New Apartments, Bude

Our clients have a 1920’s house in an urban environment within Cornwall which they want to demolish and rebuild to provide four apartments. The reason for the conversion is to provide a home for them which will be better suited to their needs as they get older and also allow them to clear their mortgage from the sale of the other apartments, thus providing a better quality of life. Following three previous refusals, the clients were frustrated and approached us to see if there was a way we could achieve planning permission for their brief.

Always excited and motivated by a challenge, we grasped the opportunity and decided the only way to approach this was to go back to basics. Planning would never be obtained without addressing the fundamental reasons for the previous refusals, so we analysed the objections raised by the council’s consultants, neighbours and the general public. The main issues that came up time and time again were concerns over the scale and mass, and the position of this within the site.

Our thoughts were, if we could retain the current mass and its position within the site, then this would eliminate these fundamental objections, as we were replacing like for like. Obviously, this would not provide enough floor area, but, if we could restrict any extensions to the ground floor, this could arguably be within permitted development rights.

We were able to split the vertical form into three floors allowing us to create two ground floor apartments and two maisonettes above. To achieve the required floor area on the ground floor, we added two extensions: an infill between the existing garage and the house and a single-storey extension across the back.

The new building was sensitively designed to sit within the existing footprint so the upper levels occupied by the two maisonettes were no longer higher or nearer to the adjacent properties. This eliminated all the previous issues raised regarding overbearing, loss of light, overlooking, loss of sunlight, privacy and shading to both the adjacent properties and their amenity spaces.

The previously refused schemes extended deeper into the site, both at the rear and to the sides. By rationalizing the floor plans both internally and externally, we have achieved the same brief but contained it within the existing footprint. Apart from the overbearing nature to the adjacent properties, this also influenced the street scene, as the additional mass of the previous schemes extended the elevation by 2.5 meters either side whereas our scheme was identical in mass.

We took on board the criticism that the previous schemes were too contemporary and unsympathetic to their context. By using subtle references and elements from the adjacent properties, including balconies, gables, bay windows, and symmetry, and by using a pallet of local materials, we were able to keep our scheme sensitive to its environment. In addition, we made the decision to remove any side windows to the upper levels to eliminate overlooking and privacy issues.

Our approach to the design had now addressed all the concerns raised against the previous schemes and this was demonstrated by the substantially reduced objections from neighbours. Also the scheme was, for the first time, supported by the Town Council and approved by the Planning Officer under a delegated decision without the need to go to the Planning Committee.