the development will be overseen by the Practice over the next 6-8 months.
11/02/2012 Other recent news concerning the Practice is that two of its small Manchester based projects are nearing completion: a new house in Irlam, and extension and structural repair of one of the Practices larger Clients buildings. There also encouraging signs from several other Manchester based Clients considering new projects, previously considered unviable. More news about all of the current projects will appear on the Practices Website soon.

Torquay Office News:
22/09/2014 There has been steady flow of new commissions for the Survey and Inspection department which, hitherto, over the last 2-3 years, has been significantly affected by the problems with the housing and mortgage market. It seems that the ‘green shoots’ of recovery are present and perhaps a sign that there will now be a steady improvement in the general economy.

28/02/2012 A most interesting commission for the Torquay office has been its involvement with a new venture by one of its Clients, Phil Jones, who, with his team are developing a range of high quality timber buildings for the leisure industry as well as homes and businesses generally. Phil has been providing these bespoke products since 1998, but his new venture is to provide a range of fabric covered ‘Gazebos’ in a range of shapes and sizes through his new company “Faro”. The Practice has been delighted to have been commissioned to work on the structural design issues. We wish Phil the best with this new venture

Other Development News
22/09/2014 - The Practice recently retained the Web Designers, DesignDock,  Manchester, who have overhauled the Practices Website and have produced a mobile version of the site