I thought by now I’d be shouting at pregnant builders whilst living with Kevin McCloud in a caravan made of tyres. To be honest I’ve probably mixed up a few Grand Designs episodes there. I just envisaged a bit more effortlessly bargaining down the price of custom-made aluminium windows, and a lot less standing in mud looking despairingly at piles of bricks where we recently had a wall.
In grim reality, we’ve now been allocated the town’s chief planning officer. He wanted to view the damage for himself before deciding whether to allow us permission to continue. Or not. I picture his more junior colleague backing away with a look of horror on his face at the mere mention of such huge responsibility.
The options in order of increasing scariness are –
1. A non-material amendment. This is where the planners decide the end result is going to be pretty much the same as the original plan and we carry on with the permission we already have.
2. A minor material amendment which is apparently a huge grey area, but as it usually means reapplying for planning permission I’m guessing it will involve something more serious than changing the colour of my curtains.
3. All the right bricks, not necessarily in the right order. The council deems the building is too far gone to be saved as a conversion, and the amount of necessary repair work crosses the line into “new build” which isn’t allowed on green belt. If that happens planning permission is withdrawn, and we have to demolish.
We’re hoping for number 1. but number 2. would be acceptable at this stage.
If number 3. is the decision, it will be slightly ironic (posh for I’ll be fewmin!) given that our council is currently considering a plan to release multiple acres of green belt land for building thousands of brand new houses by 2030. And yes, we did sneak in a sarky mention that we’re aware of that, *cough* a third of an acre with an existing barn *cough*.
Well he seemed sympathetic and said there were a few things in our favour.
Storm Doris is an extenuating circumstance. Likewise the extent of damage, which wasn’t as bad as he initially assumed.
And lastly the council apparently prefer to save rather than demolish. Not that the last one was obvious, what with “rules being rules” and all that.
I nearly didn’t, but then I mentioned that I have a family connection to the barn (true) and I visited the farmhouse next door as a child. It was actually only a handful of times but you’d have though it was my second home once I realised it might be extenuating circumstance number 4. I even tried to squeeze a tear out. Whatever it takes.
We also told him how much the barn means to us (genuinely, this time) as an old building to restore as an important part of the history of the town. One of the very first farmers was an educated man, used innovative methods in his day, and documented all this in a (now published) diary. Had to be careful with this one as we don’t want it becoming a listed building.
Anyway, we’re in limbo once again waiting for the decision, and we’ve been a teeny bit stressed.
In completely unrelated news we have no alcohol remaining in the house apart from half a bottle of advocaat left over from Christmas. (Mike was feeling nostalgic for the 70s). Even with suspiciously fluffy green bits floating in it it’s looking attractive.
So we wait.
There’s a lot of waiting.
They don’t show you that on Grand Designs.