Things are in place

At last, we have a date to start work on site: the groundworkers are scheduled to start in the week commencing 15 August, with their work taking about 6 weeks.  This is the step that essentially unlocks the whole build programme, and should let us (or Sean, our project manager) put together the whole schedule.  In the meantime, we have done a host of things contributing to the build:

  • We have organised, submitted and got approval for the landscape design for the garden. This was the only ‘pre-commencement’ condition on our planning permission, which meant that we had to get the garden basically designed, and submit the design to Torridge for approval,  before a sod could be turned.  Sean introduced us to a landscape designer, Jane Stewart, who did the work for us, and created what we think and hope will be a lovely garden to complement the house and link it to the landscape.  The designs are here (be patient – it’s a big file).
  • We had to have the foundations and retaining wall designed by structural engineers.  Our site is not the easiest, with a steep slope or bank in the middle of it.  The house takes advantage of the slope, but it does require more extensive sub-structure than a house on a level site.  Sean recommended that we use Paul Carpenter Associates for this work.  They produced a detailed design that meets the structural requirements, but should be reasonably straightforward to build (we hope!)
  • We have ordered water and electricity supplies.  No, they don’t just appear by magic – you have to pay for the man to connect the pipes/wires!
  • We’ve bought our structural warranty, and the building regulations inspections.  We are using the same organisation (NHBC) for both, so that we have a single inspector.  He is unlikely to disagree with himself over what is required.
  • Finally, Sean tendered the groundworks.  We got four tenders, with a price range nearly 50% of the cheapest.  Not sure how that works, but we have now chosen one (not the cheapest, but certainly not the most expensive), who can start in a couple of weeks.  Then the fun really starts!

It’s been a while, but..

My last post here was at the end of March, when we had placed our order with Potton for the timber frame.  That triggered a series of steps, that have take until now to work through.  I said then that we hoped to start groundworks in May – so much for hope!

Placing the Potton order let us start work with them on finalising the design – the layouts that we had at that point were definitel V0.0, and we knew that we would need to make some changes.  The overall size of the building was fixed, but we were able to review (and amend) the internal layout.  The result is here, in the Potton Rev D drawings.

The main amendments are the room in the roof space, and some changes to bathroom layouts.  It seemed a bit bizarre, considering that all we had were some lines on paper, but we spent ages looking at kitchen and bathroom fittings catalogues, and talking to suppliers of things we won’t need for several  months, but we needed to make fairly rigid choices for fittings, so that we could be sure that we could fit in what we wanted.

The result has a few differences from the original design for which we had planning permission, but we were assured that the council would treat them as minor amendments.  Until, that was, I spoke to the planning officer at Torridge Council, who didn’t actually suck her breath through her teeth, but told me, with no scope for negotiation, that we would have to apply for new permission.  So that was what we did.

Fortunately, because the new application was within 12 months of the original permission, we could use our Free Go and didn’t have to pay the £335 fee. But it did mean, in essence, that we were stalled for up to 8 weeks.  We had to go slightly ballistic when we learned that Holsworthy Town Council had recommended refusal of our application, citing ‘grave concerns…’.  An ‘assertive’ letter from us (I hope) put them straight (the planning officer at Torridge referred to it as ‘useful’), and shortly after, we got our new permission.

That’s not the end, but I’ll continue in another post.