Gaining consent for your build is a champagne moment, but it's not the end of the planning journey, says Potton's Paul Newman
I'm a big fan of Take That. While their song Greatest Day may not be about the joy of getting planning consent, it is about making a new start. Securing permission is probably as exciting as meeting your favourite band - but there is still plenty of work to do. So here's how to build on your greatest day.
Once you've popped the champagne, take a moment to ask yourself a few key questions. The headliners are:
Have I got the right permission, or do I want to change it?
Can it be built (on my budget)?
Are there any outstanding legal issues to resolve, such as ransom strips, that might prevent the project?
If you're satisfied with the answers, you can move on to the next step. It's a good idea to create a pre-start checklist showing what needs sorting before the groundworks commence (attendees to our Self Build Academy course are provided with an example checklist).
Many of the pre-build tasks I've highlighted here should run in parallel to reduce the amount of time spent on this stage of the process.
Account for conditions
For most of our self builders, Potton secures full planning permission with drawings that determine the position, height and detailed house design. This will inevitably come with a list (hopefully short) of conditions, which must be discharged before work starts on site. Common conditions relate to highways, access, building position, height, external materials and landscaping.
Confirm now whether any planning fees are due, such as via Section 106 agreements (self builders should have an exemption). The CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) is a similar charge - with this one, you need to fill out the right forms at the right times to accept your liability and claim an exemption.
Develop the drawings
The design must be developed to meet Building Regs and enable construction. Depending on who produced the plans, there may well be significant technical issues to resolve before materials can be supplied to site. You'll also need to confirm the build system and agree a full design freeze so manufacturing drawings can be produced.
Plan the foundations
We recommend using an engineer to prepare the foundation plan. This route is cost effective and reduces risk. Commission a ground investigation to establish soil types, depths, consistency and ultimately load-bearing capacity. This will allow the engineer to produce a suitable foundation design.
Look for unseen issues
Try to confirm there are no hidden hazards on your plot, such as services or wells. We see one or two unpleasant surprises every year, but with good planning the risk can be reduced.
Choose your build route
About 40% of our customers manage the process and sub-contract trades, while the remainder opt for a turnkey-style solution via a professional project manager (40%) or builder (20%). An increasing number of self builders use a project manager or contractor to deliver the weathertight shell, and then manage the fit out themselves.
Whatever your budget, prepare it well and stick to it. If you need a mortgage, the lender will probe your cost plan to check it's realistic. You will also need to set a contingency. Be honest here: if you're likely to change your mind as work goes on, costs will rise, so allow for this. If you can stay disciplined, you may be able to reduce the contingency.
Health & Safety
This won't be complicated if you work with responsible trades who know what they require to work safely. You'll need to appoint a principle designer and principle contractor, create a health and safety file, submit a simple notification form to the Health & Safety Executive and maintain a construction phase plan.