A guide to extending, building or refurbishing your home. Heswall, Caldy, West Kirby, Wallasey, Wirral and Cheshire

by Nick 29. September 2011 15:25

Where to Start When investing significant money into your property, it is important that you get it right from the very start. The appointment of a Chartered Architect will ensure that a professional will be there to guide you through each step of your project.

However large or small your project, a well-considered design is fundamental. This stage should not be rushed or overlooked. The design should reflect your lifestyle now and also consider how this may change in the future. It is not just about providing additional space but how you will live in it. A small investment of time and funds at this stage of the project will pay dividends. Remember, you may have to live with the decisions you make now for many years to come.

Once a sketch scheme is complete, it is beneficial to establish a budget cost to ensure that your ambitions match your budget.


Planning Your project may or may not require a formal Planning Application. Permitted development rights allow certain levels of development without the need for approval, this must be checked prior to commencement.

Essentially, the planning department deals with the appearance, positioning and impact of your proposals on neighbouring properties and the wider locality. An application will require detailed drawings together with a completed application form and fee (currently £150 for a domestic extension). Additional information is often necessary depending on location, type of building and the proposals. Much of Caldy is within a Conservation Area, a Heritage Statement and a Design & Access Statement will be necessary. Parts of Heswall and other areas on Wirral are also Conservation Areas  . If an application is required, it is best to form a working relationship with the Planning Department at an early stage. This will give your Planning Application the best chance of success. Wirral Planning have a drop in or phone service, this is currently free.  Once an application has been validated, the Planning department have 8 weeks to make a decision. An approval may be granted with conditions and the work must commence within 3 years or the approval becomes invalid. A refused application can be resubmitted once within 12 months at no additional charge to the Local Authority. The Party Wall Act and other issues should also be considered at this stage.


Building Regulations Most projects will require a Building Regulations Application, even if Planning Approval is not required. This will require more detailed drawings dealing with issues such as drainage, structure, insulation, health, safety, and accessibility. Calculations, prepared by a Structural Engineer are normally required to accompany the application.

The Building Regulations Application can be submitted to either the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. Their services comprise of a Plan Check followed by inspections on site.  Their fees depend on the nature of the work. For very small projects it is possible to submit as a Building Notice, which requires only limited information.

Once the Application has been received, works can start after 48 hours and without formal Building Regulations plan approval. It is important that the Inspector is kept informed to avoid unnecessary correction of works on site. The Building Control Officer or Approved Inspector will inspect at certain stages of the work and it is essential that a Building Regulations Completion certificate be obtained on completion confirming the works meet the necessary standards.

 Construction Costs and Tender There a number of ways to obtain a construction cost. The most common method is to issue the drawings and additional information to 3 of 4 contractors for pricing. The contractors should be provided with as much information as possible to ensure accurate and competitive costs are obtained and extras on site are kept to a minimum or avoided altogether.


Contracts Following selection of a contractor it is advisable that some form of contract is prepared. The best way is to use a standard JCT form of contract. There are simple contracts specifically designed for domestic projects. The contracts are designed to provide both the client and contractor with protection should issues arise on site.


Works on site and Completion Once on site you are in the final stage of your project. Works should be closely monitored to ensure they are in accordance with the drawings. Payments are normally made at stages throughout the works and upfront payments should be avoided. If an Architect is appointed they can monitor the payments and prepare payment certificates. Retentions should be held on stage payments and also at completion for 3, 6 or 12 months depending on the contract. This allows for defects to be rectified. VAT will usually be applied to domestic extensions and can be a significant sum. In certain circumstances, such as New Build, VAT can be claimed back, this should be checked with H M Revenue & Customs.


pdf copy of article for printing -  The Architects Clinic article PDF.pdf (1.29 mb)


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