Saturday 27 October 2012

Cowboy Builders

Yes, they're back! Did they ever go away? Is a question some ask.

A recent client of mine in Bedhampton has been ripped off to the tune of more than £24,000 by a couple of what can only be described as cowboy builders.

The extension was a very simple annexe to the main dwelling. However, the errors made were numerous and flew in the face of the planning permission granted by Havant Borough Council. The errors included:
  • Digging the footings and pouring the foundations out of place - 600mm (2 ft) in one direction and 1500mm (5 ft) in the other direction. This clearly and plainly contravened the planning permission given by Havant Borough Council.
  • The above lead to fouling a window in the main property which will now have to be bricked up - causing a loss of light into the kitchen of the main dwelling. This also contravened the planning permission given. 
  • Furthermore, as a result of the foundations being in the wrong place the cowboy builders started the build in the wrong place - further contravening the planning approval. 
  • Built the annexe extension to the wrong dimensions (9.4 metres in length rather than the approved 11 metres and also narrower than original. Yes, this one again broke the planning permission - albeit less so.
  • Attempted to build the annexe extension higher than approved by the planning permission. Finally and once again breaking the permission given.
How did this happen? I you ask. Well, the simple answer is a total lack of understanding of the importance of planning laws, a disregard for what the designer has worked with the client to achieve the needs and wants from the scheme, and a lack of understanding of current building regulations. These cowboys even thought the minimum ceiling height in domestic dwellings was still in place - it was removed in 2008, that is how out of date they were (as virtually everyone in the construction industry knows).

And, what was the cowboy's answer to the above? Well, their answer was to apply for a variation in the planning permission given by using some of my original drawings, my original design and access statement (with a very poorly written D&A statement of their own), and to adapt some of my original drawings to their ends. This was despite the drawings clearly stating they were copyrighted. Plus, there is no guarantee that the new application would be approved, and yet despite this wanted to carry on with the project!

Furthermore and in addition to the above, the cowboy builders also damaged the client's front garden (including knock down a wall), his driveway and damaged the public highway (the latter being criminal damage).

Sadly, the client did not contact me with regard to the above until it was too late to correct most of the above. However, fortunately the client did see the light and sacked the cowboy builders before the project was completed and signed off.

Suffice to say that I am now working with a new and thoroughly professional builder to complete the project (who has said he will complete the project for less than the inflated price quoted by the cowboys). And, so as to ease matters further for the client; I am working for FREE - this is how strongly I feel about these utter cowboys who:
  • Ripped off a pensioner who is also a Royal Navy veteran.
  • Deviated from a planning approved scheme.
  • Broke copyright law.
  • Damaged the public highway (criminal damage).
So, to summarize; be warned - the cowboys builders are out there.

GBS Designs - Architectural Services

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Passing on the Baton

Like most people in the country, I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics; not least because I was involved in them - in a very small way. Watching "the youth of the world" compete for the medals and for the glory and honour of their countries got me thinking about our apprentice and how we are handing over the baton of knowledge to her and those of the next generation.

Apprenticeships have always been and continues to be an essential part of the construction industry. It sounds simple, mainly because it is, but passing on skills and knowledge in a work environment backed up by part-time academic learning is, by far, the best way of teaching and learning in our industry.

GBS Designs - Architectural Services

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Excellent Planning Decision

An excellent planning result by Havant Borough Council today. My client has been granted permission to build an annexe to their existing house that will enable them to move into the annexe and then allow their grand-daughter and her family move into the main house.

This allows my client to enjoy the garden they have spent so many years cultivating and be in the safe care of their family. So much better than going into a care home, and these financially austere times; a important decision that harks back to the days when families looked after one another.

A combination of a clear scheme and working with the planners to achieve a mutual aim of what is right has given my client what they need for the future.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

Just a short posting this time and with this being the Diamond Jubilee weekend I thought a good topic would be the differences between now and 60 years ago.

Firstly, I should state that I am third generation in the construction and built environment; both my grandfathers were involved in the construction industry (one a builder and the other a plumber) and both of my parents were engineers. And having discussed with them the various changes over the years; the overriding difference they notice/noticed between now and 60 years ago is/was the contradictory, overly elaborate and amount of red-tape involved with even the most simple of projects.

Back in their day (I love it when elder craftspeople or professionals say such things) both planning and building regulations made sense. The rules were less complicated and easier to follow, and it is not like the buildings of the past were any worse than the ones of today. In fact, in many cases they are better. A loft conversion in an older house is often much easier than in a modern one; especially when it already has flooring joists in place and the roof was hand-cut. Plus, there used to be rules like the third bedroom in a house had to be at least 70 square feet/6.5 square metres; these days that can be the size of the second bedroom in a modern house.

So, there we are; perhaps things were better in the good-old-days.

Happy Jubilee to you all.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Armed Forces & Emergency Services

The title of this blog posting might seem a little odd, especially as I usually use this blog to comment on an issue or recent piece of news within the construction industry. However, recently a very dear friend was deployed to and then returned from Afghanistan and then more recently I attended a service at the chapel in the grounds of the Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh at which the names of firefighters who had lost their lives in the line of duty were read out. These two events made me think about what we as a practice could do for these people - the armed forces and emergency services personnel who do difficult and often dangerous jobs on our behalf.

Since both Ian and I have armed forces and emergency services backgrounds we decided that from now on all serving or former armed forces or emergency services personnel will enjoy preferential rates on our architectural services. See HERE for more details

Discounted rates available, but not exclusively, to:
  • Royal Navy and Royal Marines (including reserves)
  • British Army (including TA)
  • Royal Air Force (including reserves)
  • Police (including Special Constables, PCSO’s and support staff)
  • Fire & Rescue Service (including retained firefighters and support staff)
  • Ambulance Service (including emergency response and support staff)
  • Coastguard (including auxiliary)
  • RNLI
  • Merchant Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary

So, if you are or someone you know is serving or has served in one or more of the above services and this thinking of improving their home; get in contact with us.

GBS Designs - Architectural Services & Technicians

Wednesday 9 May 2012

The Localism Act - Planning Reforms

There is a good deal of talk in the professional journals, press and general media about the Localism Act and how the Act seeks to hand planning powers back to local councils and local communities. Obviously it is too early to say how it will actually work and the next few months should be an interesting time for applicants, their agents and planners.

As said above, the act seeks to hand back planning powers to those who really know a community rather than conforming to national government and regional bodies who often do not have any real understanding of a community and/or the needs and feelings of those living in a community.

One thing I would like to see removed are the shackles that currently force educated and knowledgeable planning professionals, such as planners, into complying with often unclear and contradictory development plans written by bureaucrats rather than qualified and experienced built environment professionals in conjunction with those living in the local community affected by the development plan.

A planner's lot is not an easy one and it is not an easy job. It can likened to a police officer's in that nobody is ever happy to see them. For most people their home is their most valuable possession and having decided to extend it in some way they may need to ask for planning permission. If permission is granted; then the planners were just doing their job. If permission is denied; they are the villains. This immediately makes the planner's job one of the least envied in the construction industry and I hope the Localism Act helps break the manacles on planners and bring back the 'good-ol-days' when professionals such as designers, engineers and surveyors could sit down with the client and the planners to thrash out a solution in a full a frank exchange of ideas.

GBS Designs - Architectural Services & Technicians

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Building Control / Regulations

In a recent article in the Chartered Institute of Building's journal, Construction Manager, an article appeared regarding the general satisfaction from designers and contractors with the level of service from Building Control/Regulations departments and professional. The full article can be read HERE.

My experience also concurs with this view, especially when using the Building Notice route. Nestling at the bottom of the A3 on the border of Hampshire and West Sussex, I deal with a good number of local authorities including Havant Borough Council, East Hants District Council (now in partnership with the Southdowns National Park Authority, Portsmouth City Council, Fareham Borough Council, Gosport Borough Council, Chichester District Council and others. Without exception my experience with these councils has been very good from both a design point of view and from the builder's when constructing the extension, conversion or other project.

Television programmes and the media in general can show building inspectors in a poor and often adversarial light, and in my opinion this is unjustified, especially with the Building Notice route where often the designer, builder and other professionals find building inspectors to be a useful sounding board for ideas with alternatives often coming back.

GBS Designs - Architectural Services and Technicians in Waterlooville

Friday 20 April 2012

What’s the difference between a Chartered Building Engineer and an Architect, an Engineer or a Surveyor?

This is a question we often get asked. The answer we give is that there are many different types of architects, engineers and surveyors specialising in a wide range of areas within the construction industry, so we cannot give a definition for them.

What we can say is that chartered building engineers are qualified construction professionals who take projects such as an extension through each stage of the design process and more. Chartered building engineers' training and strengths are in design (such as aesthetics and appearance), building technology, construction science and architectural technology.

For more information about building engineers in Waterlooville and Havant see or our website