Friday, 13 May 2016

We've hit a Grade A snag

Looking ahead to our longer-term plans for The Lodge, we've had a couple of architects over to give us some ideas for an extension.

We're not sure what we want because this kind of thing isn't exactly our forte, but the Kitchen is pokey, as is the Bathroom and the upstairs landing area needs something doing to it because the stairs are too steep and there's a brain-rattling overhang halfway up.
So with that in mind we mainly want a bigger Kitchen/Diner and a Bathroom which can accommodate both a bath and a human being rather than either/or which isn't far off what we currently have. Here's the current floorplan.

This is the galley Kitchen (itself an extension) before we moved in and filled it full of stuff.
It's so narrow that the units on the right are wall cupboards, rather than regular wider floor-standing jobbies
which would have made the room almost impossible to get around. It's bad enough as it is.
Because of the amount of money we've spent so far we very much doubt we'd be able to do the whole thing at once, if at all, so the (very fluid) idea for now is perhaps to get a one- or two-storey shell up and out of the ground when funds allow and then do everything else in stages over a period of years. But the very first port of call is to find out what we can and can't do, which is where our chin-scratching, clipboard-carrying architects come in.

The first of those (two more are coming in a week or two) got back to us last night and presented us with a short list of all the lodges on the estate, under the heading Local List. We've seen this simple .pdf document before and although we weren't exactly sure of its purpose we filed it under 'quaint little lodges on our estate which someone wanted to make a note of for posterity'.

Of course there's another way to look at it, and the architect, who knows what he's doing, assures us that this is the correct interpretation:

Listed. Protected by law.
And just to twist the knife a little more, with options ranging from Grade C up to Grade A, guess what The Lodge is? Yep. You've got it.

This photograph (from before we moved in) was taken from outside the Bathroom, standing on the landing

I hope we're not the only people in the world not to know what something being locally listed means, so here's the very first 'what is a locally listed building?' search result from the Google, courtesy of Birmingham City Council:

A Locally Listed Building is a building, structure or feature which, whilst not listed by the Secretary of State, we feel is an important part of Birmingham's heritage due to its architectural, historic or archaeological significance.
The grading system for Locally Listed Buildings is as follows:-
Grade A (107 buildings)
These are buildings which are of statutory list quality, although not currently nationally listed. We will seek national listing or serve a Building Preservation Notice if it is imminently threatened...
...As with Statutory Listed Buildings, any works carried out should preserve or enhance the building and any features of architectural or historic interest retained and appropriate materials used.
Inclusion in the Local List does not give the building any statutory protection but we has
[sic] additional policies in the Birmingham Plan to help guide development. 

Lovely. So the Brummies, if we lived there, could regard The Lodge as being important enough to slap a Grade I national listing on, which is the most restrictive thing imaginable in terms of building alterations and making a period property fit for modern-day living. It's the kind of thing grand stately mansions have to prevent cowboy builders destroying them.

Although we're yet to find out precisely what our own authorities make of locally listed buildings you can bet your bottom dollar that our Olympic-sized swimming pool is out the window and my indoor/outdoor orangutan sanctuary could even be under threat.

Further down the line we might even have to fight the council over things like windows, doorways, the roof, ceilings, internal walls, decor... the list is endless and chock-full of otherwise seemingly unimportant minutiae, all of which represent potential flies in the ointment. It could be a nightmare waiting to happen or it mightn't make the blindest bit of difference to us - I suspect we'll be somewhere in the middle.

One question you may be wondering is why our conveyancing solicitor didn't get round to telling us this rather important detail before we bought the property.
It's a very good question and one we plan to get to the bottom of. Perhaps it slipped his mind...

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