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Emily Fisher: My Work Experience week at Clare Nash Architecture Ltd

Hi, my name is Emily and I go to Magdalen College School in Brackley. When we were told to find somewhere to do our work experience around January 2017, I wanted to find an architecture practice that would be willing to take me on for a week. Unfortunately, when I looked on the website that the school had given us, there were no small practices nearby. I also wanted a taster for what it would be like to work outside of an office, and in a more interactive way. I searched up architects in and around Brackley, and Clare Nash Architecture Ltd was one that came up commonly. I emailed Clare to see if she would be willing to provide me with some architectural work experience. Clare replied, and asked if I would like to have a short meeting with her in a local café, which I agreed to. After meeting Clare, I was very sure that I wanted to do my work experience with her, because I feel that the way her practice works will become a lot more common in the future, and I am generally interested in the type of architecture she does. After all the school paperwork had been done my work experience week was all set. A few days before I was due to start, Clare emailed me a plan of what we would be doing in the week. After briefly looking through I was very excited, as there was a large range of activities we would be doing.

 

 

 

Monday 10th July:

On Monday, I was quite nervous to go to the Oxfordshire Project networking meeting in Banbury, as I am usually quite shy, and not good around large groups of people I do not know. When we arrived at the café, I followed Clare through, and met a couple of other people at the event. After everyone had spent some time talking and socialising, we all went to sit down at the table that had been put together for us all. (The café had been closed off to the public so the meeting was private). Once we were all sat down, Melanie Greene, an Occupational Psychologist, stood up and gave a presentation, with a few activities, to us all, about our inner critic and our fearful child within us, and how we can master our mind, rather than let it master us. There were no other architects at the network meeting, but a range of different people in different professions, e.g. a performance developer, a stress relief therapist, a podiatrist, and a website designer.

Once Melanie Greene had finished her short presentation, we all had a banana and caramel pancake, which as a nice way to make the mood much more relaxed. When we had all finished eating, we went around the table, and people introduced themselves and their profession to everybody else. After people had all given a small speech about their job, the meeting was over. People started to leave, and others started to talk amongst themselves again. I spoke to a few different people, many of whom thought that I was about 4 years older than I am.

Next, we drove to a potential clients’ house in Croughton. The house was a fairly large 4-bedroom house built in the 1970’s, and the owners were looking to build a second-floor terrace and convert their loft space in some way. The clients also wanted to replace most, if not all the windows, as they were old and letting heat out of the house.

After this we both sat in the car and ate lunch, before heading over to Helmdon, where we visited an elderly couple, who were having trouble with some damp along their southern wall, (their bungalow was the second the builders had ever built, and they clearly did not know what they were doing).They were very sweet, and did not know what was causing the damp, or how to resolve the issue. Clare was very surprised to find that along the whole roof there were only two vents, one at each end, when usually they would be along the whole underside of the roof.

After this Clare dropped me back off at my house. Overall, I really enjoyed my first day of work experience at CNA, because I found it very interesting and educational. Also, Monday gave me a good insight into what it is like doing a variety of different things on a busy day.

Tuesday 11th July:

Architectural work experience

Visit to barn conversion/re-build

barn re-build project

Artists impression of finished dwelling

Clare picked me up from my house in the morning, before we drove over to pick up Jaina (who also works at CNA) from a park& ride near Oxford. Then we drove over to a client’s house, for a site visit, where there was a large barn being built. When I saw it, it was mainly just a steel frame with a floor and upper levels, but there were lots of pipes on the floor for the underfloor heating system. I found the site visit very interesting, as it was the first time I had seen a building mid-construction up close in real life.

Once we had left the site, we drove back to the park and ride and got the bus into Oxford, where we went to a small café/ restaurant, and took the only seat which had a plug next to it because Clare needed to plug in her laptop (At this point it really started to rain and we were very glad we were inside). We ordered a bite to eat for lunch, and I shared a lovely pizza with Jaina. After we had finished our food, I used Clare’s laptop to finish a presentation for her, after some instruction from Jaina, I successfully managed to move and place photos on different slides for Clare. As I had not used InDesign before, it took me a little while to get the hang of things, but once I understood it, it was simple enough.

I enjoyed Tuesday just as much as Monday, even though we did less, because I learnt a few new skills, and experienced what it is like to work outside of an office, but doing less practical work.

Architectural work experience underfloor heating

Underfloor heating pipes on top of the insulation before screed is laid

Wednesday 12th July :

I was looking forward to today because we were going to Oxford Brookes University to work with the rest of the team. Again, Clare picked me up in the morning, and drove us to Kings Sutton train station, where we caught the train into Oxford. After getting off the train we got the bus to Brookes. At first, we went into the Abercrombie building, as this is where Clare usually works with her team, however the room was freezing cold and very desolate, as there had just been a new floor put in. Once Katie and Julia had arrived, we decided to go back to the Forum, where we sat in a work pod. I listened whilst Clare’s team had their meeting and caught up with each other once Jaina had arrived.  They spoke about some old barns that they are converting in Helmdon, and showed/edited floor plans to the client’s request. After this Julia left, and the rest of us went to have lunch.

After lunch, we went back up to the work pods. I used Clare’s laptop again to finish the presentation on InDesign for the Syresham Gems talk she was doing that evening, unfortunately I was unable to go. I found this quite relaxing, because I got into a rhythm of placing, adjusting and labelling photos easily. Around 4 we left Brookes to return to Brackley.

I also enjoyed Wednesday because it was very different to the two previous days, and was purely calm and easy going all day.

Thursday 13th July:

On Thursday, Clare had to pick me up earlier than usual, because we had to drive over to west Wycombe for another Oxfordshire Project networking meeting. I was a lot less nervous for this meeting than I was on Monday (though mainly because it wasn’t my first day), and really enjoyed it, as the people were very friendly and interesting. There was a quick presentation about motivation and mindset, before we all had a bacon sandwich, or fruit salad, and I introduced myself. This time I got to introduce myself and talk a little bit about how I have found working at CNA (I just said that I have so far enjoyed myself and have found it a good experience). Once everyone had talked about their company and a bit of their background, we were left to talk amongst ourselves and some people started leaving. We left just after 12:00, and drove home. Clare had an appointment so dropped me off and I spent the afternoon writing up this blog to put on her website. This was good as it meant I got a small taster of what it is like to work from home in the day time.

 

Friday 14th July:

Today Clare and I decided to meet up in a café in the morning in Brackley, as we had to upload the blog to the website and a potential client wanted to meet Clare. Also, one of my teachers was coming to meet Clare and I in the café, and see how my week had been.

We spent about an hour working on the blog and uploading it onto her website with a few pictures of the site visits. This was fun, as I found out how Clare changes fonts and titles on her website, and how she uploads information to it.

Once my teacher arrived, we had a quick chat about what I had done, and then he spoke to Clare for a while about what she does and for some advice on what he could do with his budget in the way of barn conversions near villages. Once he had left, we worked on the blog a bit more, and then the lady who was meeting Clare arrived. They had a long conversation about economic housing like passive houses and other more efficient systems. Then Clare had to send a couple of emails, before we left and went to get some lunch.

After Clare had gotten her lunch, we walked up to the town park where we sat and ate lunch for a bit. Then Clare gave me a short tutorial on how to use Vector works, which was very interesting because I had never seen or used the programme before. Next, we walked back to Clare’s, and made a quick stop before driving to a small barn conversion/extension just next to Helmdon. The site visit was very nice, as it was completely different to the previous site visit, even though they were both barns. This barn was much smaller and sweeter than the other one. We stayed here for around and hour and a half, after which we left to drive home.

Barn conversion and re-build

Showing new steel frame for re-build part of barn conversion

I found Friday very interesting, because I learned a new skill, and could understand what was happening on the construction site better than on Tuesday, because it was smaller so much easier to see what was going on.

Overall, I really enjoyed my whole week of work experience at Clare Nash Architecture Ltd, and found it very insightful. It was a very good experience, and really helped me confirm what I would like to do in the future. I would recommend her company to other people both clients and future work experience students, because it was very interesting to see how Clare and her team work together outside of an office. I am wholly grateful to Clare for putting up with me all week, and would like to say a big thank you to her for allowing me to do my Year 10 work experience week with her and the company.

 

 

July 17, 2017

The Community Infrastructure Levy and what it means for self-builders and barn conversions

Community Infrastructure Levy Barns

A piece of legislation has recently been adopted by South Northamptonshire and South Oxfordshire district councils affecting certain developments that have been granted planning permission on or after the 1st April 2016.  This is a charge called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which applies to new residential and retail developments. Most other councils will also soon be starting to apply this charge.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a charge that local authorities in England and Wales can choose to place on new developments, usually those with over 100m2 of floorspace, or that create one or more new dwellings.

Please note; this charge only applies if you are creating new-build floor space such as a new-build dwelling or a large home extension (over 100m2). This can also be a mezzanine level in a barn conversion. The CIL charge will apply to the new build floor space only (so the area of the mezzanine or extension) and not to any existing floor area.

Please also note, if you are a self-builder (i.e. you will be living in your new home for at least 3 years or it is an extension to your own home that you will be living in for at least 3 years) then you can apply for exemption to the levy.

The levy came into force in 2010 (but councils have been very slow to implement it, with many still not implementing the charge in 2017) and coincides with restrictions on the use of planning obligations such as Section 106 agreements.  A CIL enables the local authority to raise more money for local infrastructure improvements than Section 106 obligations. It also provides developers more certainty about costs, as it is a fixed charge.

Section 106 agreements and CIL

The CIL regulations can be complex. However, it is important to consider how it may affect you if intending to convert an existing barn or build/extend a new residential property in the future.

How might the CIL affect a barn conversion?

The good news is that changes of use, such as the conversion of a barn into a dwelling, do not usually attract the CIL for two reasons.  Firstly, a barn conversion does not usually involve creating 100m2 or more of new floorspace.  Secondly, floorspace that has been in legal use for a continuous period of at least six months within the 12 months preceding the granting of planning permission is disregarded when calculating CIL (See Section 40 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations).

Section 40 of the CIL Regulations

But, you might be liable for CIL if your barn conversion involves creating additional new-build floorspace (e.g a mezzanine or extension to the barn). Here the levy would only apply to the additional floor area, not the total building area.

How might the CIL affect self-builds/extensions?

A government initiative to stimulate the self-build market means that a development can also be exempt from the CIL if it is a self-build/extension project.

There are three types of self-build exemptions; for a whole property, for a residential annexe and for a residential extension.

  1. Whole Property

Those claiming exemption must own the property and use it as their primary residence for a minimum of three years post-completion. If the self-builder sells or rents their property within this period, they will be charged the full levy of their area.

  1. Residential extension

If certain criteria are met (see regulations 42A and 42B), then a self-builder will be exempt from paying the levy for extensions. For example; the main house must be the self-builder’s primary residence and only if the proposed extension enlarges the primary residence i.e. it is not an additional unit. Extensions less than 100m2 are already exempt according to the minor development exemption.

Regulations 42A and 42B

In both cases it is important that the correct procedure is followed in order to receive a notice of exemption; including not starting works before this is received. It is important to note that even if these types of projects do not require planning permission, the CIL will still be charged unless exemption applies.

Ultimately, the landowner is responsible for seeking CIL exemption, or, is liable for paying the levy within 60 days of commencement of the works. CIL payments are usually made in cash, but can also be paid “in kind”, for example through land.

CIL charges

Both councils use Charging Zones to determine the CIL cost, and have produced corresponding maps. In South Northants there are three main categories for charges; rural, urban and Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs) which range between £50/m2- £200/m2. In South Oxfordshire residential development can be liable for a charge of up to £150/m2. Both councils have produced Charging Schedules that set out the charges and answer FAQs.

South Northants CIL Information

South Northants CIL Charging Schedule

South Oxon CIL Information

South Oxon CIL Charging Schedule

 

October 5, 2016
The Community Infrastructure Levy and what it means for self-builders and barn conversions

Barn use classes & ‘agricultural unit’ clarification

Barn use classesBarn use classes

I have received queries recently about certain elements of permitted development for barns. The first is about how existing barn use classes affect the permitted development. A current project helps to explain this. Two neighbouring barns, each is to be converted for residential use, have slightly different prior approval permissions.  The difference is actually quite minor, and lies in the barns’ original use classes.  One barn conversion is permitted under Class P (change of use from a storage or distribution centre to a dwelling house), and the other falls into Class Q (agricultural buildings to dwelling houses).  Both of these Change of Use Classes have a cap on the area of building that can be converted – for Class P it is 500m2 and for Class Q it is 450m2.

This brings me onto the second query on this subject, which was to do with a Class Q conversion. The official wording states:

Agricultural buildings under 450sq m are permitted to change to Class C3 dwellinghouses, together with some building operations necessary to facilitate the conversion. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, including no more than 3 dwellings within an agricultural unit.

So what constitutes an “agricultural unit”?

The General Permitted Development Order defines an agricultural unit as:

agricultural land which is occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture, including— 

(a) any dwelling or other building on that land occupied for the purpose of farming the land by the person who occupies the unit, or 

(b) any dwelling on that land occupied by a farmworker.

This is quite an open definition, the main gist of which seems to come down to whether the buildings and land in question are all a part of the same business enterprise.  For some projects this definition is very straightforward, whereas for others it can be a little more complicated and the boundary of the agricultural unit may not be so clear.  In case of doubt it is best to consult a local authority planning officer.

written by Julia Phillips – architectural assistant at Clare Nash Architecture

June 3, 2016

But having said that…further Barns Permitted Development clarifications

Barns Permitted DevelopmentBarns Permitted Development

RIBA news shows Barns Permitted Development guidance for conversion to dwellings has had further clarification on what exactly is ‘undesirable’. Previously, this was undefined giving councils the right to refuse all kinds of applications because it found the proposed development ‘undesirable’. I have not found this to be a problem so far with any councils that I have worked with. But the need for this clarification shows that some councils are not of the view that barns should be converted to homes. However, one South Northants council officer did say to me “It seems the government wants barns to be converted into dwellings”, so perhaps more councils will be taking this viewpoint in future. It does also seem that overall, it is looking favourable for barn conversions to dwellings for the foreseeable future. The government has taken the time to produce this guidance, which it wouldn’t have done if this was a short term trial. However what happens following the election is as always, unpredictable.

For more on Barn Permitted Development see the following blog posts:

A recent barn conversion to dwelling project that received planning permission see here

If you would like to know more about the change in law for permitted development barn conversion to dwellings, then please see my blog here

 

 

March 20, 2015

Get in quick for barn conversion to dwelling!

barn conversion to dwelling25th January 2015

A little bird told me recently (having attended a high up planning meeting) that the general feeling is that the new permitted development law that came in for barn conversions to dwellings in March 2014 may go out with a change of government. So it would be a good idea if you are thinking of converting a barn into a dwelling to get planning permission in the next few months. However you may not wish to start work in the near future due to other commitments, organising funding etc. But once you have planning permission you could do a small amount of work (this could just be some foundations or repairing stonework) which will secure the planning permission indefinitely. You can then carry on with the rest of the work at a later stage. Do be aware that any building work will need to be signed off by building control and leaving it too long (not signed off) may mean having to redo this work as the regulations may have changed.

If you would like to know more about the change in law for permitted development barn conversion to dwellings, then please see my blog here

My free barn conversions guide may also be of interest: Free Advice

January 25, 2015

Barn Conversion into a Dwelling, a Guide following changes to permitted development rights

Barn Conversion into a dwelling
Although permitted development rights now exist for a barn conversion into a dwelling there are some limits to this and there may well be other reasons for which a planning application is necessary. These are listed below:

  •  No. of dwellings, this is restricted to maximum of 3 per Agricultural Unit under Permitted Development.
  • Amount – the agricultural unit must not exceed 450m2 to be converted under Permitted Development. You could potentially get around this by only converting part of the barn.
  •  Biodiversity – are there bats living in the barn? All barn conversions require a habitat survey to ensure that bats/owls/great crested newts are not living in or around your barn. If evidence of protected species are found, this is not necessarily the end of the development as bat boxes can be provided for example.
  •  Access – there are rules for how far you need to be able to see (called a vision splay) when exiting a driveway, this depends on the speed limit of the road and will need to be presented to the council.
  •  Materials – As most barns are in rural areas, materials and window styles are likely to be an important issue with the local council. They will ideally like to see something that represents the local vernacular. However modern contemporary conversions are also a possibility if they are respectful of the surroundings.
  • Contamination – the local authority may insist on a ground contamination survey as agricultural sites can often be contaminated.
  • Flood risk – If the development is in a flood zone or near to one a flood survey must be carried out and may affect the chances for development.
  • Amount of re-build. Some councils do not accept any re-build while others accept an entire re-build. Although you may apply and receive Prior Approval under Permitted Development, if you want to change the existing appearance of the barn by re-building any part you would need to submit some kind of planning application, potentially only ‘Operations and Demolition in association with the Prior Approval’
  • A pre-application can often be a good idea to test ideas with the council prior to submitting a full application. It is a quicker and cheaper way of exploring the potential options for development of your barn. This is entirely private and not available online so it is also useful for potential buyers to test the water.
  • The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), though generally re-using existing floor space is exempt from CIL, if you are planning any extensions or new-build you could find yourself with a charge. Further reading here

whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to residential use

This extract from the Permitted Development rules in 2014 has since been amended to stop councils preventing barn conversions in the open countryside. Please see my more recent blog explaining the additions to the permitted development rules in 2015. For even more information relating to barn conversions see all of our barn related blogs in one place (under barn conversions on the sidebar to the right).

April 22, 2014