I've always said that this blog would be a warts and all account of the ups and downs we face with the renovations, and this month it has to be said, has had its fair share of peaks and troughs...some definite big, deep and gloomy troughs.
The biggest house headline is that the builders at last started on the extension. It was such a massive relief to finally feel like weren't alone and to see some relatively quick progress besides our own noble efforts five months in.
Our lovely next door neighbours from the downstairs flat gave us the green light to go ahead and put up the extension wall on the boundary line, which thankfully gives us that extra space inside the kitchen to do our proposed plans. They've been super supportive and very sweet in wishing us well.
The builders typically started in line with some of the worst downpours of the year, but nevertheless the foundations were dug, the building inspector came round to do his inspecting, we waved goodbye to two skip loads of rubble and earth, the concrete was poured into the foundations, and the bricks were ordered. It felt like we were finally cooking on gas.
The foundations for the kitchen extension
With the scullery, kitchen and toilet all knocked through
All was going so well, and then it happened. We received a complaint through the planning office from the father of the neighbour who lives above the lovely neighbours (as a sidenote; he's a builder, he wants to buy lovely neighbours' flat when they are ready to sell - although lovely neighbours have no intention of selling - so he's not keen on us blocking the light...into a flat that's not actually his). Soooo...understandably, we are a tad frustrated at the bizarre nature of this objection.
Frustration soon turned to relief as it became clear that, contrary to the opinion of no less than 5 builders and looking into the bamboozling government planning portal ourselves, we weren't actually covered under permitted development (where you don't need full planning permission for some extensions of up to 6 metres from the back of your house). We went over the maximum length of extending by all of 600mm (technically our dining room doors are taken as the 'back of the house', although they are cleeearly not). Anyway, it could be worse; we could have built it all and then had to knock it down, so there's definitely a silver lining in there somewhere.
We were asked to serve the upstairs flat with a notice of intent for the new party wall as they are leaseholders and apparently needed to agree and sign to it as well as downstairs. So we gave them 14 days, as is statutory, to return it...which they missed and made us sweat.
So the build was stopped dead in its tracks, we didn't want to apply for planning until we knew where we could legally build the wall to avoid alterations and delays further down the line, and when we finally do get round to putting in the application it will take atleast 8 weeks for it to be processed, plus any appeals on top of that.
The timing could have been better - whilst we were away in Grenada the kitchen, electrics and lights for the entire house were ripped out leaving us with a microwave, a single camping ring stove, and two working light sockets - back to basics for the next 4-5 months then.
Our makeshift kitchen (lovely raw surfaces though)
The old kitchen, now a cat assault course
It all seemed relatively achievable to have ourselves in good shape by Christmas, but time seems to be just trickling through our fingers and I think it's safe to say that's not looking likely.
However, I'm a firm believer that things have a way of working themselves out, they always do, there's a solution to any situation or problem, we just have to be patient and wait for this one to work through.
Then a few days ago, after taking the time to visit the unhelpful planning officers at the council and coming away feeling at a complete dead end, Si suggested calling the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They were AMAZING - if I'd have seen them in person I would have bear hugged them. I got to speak to the Director of Faculty who has written books on the subject of party walls, and to quote him "your upstairs neighbour can go fly a kite". In other words we don't need their permission.
Thankfully it never got to the stage where I had to quote him on this, because the next evening, after 2.5 weeks of sweating it out, Si returned home to find a signed party wall agreement from the upstairs neighbour anyway. Finally, a turn in our favour, and thankfully we've kept things pleasant between us.
We're under no illusions that there won't be other bumps in the road, (like being refused planning permission all together!) but they're for another day.
The planning application will be submitted first thing in the morning and our fingers are well and truly crossed for some smoother sailing over the summer....here's hoping.