4. Dealing with the planning regime


So there we were with a piece of historical Chichester that very few people knew about, the only surviving piece of domestic architecture by Powell and Moya in the City. Immediately one could see that the building had no particular aesthetic merit but it was impossible to get an idea from the Council what level of intervention they could stomach. We delayed the sale for a long as we could but were still without an answer when the completion date arrived.

So we jumped into the dark, having said that we would not repeat the past mistake of buying a Georgian piece in a conservation area! There were too many other benefits to the property however to turn this one down just to avoid a few planning nightmares. The extension looked like a fifties classroom and one could not say that it was a good example of the Modernist imagination. It had been done as a family favour on a very tight budget and that was all.

So, following the advice of a local architect, who affected to understand how the planning regime thought, we put in what is called an pre-application plan to demolish the lot, 1750s and 1950s and rebuild a modern house on the plot. The good thing about a pre-app is that it allows you to test the water as it has to be responded to. This gives you a set of parameters around which to build a plan more in line with current thinking and within acceptable parameters. The whole scheme unsurprisingly was thrown out of court but we did learn that although it was not listed, any application would be treated as a listed building application since it was “curtilage listed”, i.e. within the apron of a listed building, two in fact.

Se we put in a second attempt with another firm but were asked to withdraw it after a site visit was made by the planning department. This our architect did without consulting us which was a mistake as this let the Council off the hook of providing us eight a judgement on the plan as submitted. However what we did learn fro these two failed attempts was that a truly modern glass box style to the second extension would be a preferred option, the planning regime preferring that a style should be removed from any danger of pastiche and that any proposal would have to be subordinate to the original building.

The original building was a little hard to encompass but luckily we seemed to be in the position of having a property that had been extended once but that could be extended a second time. And of course we had Philip Powell’s original sketch of how he saw a second extension.

Up until then we had been reluctant to lose any part of the west facing wall as this was such a good place to grow very many different lanes. However, Powell’s drawing was for an extension down the west wall and so we engaged a third architect to build a proposal with us that would attract planning permission.

At this point however, given the time it was taking,  we gave up on the notion of modernising the property before we moved in. This turned out to be a most sensible decision, since we got to know the property well by living in it as we developed the third vision for the property. This meant that our proposal was a good fit both with the site and the use we wished to make of the property as a living space.

Using our nascent network in Chichester allowed us to identify an architect who knew the planning regime very well and who was also well known to and trusted by the planning department as someone sensitive to the need to conserve the heritage. Not only was the design very good, with many elements from the past and the future well integrated into the concept, but it met a lot of the previous concerns that the planning department had expressed. To our relief the plan was approved in December 2013.