Friday, May 12, 2006

Middle Class Confidential

I almost didn't write this post, it's so typically middle class. But I am middle class, irremediably and hopelessly so. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you about what public school your children are in, or brag about how much my house is now worth, but I am going to talk about property.

Some years ago it became clear our detached garage was at the end of its life. Wood worm and some wet rot had taken their toll. Now the garage is at an odd angle to the house (our plot is a very oddly shaped polygon). Thus it seemed a 'good idea' to rebuild it and fill in the space between with an extension to the house. We found what we thought was a local architect and plowed ahead.

We live in what is tweely called an area of 'Outstanding Natural Beauty' and so the planning regs are particularly strict. Our first plans were deemed to big and grand and were failed. We found that though our architect was local he was just on the other side of the borough boundary and had never worked with our council. That meant he had no relationships, no ability to negotiate.

We were desperate, and the way these things work its expensive to change architect mid stream. Wracking our brains we came up with smaller alternative plans. They went in and just before the deadline (labour has put all sorts of legislation around planning that, with the intention of efficiency and reducing waiting lists, actually remove useful time to negotiate and think) the planners came back with a host of small changes. With only a day left (otherwise they'd refuse the plans) we accepted them without really thinking it through. It passed but we were left with a scheme that was both ugly and left us with a smaller garage than before.

So we took a rest, rather depressed about it.

A few months ago we started again. This time we interviewed a number of architects to find one with good experience and relations with our local council. We came up with a number of new plans and he met with the planners to pre agree one that should sail through. We submitted, and even up until two weeks ago, the planner on our case was very positive.

Yesterday we met with the planner who, very embarrassed, said our plans will be turned down, and came up with a host of contradictory reasons as to why.

A bit of digging and it seems a neighbor we thought we were friendly with asked his good friend the lead planner, to kill it. Seems he looses a bit of view.

I thought this was a country of law. I try to play by the rules and I loose. That more than anything is what’s aggravating.


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