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Across the country, behind closed doors, we British are building.
We're building up, down and out to improve our homes.
-Do you know, will we get planning permission?
-I've got reservations.
But before we build, we need permission.
Permission from the planners. A bunch of people
dedicated to protecting our public spaces and neighbourhoods.
I think, in its present state, it possibly isn't quite acceptable.
So, if you've ever wanted a bigger kitchen, an extra bedroom
or an ensuite bathroom, stand by...
..it's time to Plan It, Build It.
Britain is a crowded country.
Most of us live in flats, terraces or semi-detached homes,
right next door to other families.
One homeowner's desire to extend their living space
may adversely affect their neighbour's quality of life,
so a big part of any planner's job is weighing up
these conflicting interests - for present and future residents!
'There are some upsetting circumstances surrounding people
'and the planning process,'
but at the end of the day, the individual can move on.
But the buildings always remain.
So, today's programme is all about how planners
protect the rights of your neighbours.
Is it possible to get the extension YOU want
without upsetting those you live closest to?
The planners will meet...
..a couple who mistakenly think their plans won't cause a problem.
We don't envisage any major problems,
the actual character of the house and the area
won't really be affected that much.
I have got to say that I've got MAJOR concerns.
And a family with very little room for manoeuvre...
In my mind I feel like it's going to be amazing!
Your extension... it may need to actually be shortened.
Can our families get the space they want
without ruining the lives of their neighbours?
And how much will their extensions add to the value of their homes?
Welcome to St Leonards-on-Sea.
Once a popular Victorian resort,
St Leonards sits next door to Hastings,
but has a completely separate identity.
It boasts a mix of grand Regency buildings
and small terraced houses - some shabby, some chic.
The average price paid is £159,000,
but semi-detached houses can cost anywhere between
£150,000 and £500,000,
depending on which street you live in.
Hastings Council have planner Carol Boudel.
A lady who not only loves the area, but is dedicated to protecting
both the buildings and the people who live in them.
I've got an application here, it's for a new side extension.
Shane and Marie Dove were born and bred in the area.
They've lived in their Victorian terraced house at the top of town
for nine years and bought it for £115,000.
But with two growing children, they are desperate
for a bigger kitchen and an additional bedroom.
They've weighed up their options and decided extending
is by far their best bet...
We did look at possibly moving house
and going to a bigger house, but the cost of moving house
and all the fees that are involved, we sort of said,
"Hang on a minute, if we spent that much on our house,
"we could really make it work for us."
And the key thing for us is location.
This house has got, for us, the perfect location.
It's close to my nan and it's close to my school,
so I like living here and when these guys turn it over to me,
it will be all redone and posh and fancy!
Ooh! Little Ian is planning a long way ahead!
But his parents are looking for more immediate benefits.
It's going to mean a lot to get the planning permission through,
so that we can actually go forward and it will literally
improve our lives on a daily basis.
Getting planning permission would be a massive boost for the Doves,
but Carol has to watch out for anything
which may have a negative impact on those living nearby.
They're going to extend out into this little courtyard area
up to the boundary wall.
Widening the kitchen to make a nice, large kitchen,
then in the roof, they're putting a dormer
to create a large master bedroom in the attic.
I need to have a look and see if there's any loss of outlook,
because if the neighbouring property's got a rear return,
then where the new extension is, there'll be a wall there
and it'll be like a long tunnel.
The Doves think moving would cost them about 25 grand,
and that doesn't include the higher mortgage repayments and bills,
so they plan to put the same amount - 25 to 30 grand -
into their renovations.
We're doing the improvements to the house with a loan,
so obviously, it's a set amount,
and obviously it's got to stay within that budget,
because we've only got that amount.
So we obviously do as best as we can to stick to it
and if we need to scale back a bit or take some things out,
-then we might have to.
-We don't envisage any major problems.
It's not a massive change. The actual character of the house
and the area won't really be affected that much, so we're hopeful
that the council will see it in our favour.
Oi! Not so fast, Shane! Carol has concerns!
There could be quite a loss of privacy there from that window there.
Because it's serving a bedroom, it's likely to have clear glazing
and if a window is within 20 metres of another window,
there's a possibility there for refusal.
I don't know, it might be OK.
It's difficult to tell on paper and that's why we carry out site visits.
The Doves' dreams of a bigger living space will hinge on what Carol sees
when she conducts her site visit.
If their extension has an adverse impact on the neighbours,
they might have to leave an area they love.
The Government has relaxed rules on planning
in an effort to boost the building trade.
But more applications mean more disputes between neighbours.
Coventry may be a "City of Peace and Reconciliation",
but planners here face all the same problems...
OK, today we're going to do a site visit in Whoberley,
which is a district of Coventry - it's actually a ward
and it's out in the western suburbs of the city.
Whoberley is a crowded Coventry suburb where space is at a premium.
In the Second World War, the area was used to house barrage balloons,
but after the war it underwent a period of rapid expansion.
It's now a thriving suburb with rows of neat terraced homes
and good facilities.
The average price of a three-bed terrace is £155,000,
which is very good value when you consider a similar property
in nearby Wainbody would cost about fifty grand more!
Whoberley is a place people like to settle and put down roots.
A large percentage of residents here
have lived in their homes for more than 20 years.
Coventry Council's Richard Sykes is dedicated
to maintaining the harmonious character of the area.
I think part of our job is very, very much this balancing act
between different competing aspirations.
What they're wanting to do, their building
or their use or their business, might actually have a negative impact
on people who live in the area or next door to them.
Paul and Paula Carmichael live in a three-bed Whoberley home.
They bought it eight years ago for £153,000.
They urgently need planning approval to open up their space
and provide more room for them and little Dexter.
Well, we've got a budget in mind,
-it's somewhere in the region of £20k...
..so that's really our top point,
that's really where we want to go to, and no more than that.
At the moment, there's two entry points from the front door.
You can either come straight into the kitchen or into our dining room.
When the extension's done, this door here would be a door to a toilet
and you could only enter the kitchen through the dining room door.
Like many modern families,
the Carmichaels want an open-plan kitchen and living area,
which would extend out into the garden.
But, when it came to putting their plans together,
they had no idea what was and what wasn't possible...
We thought we could extend all the way to the end
of where our kitchen is at the moment and our utility room.
But then, when we spoke to the architect, they were like,
"Oh, you can't really do that!"
Because we'd be going over our neighbour's extension.
We'd be out too far. We thought, because the house stops there
at the moment, we thought we could just extend to that part.
So this would be essentially a family area.
The extension then would go out and we'd have a dining table,
where the decking is at the moment and then the kitchen would go round.
Paula's biggest wish is to get rid of her galley kitchen
and she's already started to fantasise about its replacement...
With the new extension, the sink would be up here,
I'd be looking into the garden and it would go into a 'U' shape here
and then you'd walk from here into the dining area.
So, it'd be quite nice. You could chop here.
I can see Dexter there, maybe doing his homework or over there playing.
Maybe have a little TV or radio going...
In my mind, I feel like it's going to be amazing!
It's just getting there, really.
We've saved for a long time to get this extension started
and I think now that we've started the process,
it's just that anxiousness of really wanting to get it completed.
I feel I want to get it done, I don't want to hang around.
I feel like, "We've done the planning, let's keep on moving on it
"and get this dream on the road!"
Paul and Paula's hopes for their extension
depend on what Richard sees when he conducts a site inspection.
In Hastings, it's a big day for the Doves.
Carol is here to perform her crucial site visit.
This will go a long way to deciding whether they get space they want.
-Hello, Mr Dove? I'm Carol Boudel.
I'm the case officer for the planning application.
-Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Shane.
-Is it OK to come in?
What Shane and Marie don't know is that Carol has concerns
about the impact of their plans on the neighbours,
which could spell disaster for their dream of extending
and ultimately staying in lovely St Leonards.
Right, OK. First of all, what I'll need to do
is go outside and have a look,
because this is where the extension is going?
-You're moving this part, is that right?
And then extending that one out to the boundary wall there.
-Right, shall we go out and have a look?
It's a big moment for the Doves.
If Carol thinks their planned extension is overbearing,
they might have to shelve their plans for a new kitchen.
Even already, I have got to say that I've got major concerns
-about that loss of light there.
Also, another thing I'd have concerns about would be,
if you can imagine the wall being there, in place,
it would be almost like a tunnel, when you view it from that window.
The crazy thing is, you can have a boundary wall
up to two metres in height. That'd restrict a certain amount of light,
so I take that into account, but...
-I'm still a little bit nervous about it.
Carol's concern is a classic problem for planners
and it's something they always look out for.
Tunnelling, in planner speak, occurs when one extension
is allowed to push out too far, and comes too close
to an adjoining extension, reducing the neighbours' outlook
and often enclosing them in darkness.
-And they know about you...?
-We have written to them,
-but have they seen the plans, do you know?
-And they're not concerned about any loss of light?
-No. I mean, before
we even started to think exactly what we wanted to do,
because we get on with them, we said "We're thinking of doing something."
We told them from the start, because that's something that we considered.
The sun comes from that direction and hits the back of the house.
I think they are quite keen to do something on their side as well.
-They're talking to our builder and it's looking possible that we might be doing it together.
-It would obviously help if they were doing the same as you.
But the thing is that they could submit an application
-and you could re-submit yours...
..and then they might not carry out the works.
-I have refused an application before because of that.
-Right, I see.
So, I'm fairly confident - not that I want to refuse it -
but I've got to think of your neighbours.
So, I'll have a look at the dormer, but I haven't got as many concerns.
-If I can go a bit further down.
Ouch! It's a hammer blow for Shane and Marie,
but hopefully Carol won't have such a big problem
with their proposed dormer.
I'm looking at the moment just to see the impact.
I'm not overly concerned because of the rear returns here
on both sides, it's really quite well hidden.
I think that the dormer extension would probably be OK.
It's just a shame, that extension...
but I've got to think of these, the occupants of this property here.
So what we'll do is, I'll give you a call tomorrow.
I'll look at the plans again, have another rethink
and work out what I think would be your best way forward.
Ooh! Best not tell little Ian!
I'll see whether there's a way of tweaking the extension,
or if not, I'll discuss the best way forward with your neighbour.
-All right. Thank you very much for showing me around.
All right. Thank you. Nice to see you. Take care. Bye.
It's a little bit disappointing, I think, because we thought...
We thought that the kitchen extension would go through fine
and there might be problems with the loft
and it's turned out the other way around and for us,
the main thing is having this main family room
-and this kitchen extension.
-If they're wanting to carry out the works all in one go,
it's probably in their best interest to withdraw it at this stage
and then look at whether there's a possibility
of doing something with the neighbour.
A little bit nervous about it, but we're still hopeful
that we'll be able to get it done but we might need to tweak things.
It's really hard, giving bad news.
Fortunately they took it very well, not everybody takes it quite so well,
but you can see, they're a family of four,
and they need the space, so I can understand that.
In Coventry, Richard is about to arrive at the Carmichaels'
for his make-or-break site visit.
If he spots anything which could impact on the neighbouring
properties, it will spell disaster for the Carmichaels'
plans to improve their home.
-Is it Mrs Carmichael?
-Yeah, nice to meet you.
I'm Richard from the planning office at the City Council.
OK, so what we're thinking is to extend this room back
so then it adjoins on to the kitchen.
One big, square room.
OK, right, yeah.
I'll just need to take a couple of photos looking back
just for the record. But the main things I'll need to do
is just try and find out where the neighbours' properties are
in terms of their windows and then I can gauge whether it's going to have
any significant impact on them or not. But this is all fairly routine
stuff that we are doing here.
Planners are duty bound to follow the guidelines
laid down by local councils and central Government, so Richard needs
to watch out for anything which goes against planning policy and which
might harm the rights of people living close to the extension.
So, these kitchens, I guess they were built as part of the original houses.
They're quite narrow, aren't they?
So, I think it's quite a typical sort of extension to actually come out
and widen it out.
It's quite common in this area, a lot of the neighbours have it.
Yeah, I imagine they would have.
I've got all the measurements. I'll just be a few minutes out here.
I'll take a few photos, if that's OK, and keep you from getting frozen!
Now that Richard's alone, he can get a true
measure of the impact of the Carmichaels' extension.
So it's a 3.3 metre extension,
so we'll just get our bearings in terms of where it's coming to.
That's effectively where the extension would be coming to.
Now, the neighbour on this side is entitled to a view or some
protection from having too much built along this boundary,
because it could affect their light and their outlook.
Is there an issue with tunnelling?
That's one of the things we'd need to consider.
Oh, dear, this sounds very familiar.
Probably what we'd be looking for is either for the extension to be
stepped in off the boundary, so it gives some more breathing space
to this house here, or for the extension to be shortened.
Richard's worried about the neighbours' loss of light and outlook.
It's vital he protects their rights as well as the Carmichaels'.
I've just had a fairly routine look around.
There's one issue that I will just need to check,
something we call tunnelling which is whether they're effectively
-going to be tunnelled by extensions on both sides.
Now, if tunnelling exists, then the worst case scenario is
that your extension may need to actually be shortened or to be
set off the boundary, so that's what our guidelines are saying.
So, at this point, we've written to your neighbours,
so we need to see what comments they may or may not come in with
and then, once we've done that,
that'll be when we start thinking about making the decision.
-OK, thanks for your time, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, Richard.
Richard will have to think long
and hard about the potential impact of Paul and Paula's extension.
He also has to wait 21 days to see
if any neighbours object to the proposals.
This will seem like a lifetime to the Carmichaels.
I think if we were refused, we'd be disappointed,
particularly because a lot of our neighbours have done the same.
But I feel like now we're going through the planning process,
it's like we've made that first jump
and now it feels like it's
a closer dream - like it's going to be happening.
In Hastings, the Doves have had their own issues with
tunnelling, but have desperately tried to
alter their plans in a bid to salvage their dream extension.
Carol has received amended drawings.
Shane and Marie face a nervous wait as their new proposal is considered.
We've got a new application in, but it's a joint one.
The issue before was the loss of light
and the sense of enclosure, but because the neighbour also wants to
extend out, there'll be no loss of light to that room
because they're both bringing it forward.
It is unusual to have a joint one like this.
I think this is the first one I've dealt with, actually.
But I'll need to visit the site, because I've only been and assessed
it as a single extension to number 19, so I need to have another
look and just make sure there's nothing that I've missed there.
With such a unique application, Carol has to be extremely
thorough - this second inspection will have a huge bearing on
whether Shane and Marie get approval for their dream kitchen/diner.
-How are you?
-I'm good, thank you.
Right, last time I was looking at the dormer, but the dormer extension
hasn't changed, as I can see from this. So, that's fine. So there's
no impact on your neighbour, because this habitable room, that's going
to become part of the room and they're having a door here, so
there's no loss of light from yours to theirs or vice versa, which is great.
So, what happens next, Carol?
I'll be writing my report up. It probably won't be this week,
probably next week. So you should hear by maybe the end of next week.
-That's lovely. Thanks for showing me again.
Fingers crossed, it's going to go straight through,
but until we get actually get that
definite yes, there's always that chance that something might crop up,
so we're hopeful, but we've just got to wait for that final decision.
Sometimes, I think I can be a little bit soft
and maybe spend too much time on a planning application,
because I try to sort it out for people.
But I've got to write my report yet and mine
is only a recommendation.
The actual decision is down to the senior planners,
if there's no objections.
Carol sounds more positive,
but that doesn't mean it's going to be plain sailing for the Doves.
With this double extension,
Hastings' senior planners will be careful to consider all of
the potential impacts before making the final decision.
In Coventry, the Carmichaels haven't had
the benefit of a joint application, so Richard has to reflect on whether
their stand-alone extension will be detrimental to their neighbours.
My concern was whether this patio window that they had here
would be effectively hemmed in by the two extensions so they'd look
out of their patio window, on the left they'd have their own kitchen
extension that was already there, and then on the right,
they'd then have this wall
of the proposed extension and it was that feeling of them being hemmed in.
Having weighed up the issue, Richard has made his decision
and Paul and Paula are about to find out
whether they'll get the planning permission they desperately want.
-Are you ready?
-Moment of truth.
Are you ready for this, Dexter?
-It's an important letter.
-Have a look.
"Coventry City Council, as local planning authority,
"grant permission for the development
"proposed in your application."
-Yeah, that's really good.
The Carmichaels have a yes!
Richard decided the generous width of their neighbours' home
meant tunnelling wasn't an issue.
-A huge relief.
And we can relax a little bit more now, now that we've got the news.
Fast-forward a few months and the front of Paul
and Paula's home is unchanged - but, Gordon Bennett,
just take a look round the back!
What a transformation!
Their new extension is close to being everything they ever dreamt of.
It is the best decision that we did.
Absolutely the right thing to do, wasn't it?
I think now it seems it's the right decision, definitely.
Now that we can see the room as it's going to be.
-We can tell that it's the space that we wanted, definitely.
In Hastings, Carol was happy with the new plans,
but the Doves have still had to wait anxiously for a week whilst
the senior planners considered their proposal.
They've been told they should hear the decision today.
If we don't get the planning permission today,
it's 18 months just to get to this point.
A lot of that was thinking about the plans, how we
wanted to have the house, so it's important that we get it through.
Shall we give Carol a ring, then, and see what the decision is?
Yeah. Right, cross your fingers! Fingers crossed.
'Hello, Carol Boudel speaking.'
Oh, hello, Carol.
It's Shane. We're just ringing to see
if there's any update or if a decision's been made?
'I've completed my report and it was looked at
'this afternoon by the senior planner and the decision has gone
'in the post today and I'm pleased to say that it's been approved.'
It's great news for the Doves, and just look at him go!
-Oh, thank you ever so much.
-Thank you, Carol.
Thank you very much!
I don't know if it's the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end,
-but it's sort of...
-That bit's now done
-and obviously now with the really...
Yeah, step two, the next bit now, really.
The sort of... The chaos bit!
Back over to Coventry, the chaos is finally over for Paul and Paula.
After months of work, their dreams have become a reality.
Really, really pleased with the way that the extension's turned out.
-So, this is the new kitchen.
So, now, when I'm washing up, I can look out into the garden.
These open doors are just heaven, they are so nice, aren't they?
Just to be able to look into the garden, but just to have the air
and for them to fold all the way back.
It makes the room feel more spacious, as well,
particularly when you're on the sofa.
So, this is the new outdoor area and because we've got the
view of the garden, it actually makes us want to do more within the garden.
So within seven years, it's the first time I've painted the fence.
We've done a lot more in the week that we've been here
since the six years prior to that,
so it makes you take a bit more pride in the garden itself.
Now their home is complete, the Carmichaels
have invited Richard over to take a look.
And this time, it's a purely social visit.
-Hello, how are you doing? Nice to see you.
-Nice to see you. Come on in.
-Thank you. Cheers.
Look at this, this is so cool.
I'm just trying to remember how it was before,
-because this is just such a huge space now.
-It's so different.
So, this bit here, where you were, was actually outside before.
The kitchen doors...
Yeah, and it's all just squared off this area
and added all of this space in.
This is it.
OK, right. I'll tell you what, I'm going to have a look over here,
because one of the things we were concerned about was...
-Yes, that's right. And is it going to impact on the neighbours?
I'm just going to see whether we were right or not.
Can you Adam and Eve it?! Do these planners ever switch off?
No problem. No. No, I think that's all OK, yeah.
When everything comes together, like it has done,
it's just really pleasing.
You know, as an employee of the City Council and a public servant,
it's just great to see these things work
and for people to get the right result at the end of the day.
It's definitely all been worth it, absolutely.
I mean, don't get me wrong,
there were some parts in the middle that I thought, "What have we done?"
When you see all the mess and all the builders are here...
But, absolutely, 100%, I would do it all over again.
Paul and Paula have planned it, built it.
Paula has her dream kitchen and can watch Dexter playing as she cooks.
It's a really desirable home
and the extension will more than repay its building costs.
The Doves also hope to get the space they need by the end of the year.
Once they've found the right builders, it won't be long
before their extension is complete.
They'll immediately add 20 grand to the value of their property,
and more, long-term.
I think it's congratulations all round!
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