for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

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SUBJECT:
What's the best way to get planning permission for a new floor?
FROM:
Donna Simpkins
(Oxfordshire)

We were turned down for a floating floor over a concrete and cobbled floor over a grade 2 listed building. Anything placed on this floor becomes saturated as the damp comes up through the floor. What's the best way to get planning permission for a new floor? We figured a floating floor would leave the original untouched but after being refused we haven't any ideas.

Donna Simpkins

Without an inspection and detailed analysis I cannot offer a solution, but can ask questions the answers to which may lead to a solution.
Why are the floors damp?
Is the ground water table high?
Is the ground level around the building above the floor internally?
The reason for such floors being damp is usually because the ground underneath is damp. If the issue of damp under the building is something that could be resolved it might sort out the problem with the floors. For example, if ground levels are high, lowering them might resolve the problem.
If, for whatever reason, the dampness in the floor cannot eb relieved in some way, you may then have a stronger argument for some form of false floor above it. The problems posed by any false floor in such a situation will include the risk of the dampness building up and being driven into walls and elsewhere. If the damp cannot escape through the floor surface, it may go to other areas. For such reasons the application you made previously may have been refused.
For such an intervention in a listed building the work has to be justified. Part of that justification may be proof that you have explored all other possibilities and that the proposed works are the 'last resort'. You may also have to demonstrate, as best you can, that the works will not result in a future problem.
Sorry I cannot be specific, but I trust that these comments help guide you to a suitable solution.


Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors

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SUBJECT:
How can we restore a wall from a planning/conservation point of view?
FROM:
Reg Webb
(Buckinghamshire)

We have just bought a C17 listed house with a large garden which borders a public park in a conservation area. The boundary wall between our garden and the park, is surrounded by a low (approx 1 metre), but very long (approx 150m long) stone wall which is derelict in places. There are a few short sections (a couple of metres in width) where the stone has fallen and could be salvaged from the ground, and another much longer length, approx 20 metres where the wall has disappeared altogether and none of the stone is there to be salvaged (the conservation officer suspected that the stone is being stolen). The remainder of the wall, though standing, is in great part, in need of restoring with new lime mortar. I am very keen to restore the wall in its entirety but an estimate came in at over £50,000. This exceeds, considerably, our budget and I wonder what our options are from a planning/conservation point of view if we were to do nothing with the wall. Could we for example, tidy up the broken ends and put fencing in the missing bits? Or could we plant a hedge on the inside of the wall? What is our position if we are unable to repair the wall (bearing in mind that the dereliction happened before the house came into our ownership). Ideally, I would love to restore the wall though - are any grants available for this kind of thing and if so, from whom?

Reg Webb

From your opening comments it is not clear whether there are two walls or just one, but I will assume just one. I also assume that you have a legal responsibility for the wall. Although it may form the boundary to your land is the wall wholly on your land, astride the legal boundary line, or in fact on the other side of the legal boundary line? In other words, is there any repairing liability on the owners of the park (presumably the Council themselves)?


If the wall is becoming a danger to the public (stones falling on people) the Council could eventually serve repair notices or even a dangerous structure notice. This latter action will force you to take action regardless of cost. To avoid such situations arising you should work with the Council to find a workable solution. It is probably best to consider a series of phases for the work, perhaps stretching over a number of years.
Initially, it may be possible to stabilise the wall (undertake essential repair) and remove loose sections with the loose stone stored somewhere safely (in your gardens). This will create a safe wall with the risk being reduced of loose stone being stolen.


You could indeed provide a 'temporary' fence for the gaps to ensure that the integrity of the boundary line is maintained. Whilst this might not be ideal, it is a solution to the immediate problem and I cannot see a reasonable Conservation Officer refusing this, provided it is within the context of a longer term plan for repair and restoration.
There is nothing to stop you planting a reasonable hedge in your garden just inside the wall, provided the roots are not likely to endanger the stability of the wall in the long term. Of course, the nature and size of the hedge could be an issue and the species used could be something for discussion.


The fact that the dereliction happened before you owned the property is, unfortunately, irrelevant. Presumably you checked the property prior to purchase and should have been aware that there were works needed. Your purchase of the property should have taken due regard of what was required.


Generally, there are unlikely to be any grants available, but there is no harm in making local enquiries to see if there are some small grants in your particular district. Again, the fact that you recently purchased may weigh against you for any grant, as the general rule is that you should have been aware of what you were taking on at the time of the purchase and should have taken due regard of all likely foreseeable works and costs.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors

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SUBJECT:
Can I challenge the Conservation officer?
FROM:
John Martin

I plan to replace two garages with one new one in the corner of the yard. The house is listed. The site is scheduled. I am talking to both the conservation officer and the Inspector of Ancient monuments. I wish to build up against a garden wall and a boundary wall - both mine (one of the previous garages was built off the garden wall) The Conservation officer is saying that I cannot build against the existing walls because of the lack of opportunity for periodic repointing. I would be sealing against damp with lead or tiles and as far as I can see there would be no more need to maintain anything than the inside faces of a normal cavity wall. I have not got room to stand the new buildings far enough away to leave access. Is he being pedantic and can I challenge this?

John Martin

Without seeing the situation I cannot comment specifically.

It certainly seems to be something that should be discussed further and the issues properly explored. This can include challenge of what the CO has said, but as part of that discussion process.


It is by far best to try to resolve such matters by discussion. This might be through the usual formal pre-planning process that your Council probably has in place.


If you find that a solution (perhaps even a compromise) is not possible you have no option than to submit for formal consent. One would assume this would be refused and you could then take the matter to Appeal. An Appeal is perhaps the only way to resolve differences of this nature and is the only formal 'challenge' you could raise.


On a more general point, I question why any wall would need regular re-pointing anyway? If it is in sound condition and/or if put into sound condition, it may be many decades (perhaps longer) before any repointing is required. The need for access in the way the CO envisages is very rare as far as I am concerned (unless there is some detail or maintenance issue that would only be clear from inspection). Is the CO well versed in technical issues and properly conversant with walls and pointing, etc., or perhaps ignorant of the true technical issues and concerned unnecessarily about something that may be a non-issue? Is the CO using this as a reason because he/she simply does not want you to build against the wall that is not currently built against?
The reason you say the CO is stating seems a rather weak one and on the face of it this is a matter that should be discussed further.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors