It would be wonderful to be able to build ourselves a home of our dreams anywhere we fancied, wouldn’t it. Well this seems a fabulous plan, on the surface. However when you look into it a little deeper there are flaws immediately. As we see from other countries that don’t have our stringent planning controls and regulations, the chance to build absolutely anything anywhere does not actually work. There have to be compromises with other people who may fance that piece of land too. So this is where you have to buy it for your self and prove that it is yours and only yours, to build anything on. Next hurdle is that not every piece of land for sale will have building permissable scope – each county council planning department sets out a five year plan to include the boundary of all permitted developments and anything outside that boundary will not qualify – it will generally be classed as green belt i.e. plain unbuilt on land. And with any building project, especially a dream one – a good well experienced professional desiner / architect with good working knowledge of the local planning department is the key to any project taking off.
There cannot be much more of a frightening scenario on the home front than to have something serious happen to the house – a fire or maybe a break-in. It makes the whole of our future experience in the property take on a completely different feel. Nothing is more important than the feeling of being safe and secure, belonging. When we need to have work done on our properties, the opportunity for fraud or underhand treatment is obviously increased. That’s why it is vital to engage the services of tradespeople and experts who are known throughout the locality for their good workmanship, honesty and ethical operations. I for one will never ever pay ‘under the counter’. . . . i.e. paying less than the usual rate – generally by not paying VAT. This is a sign of an inherently dishonest operator and therefore not deserving of my hard earned funds. I mean to say, who is going to pay ito the national treasury for all those new nurses, doctors, police etc etc that were so needed when we had the recent general election. Evading all taxes is not good. It is cheating on everyone else.
It would be absolutely wonderful to be able to build ay property that took our fancy on any bit of land we owned, or more likely, one or two family members owned. This canot be possible in this little country – it does feel as if we are getting engulfed by all the new edge of town developments already. When I was in the States earlier this year, I was given a tour round the terrifyingly expensive area that the good and the very rich now have their first homes built. I discovered there is no sentimentality towards houses or buildings in general over there as there is here. Some of the neighbours I managed to chat to were incredulous that we have heritage charities set up specifically to care for old properties, historic battle sites, monuments etc. They do still on the whole bulldoze existing houses once they’re deemed a bit old fashioned, and new ones goes up in their place. Theirs don’t seem to be built by the same methods though and do tend to look like the home built property style.
We all need a little help when we start a new project. Whether this is to do with refurbishing a house or garden. You can have all sorts of ideas of what ought to be moved from here and put there, or perhaps let’s knock down this wall and make the area open concept – used to be called open plan when I was a nipper. . . . . however that’s just splitting hairs. the only way to really ensure that a good project is designed, planned for, approved, costed and adhered to is to engage the services of a good local contractor. Unless you and your helper have explicit experience in knocking down anything other than a stickle brick mountain, then major headaches can occur from the very first. A professional company will save hours of heartache, massive fracturing of the friendship and an even bigger rupture of the bank balance. Cutting corners to save a few pounds has very very rarely worked out for the good in real life.
I had occasion to visit a splendid split level penthouse suite recently. It is some years since this turn of phrase was used in open conversation . . . . I was really intrigued to see if this one offered the amazing views and open toof top garden that it had originally been advertised as including. I worked out that the penthouse I was about to enter must have been built in the late 1980s – it was on top of the once very fashionable hotel next to the river bridge. I can well remember the adverts for it at the time as they showed an artist’s impression of large spacious sitting room, dining area off the large open concept kitchen. The king sized edrrom with dressing room and ensuite looked so luxurious back then! I am pleased to report that most of the flat was of good proportion. It had been recently refurbished throughout and the kitchen was fantastic. Can you imagine having to take down all the debris in the service lift and bring all the new fit up that way . . . whooh!
I often leaf through the endless stream of magazines in the supermarket – thechance to look at ideas for decor and maybe a quick glance at what’s going on in today’s world of self build and design . . . In all of the magazines geared for ladies, of a certain age and up, there are adverts for various river cruises, coach trips, railways trips etc. and every single one includes Amsterdam and / or Bruges. Both of these locations are jolly pretty – well the one or two cobbled paved areas they show in the ad. When you take the included excersion, on a river barge, you’re guided to look up and appreciate the intriguing architecture and it’s only recently I really did do that. I did wonder how on earth did they build such pretty little narrow gingerbread style homes and wharfs on top of such a watery base. I’m quite sure the local design teams in my town would be able to produce ideas for building on top of man made canals – their training would have covered all kinds of scenarios I’m sure; but I’m jolly glad they wouldn’t have to in reality!
There are many rules in this country concerned with land and where you can and cannot build – the local country councils have had to draw up their five year plans for some time now, at least 30 years. These give the boundary areas within which land will be designated as suitable or appropriate for property development. The rest, outside those marked zones will not be considered unless by way of a sudden law change or some decree from the government in an emergency situationThe land that is still considered ‘safe’ from development is usually referred to as green belt – as it will be prime farm land or other landscaped area kept for the good of the populace. People do try and get round these rules but with a good reporting system, they are found out very quickly and houses to have to be demolished after the errant developer has lost a court case and subsequent appeal. The point made here is that by using a professional planning and develpment company, with experience of land and planning issues, and a fear of public humiliation if they ignor any – these rules will be adhered to and development will only take place on bona fide plots.
It can be very difficult to focus on what exactly is needed to be done to a house once it’s past its very best. Perhaps you have inherited a place outside a major home county – you really won’t have any idea how much it will cost to upgrade and refurbish it to even a middling standard. Unless you have a private bank beside you, it’s going to take a concentrated effort to fund work to be done a job at a time. As I watch a home purchase and refub programme fairly regularly it’s it seems the most cost effective way to renovate a property is to use one firm who can look at the project as a whole, advice on the jobs that can be done in one fell swoop so as to keep the hire of personnel under control. Any expert trades can work on the place at the same time to limit the project engineering time on site. Good communication and trust in the team leader is necessary.
I have recently been on my travels, this time to the States. Everything is done differently wherever you travel to. The States epseically so. Of course they have everything bigger – houses, roads, weather. Especially weather! I was given a tour around a city that suffered desperately badly with hurricanes two years ago. Several fatalities, and thousands of folk lost their homes and everything they treasured. It turns out that flood insurance is not an option on normal home insurance as it is here. The government there has implemented a separate scheme that families are encouraged to pay in to. Many don’t because they feel they’re not on a flood plain. This is what happened the other year – most of the losses were not covered by standard their standard insurance and they’d ignored the government scheme. Their insurance does cover all rain/water damage from above coming down but not for flood damage coming up from below. Bizarre but true.
I live on an attractive housing development – built in the early 2000s. There was a bit of resurgence in the confidence of house building and we were happy to buy into this selection of 4 and 5 bedroomed detached family homes. One thing that appealed was that although the very nature of housing estates indicates that more than one house has to be built, unlike after the war, when mass house building was carried out through emergency needs, today’s estates could have some finess and attractive points. The superb brickwork is one feature. The side wall of the house behind my back garden is a true work of art. If I’d not seen them actually laying it row upon row, all neatly and very quickly, I would honestly have thought it had been manufactured in one huge block and then cut to shape! There is no ugly bit sticking out or mishapen areas – all the bricks are from the same colour batch and not a single patch of white salty deposit has appeared since 2001. Hurrah