Planning approval was finally granted in early May 2022. It seems that the planning department have a massive backlog of work and are, of course, blaming covid….. nearly seven months to process a relatively simple planning application that was only marginally different to that previously granted seems ridiculous but apparently six months is now about the norm locally.
Since then, I’ve been doing the following:
Drive entrance walls – whilst these would have ideally been left until the end of the build as they are inevitably going to be hit by a delivery / concrete / muck-away lorry, they form part of a new boundary to neighbours, so I needed to build them.
We did the foundations but constructing a new sandstone wall would have taken me ages (and probably looked rubbish) so in came James the Mason to build them. I was unable to find any matching coping stones so had to bite the bullet and get new ones cut – hopefully they’ll sort of match the contemporary design of the new house.
We also split an old sandstone gate post that was buried in the part of the previously demolished wall into two to give somewhere nice to put a house name sign – when we can agree as a family what this should be! Several suggestions (such as Housey McHouseface) have already had to be turned down.
Southern boundary fence – previously the site had been screened by a row of Leylandii on the southern boundary, but these have all been removed. Part of the (many) planning conditions was a requirement for a wooden fence along this boundary which backs on to three houses which are considerably lower down the hillside.
After discussions with the owners of these houses I erected a fence such that they could, if they desired, put their own type of fence panels on their side. It was suggested that perhaps I would put up a different type of fence to the rear of each property to suit each of the owners, but this was not really an option as I’d have ended up with mish-mash of panels my side.
Soakaway – All surface water for the site is drained into a large (27m3) soakaway comprised of buried plastic crates wrapped in geotextile approx. 3.5m deep. As I had the excavator on site installing this was relatively easy and hopefully has saved a few pennies.
Northern boundary fence – again, this was specified as part of the planning conditions. The panels were a horizontally slatted design and I decided to use metal posts for this as a) I think they look better and b) hopefully they’ll last a good few years.
The lawn above is slightly higher so I used oak sleepers to make a retaining wall. There are vertical oak sleepers buried behind those shown in the photo to give a bit more strength. The far end hasn’t quite been finished in this photo. Thankfully, this fence seems to have been met by approval from the relevant neighbour!
Service duct installation – all the services have to run down the drive from the lane above. As this is the only access to the site I wanted to try and get these all installed at once to minimise the disruption to access to/from the site. Following discussions with the water, electric, gas and sewer companies I decided to put all the utilities (except the sewer) in ducts. This necessitated digging a trench 800mm wide by 800mm deep through mostly solid sandstone which was fun.
Thankfully the trusty JCB prevailed and was able to dig through most of it with only the harder bits at the one end needing to be removed by hand with a breaker. You might remember there was a very cold week before Christmas – this, of course, was the week we installed the ducts. It took ages to defrost the van / digger every morning before we could actually do anything and even then, the ground / backfill sand etc was all frozen solid.
The water duct was inspected by United Utilities prior to backfilling the trench and was passed OK. SP energy have also been out and connected up their cable so as soon as I can persuade a supplier to install a meter (many won’t at the present presumably due to volatile electric prices) we’ll have on site electric! The water is also due to be connected soon.
As an aside, although SP Energy were great to deal with, I was surprised by their working processes. One team from a subcontractor came out and dug a hole for the electric connection. This was further complicated by them discovering four electric cables where there should, according to the utility plans (which of course I have courtesy of www.cornerstoneprojects.co.uk), only have been two.
This necessitated many phone calls to and fro with SP Energy to determine which cable was to be connected to. This team then left site (noting there was a good chance they’d have to come back) and the next day a jointing team arrived to make the connection.
They decided given that the cables weren’t buried very deeply they needed more excavation so waited until another digging team could come to site. The cables were then jointed and both teams left site; I’m now waiting for yet another team to come and backfill the jointing excavation.
I would have thought that having both the digging team and the jointing team turn up on the same day would make things much simpler and cheaper – none of the operations took more than a couple of hours but was spread over four teams and so far, three days with a lot of waiting in vans involved.
Whilst doing all of the above, in conjunction with our architect, we’ve asked several contractors to tender for the build. The prices we received back were eye watering to say the least. With impeccable timing I seem to have encountered the ‘perfect storm’ – massive material price increases (e.g., the proposed bricks have more than doubled in cost), builders are still extremely busy, interest rates are going up and my existing house looks like it will be worth less when I come to sell it. Oh joy…
Given this I’ve now decided to project manage the build myself and employ subcontractors. I’m aware that Kevin McCloud would be shaking his head at this decision, but I don’t particularly want the possibility of the house costing more to build than it is worth when finished (or to bankrupt myself in the process).
I was also never really comfortable with the idea of being presented with a completed house – surely the ‘fun’ is in getting stuck in yourself! Anyway, time will tell one way or another.
Duncan’s first utilities search was completed from his spare room back in 2004. He came up with the idea of offering Underground Utility Searches whilst managing a small engineering design team in his previous role. They regularly had to contact the utilities for their plans and he soon realised how much hassle and time this took. He quickly turned this idea into action, and with over 57,000+ searches completed to date, has built systems and internal processes that are the envy of the industry.