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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.
In my mind I feel like it's going to be amazing.
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 en suite bathroom, stand by.
It's time to...
We British are extremely proud of our homes - they define us,
they reveal our tastes, they represent our achievements.
In fact, over our lifetimes we spend, on average, 60 grand
doing up our properties.
It's very rare that we buy a new home and feel everything is perfect.
There are always alterations we want to make to mould our properties,
and planners see all sorts of applications for changes big
and small. But it's often the personal added extras
that create the biggest problems.
Extensions or additions to the front of properties are very often
not allowed because of the impact on the street.
It's not just, "Oh, we'll just stick this box on the front of this house."
Sometimes what they want isn't acceptable.
So today it's all about the added extras. What happens
when you want to do something special
that makes your property stand out from the crowd?
The planners will meet...
a family who want a teenage den and a Juliet balcony.
If we're turned down for the planning consent,
it certainly won't end up what we want it to be.
This is what you can see from the street,
so there is a slight concern about being able to see that.
And a man who's decided he wants a large conservatory in his garden.
We thought we'd take it to the next level and really put our stamp on it.
We'll have to see how the application goes and see
if this neighbour has any comments to make.
Will our homeowners get planning permission
to add the quirky extras they want?
And how much will their bespoke changes add to the value
of their properties?
Across the land, we love interesting homes.
We've produced some of the world's greatest architects,
and we've had some of the most innovative new-build ideas.
Nowadays, we watch TV programmes about people who design
houses from scratch, and even if we can't go that far
we still want to stamp our personalities on our properties.
Modern society has changed.
With normal property, say a normal Victorian property,
we don't want everything to look the same as the property used to.
You know, times are changing.
This is St Helen's,
a well-established neighbourhood situated at the top of Hastings.
Many of the houses here were built just after the Second World War,
but there are older Victorian properties,
and there's a vast range of architectural styles.
St Helen's is one of the most affluent areas of the town
with a large number of privately owned houses.
Prices fluctuate from street to street,
but premium properties on St Helen's Down sell for £260,000.
That's 90 grand more than the area average.
Hastings Council acknowledge that with such a range of styles,
maintaining a coherent character here is difficult.
But that doesn't mean anything goes. The man who keeps development
under control is planning officer Calum Rowley.
With this application they want to put a front extension,
a two-storey extension here.
So they've got an existing porch at the front of the property
and they're going to demolish that
and build a new front extension.
The main concerns are always about overlooking,
especially from these two windows at the top here.
When a front two-storey extension sort of application comes in
the immediate impact
is on their neighbouring amenities and overlooking so the effect
on their privacy which we try and avoid at all costs, really.
I saw the property on the internet, asked my wife to come
and have a look.
She came and said,
"Well, if you want to put in an offer..." thinking all the time that
we were never going to end up owning the property and the rest is...
Here we are! It's a very well-established area.
I mean, this house has been here since 1931.
And there's a lot of people who have lived in the road,
have done so most of their life.
Richard Brett and his family recently bought this three-bed
detached property in St Helen's, after moving from nearby Ore.
They love the area and the house, but there are a few changes
they want to make to tailor the house to their needs.
We paid 249 for the house.
With regard to how much the work will cost,
it's a little bit difficult to put a figure on it.
We've got a budget of about 20 to 25,000.
Optimistic that we'll add somewhere in the region of
maybe 40 to 50,000 value to the property.
The Bretts plan to totally renovate their property,
adding a two-storey extension,
and an additional feature - a Juliet balcony to the front of the house.
So, we'll bring this window will come forward to approximately
this fence and it'll go across to the other side of the porch.
Richard also wants to build a wooden cabin in the front garden to
give his teenage son and daughter a space to go with their friends.
These self-contained, self-assemble units are increasingly popular,
but putting one in this street may look out of place.
The garden building is going just to the other side of the bush
there and will stand between the garage and the bush.
Be a nice big space for them to enjoy with their friends
and get up to whatever teenagers get up to in garden buildings.
Upstairs we'll have a fourth bedroom over the porch
and our bedroom, the master bedroom, will be extended out
with a nice set of double doors on the front with a Juliet balcony
so that we can enjoy the south-facing views in the summer
when the sun comes up nice and early in the morning. You can open
the windows wide, bit of fresh air, nothing better!
Juliet balconies have become very fashionable.
They're named after Shakespeare's tragic heroine Juliet
who is courted by Romeo while she's on her balcony.
The funny thing is the play only actually mentions a window,
but over the years theatre directors have enjoyed some artistic license.
Juliet balconies don't protrude out of the building, they usually
open as double doors with a glass or metal barrier placed in front.
With a Juliet balcony we normally only... They're normally
on the rear elevation so on this there might be an extra degree of
overlooking so I'm going to discuss the amendment on site with the
applicant and take the photos that are necessary and then I can decide
whether this sort of amendment would be acceptable or not.
If we're turned down for the planning consent
then we'd be a bit disappointed.
It wouldn't ruin the house but it certainly won't end up
what we want it to be.
The Bretts' desire for a Juliet balcony
and a self-contained kids unit may be design features too far.
It'll all depend on what Calum thinks
when he makes his crucial site inspection.
When you buy a house in an extremely desirable area,
you don't want to move again in a hurry.
But desirable areas are often architecturally special,
and planners want to keep them that way.
South London's Southwark Council are responsible for controlling
development in one such area.
This is a particularly attractive place,
has been for years ever since it grew up around the Dulwich Estate.
Welcome to one of the most gentrified
postcodes in the capital- Dulwich Village.
As the name suggests, this idyllic pocket of Southwark has
maintained its village-y feel, with all development closely managed.
The village is dominated by its illustrious boys school,
Dulwich College, which dates back to 1619.
The area's mainly 18th and 19th-century houses
have staggering prices attached.
A typical semi-detached property will cost
an average of £1.3 million, with some properties
in the most coveted streets fetching well over 2 million.
With these houses, they're much bigger than
the houses in East Dulwich so they've probably, in many cases,
got a lot more scope to enlarge them and extend them.
Dulwich itself is a really nice pocket,
very close to central London.
The schools are fantastic.
You are 14 minutes to Victoria.
It's where we wanted to be.
Nitin Nagpaul has worked hard to find a family home
in this convenient and up-market location.
He bought this large detached property in College Road
for 1.2 million.
Fully renovated houses on this street can fetch
anywhere between two and four million, and because they don't
come on the market very often, they're snapped up quickly.
Nitin's mission is to turn the property into a family home.
He's got planning permission for the first phase of the development,
but now he wants an additional feature,
a huge conservatory-style family room on the rear of the building.
It's a big overhaul of our house.
We've got a '70s-built house which wasn't really to our taste
when we purchased it.
It really needed a lot of work done to get it to a reasonable level.
But we thought we'd take it to the next level
and really put our stamp on it - something we liked.
So, we were aware there were planning issues.
We were aware that there were Dulwich Estate issues which is
something unique to this area and we waded through
and jumped through the hurdles.
Planning permission here is managed by both Southwark Council
and the Dulwich Estate, who own the land.
This makes every step of the renovation process more complicated.
Nitin plans to spend 350,000 on a complete overhaul
of the property, and most of his permission is finally through.
But he desperately wants to add the large rear extension
which will bring something truly special to his home.
We've now applied for a secondary application
which involves a rear extension
and we hope to hear good news from that in the next four to six weeks.
We have been given no indication that there will be objections
but until you have got that piece of paper you don't really know.
Erm, shall we go round the back then
and have a look at what we're proposing for the rear extension?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
With such an ambitious project, Nitin meets his architects
and builders for regular updates.
Today his architect has come specifically to discuss
the rear extension.
So we're looking to submit the application to Southwark
just to make these revisions basically to the design.
We're not proposing to increase the height of the extension
beyond what's already approved,
so all we're looking to do is increase the depth of it.
OK. That should be good news, one would hope!
Nitin hopes the extra hoops he's going through are worth the effort.
He has his heart set on the large, light rear extension,
which will be a family area.
But getting this idiosyncratic extra may prove a step too far.
It's all up to the Southwark planning officer
who'll make a crucial site inspection.
In Hastings, Calum has arrived for his all-important site visit.
It's up to him to decide whether the Bretts' plan for an extension
with bespoke features is acceptable in smart St Helen's.
-Mr Brett, it's Calum from Hastings Planning.
-Good to meet you.
The people this side, as you're probably aware, have got
consent for a very, very similar extension
on the front of their property.
I will just check that and I'll check just upstairs as well
just to take the photos and everything I need to do
before writing the report.
-Is that all right?
What Richard doesn't know is that Calum has concerns
about his Juliet balcony, which was an addition to the original plans.
Hastings Council are keen to keep things uniform
in the street - anything which looks out of place
may result in a refusal.
Looking from this you're only really going to overlook the driveway,
which, that's good from a planning point of view
because what we try and avoid
is overlooking right into the neighbouring property.
Viewing it from here, there's no sort of general issue
about neighbouring property and neighbouring amenity which is good.
Calum has to consider every aspect of the Brett's plans.
His biggest concern isn't with their garden building,
because neighbours already have these -
he worries about anything which looks irregular in the same street.
In terms of the balcony, this is what you can see
from the street so there is a slight concern about being able to see
that at the moment which I'll have to discuss with senior colleagues.
Because the extension's coming out 4.1 metres, I'm going
to take photos just to show either side of the boundary treatments
just to ensure the overlooking problem which may or may not
be here is just OK so I can analyse that back at the office, as well.
Calum still isn't convinced about the balcony.
He doesn't want it to be an oddity in such a smart street.
This doesn't bode well for the Brett's application.
There's only one sort of real concern and that's the balcony,
because you can see it from the street, the elevation's quite clear.
So that would purely be with a view to what the property
-looks like from the road?
Like I say, as part of our sort of local planning policy we do try
and protect the street scene of the area so as people are driving
past there's sort of continuity with the street...
In a road where there are no two houses the same!
Sort of, yeah.
But there's no balcony either on the front elevation.
So, like I said to you earlier, balconies are normally on rear
elevations so they're not seen from the street, so it's just...
Although there are other houses further up the road
that have balconies on the front.
There are, yes, but we do... It's like the old-age question,
how far do you go up before you say,
"That's the immediate street scene?"
What's your initial feeling on the balcony?
You can be honest, it's all right.
I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.
I've got to analyse it better, which I can do back at the office
and without seeing all the neighbouring properties,
so far so I can't give you a yes or no on that.
My first and main concern was on the overlooking, but that's nothing now.
It's just the balcony which is possibly the issue.
-OK. Thanks for your time.
-Thanks a lot.
The applicant has raised an issue around neighbouring properties
with the balcony so that is what I'm going to go and check
just to make sure that what they've proposed is in the area as well.
I'm surprised there's so much fuss over the balcony situation
but I suppose they've got a plan they want to stick to.
I don't really, personally see,
in a road where every property's individual anyway,
the issue that we've got of,
"Oh, well, we want them all to look the same!"
Because there's only two houses that look the same up this road anyway.
If they object to the balcony just, in my opinion, quite simply
because they don't like the idea of it, I might consider an appeal.
I'll go back to the office,
check all the plans with senior planners.
Tell them what I found on site and go from there about
whether the amendment for the balcony is acceptable or not.
Back in South London,
and Nitin is about to go through exactly the same process.
Southwark Council's Anna Clare is en route
to his house in Dulwich Village.
Her visit will have a huge bearing on whether his second application
is passed and he can build the large glass-panelled family room
that will complete his vision.
The reason for having a site visit is essentially to assess
the rear extension. It's on this side of the property
so the main thing I'll be looking at is any impact on this
neighbouring property here in terms of the height and the projections.
Hi, I'm Anna Clare, the planning officer.
Anna, nice to meet you. Nitin.
It's probably best if we go round the back, OK?
The good thing for Nitin is that houses within Dulwich tend to
be spacious, giving him plenty of room to expand.
But Anna's main concern will still be
the impact of the extension on neighbouring properties,
especially since it will now be bigger than originally planned.
I think originally it was just three metres, wasn't it?
-Was it four metres? OK.
Now the application's gone to 6.5 or 6.45 or something.
Oh, yeah. Here, obviously the only real concern
here is any impact on that neighbour.
So they have more of a concern than the rear neighbour.
Yeah, it's quite a shallow garden but any light is lost
by the mass of the actual building, not really by that extension.
And there's no real restriction on how big you can make it,
it just depends on the size of the site really.
We consult the neighbours by letter and the adjoining land and
there's a site notice up outside for anyone else who may be interested.
-I don't actually remember
if anyone commented on the original application but we'll just wait
and see if anyone does on this
and then we can take it from there, really.
Good. I shall invite them all round to tea.
Sure! Is it all right if I take a few photos?
Of course, yes, please. Snap away.
Even though this is an amended plan,
it still requires a fresh site visit.
Planners always need to double-check they haven't missed anything,
not only for people living nearby today,
but also for future generations.
That's all I really need to see today so thank you for your time.
-No problem, my pleasure.
-If you have any questions, just give me a call.
-Many thanks indeed. I shall see you out.
I suppose, it is quite a large extension - 6.5 metres
is essentially the same depth as the existing house -
but really there's no real set guidance
as to how big your extension can be.
It really is sort of on a case-by-case basis.
It really depends on how it would affect the neighbours.
So basically at the office I'll have a better look
at where the neighbours' windows are and any impact it will have on them.
If it was felt to be a bit big we might ask them to reduce it.
But we'll have to see how the application goes and see
if this neighbour has any comments to make.
The site visit went really well
but the problem is it is just a site visit -
there are boundaries to... Hurdles to jump over
so we'll wait and see what the neighbours come up with.
She gave me an indication of what problems
we might have from our neighbours.
The next stage is really
they have to establish their consultation period.
They have to go through the processes in terms of making sure
the neighbours are fully informed,
make sure the public's informed via notice and hopefully everything
will be OK but unfortunately we can't predict things at this stage.
Time will tell.
Over in Hastings, and Calum has had time to consider
the impact of the Bretts' Juliet balcony on the street.
He now makes a recommendation
which must be authorised by a senior planner.
What I'm doing today is the report from the site visit
so I'm putting down my thoughts about my assessment on site
which will then go to the senior planner and development manager
to sign off.
The main concern was really the balcony,
but it's just a case of making sure what I've written is correct
so that we can get the decision out to the applicant.
So I've just done the report now.
So I've mentioned about the balcony and that there's one already at 11,
so I've just mentioned that.
-Excellent. Thank you very much.
The report is an explanation of the whole proposal
so it will explain in there the position of the balcony,
how that looks in the street,
whether it's going to have any impact on neighbouring properties,
those kind of things.
The planners have now made their decision.
The Bretts are about to find out
if they can have the modifications they want in their chosen street.
We're very excited about putting our own mark on the house,
making it our own.
If the consent is given for the cabin,
then we'll get that ordered within the week
and hopefully only two to three weeks' delivery,
we'll have that up within the month.
I can put my TV in there, the Xbox and everything.
Give me somewhere to go.
I think it'd be a bit out of order if they don't let us do it.
-The neighbours have both extended their houses, haven't they?
I don't see why they should say no to us.
So I suppose we really need to go and have a look at the e-mails
and see what they've got to say for us.
Let's have a look and see what the council have got to say.
So that's the official decision notice.
Here we go.
So, that's official.
We have got our planning permission!
A yes for the Bretts!
Callum decided that the Juliet balcony
wouldn't look too out of place in the street.
And what about the balcony?
Yes, because that's on those plans. So that's it.
Well, that's marvellous, isn't it?
Yeah - kids shipped out of the house.
Yes. Children in the garden.
We're all very pleased with that, aren't we? Yes? Yes?
It'll be a lot of work, obviously -
building a two-storey extension is not, you know,
it's not five minutes' work.
Fast forward three months...
..and while the Bretts haven't started work on their extension yet,
they've pretty much completed the kids' garden den.
The cabin, we finished that,
we finished the interior of the cabin as well,
which, again, has made a nice, useful space
for the children to have their friends around.
It's really good, cos before,
if I wanted people around, it was a bit of a problem
because everyone got annoyed at making noise in the house,
but now you just sort of come down here, they can't hear,
it's pretty soundproof.
Over the past couple of months since Christmas,
it's been a bit full-on
and I definitely would like to get off the merry-go-round sometimes,
but you've just got to keep plodding on,
cos you know, in the end, it'll be so worth it.
In leafy Dulwich, Nitin's is about to find out
if he too will get planning permission
to build the house of his dreams
with the additional feature he wants.
He's got the OK from Dulwich Estates,
but it's vital he gets a positive decision from Southwark Council.
His architect and building team are all together with him on site
to hear the crucial news.
WOMAN ON PHONE: Good afternoon, Planning.
Hi, is that Anna? It's Nitin here.
I'm just ringing to see if there's any updates on the application.
I believe it's due any minute now,
so I was wondering if it's been approved or not.
It went through our managers this morning,
and it was approved.
Oh, brilliant. Excellent. Thank you so much.
That's a yes for Nitin!
Anna decided that his extension
wouldn't have an unacceptable impact on the neighbours.
It's been an interesting journey. At least we've made it this far.
We can crack on with the main bit of the house.
Now that we've got permission,
the next stage is going to be hammering out the finances
with the builder and the main contractor
and deciding on the specification - the finer detail of it.
That actually is hopefully going to be fairly plain sailing,
because it was with the first phase, which was much bigger works.
Fingers crossed we'll be speaking in the next week or so
and hopefully they'll be getting their diggers in
a couple of weeks after that.
Within three weeks, I hope to hear some noises - we'll see.
It's worth remembering that whatever plans you submit,
you can make amendments and add requests for extra features
at any point in the process,
even if you've started your building work.
Neighbours would have to be re-consulted,
but it's worth it to get the home that exactly suits your needs.
In Hastings, the Bretts have also been thinking hard
about what they need.
The kids' cabin is up, and Richard's built himself
a similar-style office in the back garden.
But the family have reassessed their priorities for their building work,
and this has impacted on their timetable.
We decided not to start the extension this year
because we want to develop the left-hand side of the house.
Lisa wants her kitchen really this year,
which is a higher priority
than having a big dining room and extending the bedroom.
By the time we've had our holiday,
we'll be starting in the middle of August,
and it's not a good idea to take the roof off your house in October.
Too true, Richard.
The family have three years to get started on their renovations.
Interestingly, the council estimate
10% of approvals never get built.
But after getting the green light for everything,
including his balcony,
Richard is determined he will extend,
and he's feeling positive about the whole experience.
I've got to say the council have been very helpful,
the planning department.
Callum from the planning department was a really nice guy.
Yeah, there were a few "ums" and "ahs"
over a couple of changes we wanted to make,
but you can understand totally why they've got to have these rules
and they are all...I've always found them to be human beings
who'll come round and discuss things with you
and there's always a compromise.
It has been, and I'm sure it will be,
a good experience, hasn't it?
-I'm glad we did it, yeah.
In Dulwich Village, Nitin's building work is not far off completion.
Over the last five or six weeks, the glazing has gone in,
the staircase has been finished,
so the treads and risers are all in
and it's gone up three flights as opposed to the existing two flights,
so that's the main change of the house,
but that was all in phase one.
Phase two is still yet to commence
but hopefully we're about two or three weeks away
from the foundations being dug for that.
With such a huge, long-term project,
Nitin and his family have had to be patient,
but much of the first phase is now complete,
with only the family area left to build.
So what we're hoping for, in a few months' time,
is for a taller room, a bigger room for us to enjoy
and, yeah, very much an ideal living scenario.
There's not really a single thing I regret about it
and I would do exactly the same thing again.
Nitin has planned it and is building it.
He will soon get a large family home in a coveted neighbourhood.
Moreover, house prices in the area
have gone up almost 5% in the last year,
so he will add massive value to his overall investment.
The Bretts will also get the space they dreamt of by next year
and their changes also make sound financial sense.
Similar sized properties in their road sell for over 400 grand -
an impressive uplift on their £249,000 outlay.
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