This time last month, I was contemplating a Sharon Stone-style seduction attempt on our local planning officer Peter Grant.
Peter Grant was the only thing standing in the way of our plans to create an extra bedroom and kitchen diner on our recently-purchased house.
I’d already met Peter Grant down at the planning offices and we seemed to hit it off. It was a glorious sunny Friday; jokes were flying, big words were being banded… basically, it was smiles all round.
Peter’s predecessor Laura Hogg – a peevish planning autocrat, hell bent on enforcing her silly green belt law that we couldn’t extend the property by more than 30 per cent – had already given our plans the heave-ho – and nothing in the way of a solution.
But Peter Grant had yet to cotton on to this; in fact, he thought our rear extension to replace the garish blue conservatory would be an enhancement. Could it be possible that he would pass the plans without getting wind of the green belt rules?
Of course not.
The following week I received an email that started, ‘I’ve just had a very interesting conversation with Laura Hogg….’
We were back to square one. And it was left to muggins here to find a solution.
Much Googling later revealed that we could build a 4-metre deep single storey extension across the whole rear of the property under something called Permitted Development – a government initiative that gives home owners the right to extend without seeking planning permission.
I had a light bulb moment. Why not split the project into two parts? We could put all of the volume from the existing conservatory into a smaller two-storey extension, and then create the remaining single-storey kitchen diner under permitted development rights.
I excitedly rang the architects. They agreed this was a good idea and dutifully drew up the new scaled-down plans to send them off to Mr Grant.
So buoyed by my own ingenuity, I told the husband that I was seriously considering a career change to Planning Troubleshooter.
But things went from bad to worse.
Peter Grant said that even though the conservatory was technically existing volume, we couldn’t use it in the replacement extension because it had already gone over the 30 per cent rule when it was built in 1995 (when no such rule existed!). No way! Now he was trying to take volume back off us. I began to imagine Peter Grant like a giant rodent taking bites out of our house.
I tried to call him. But like a jilted lover, he refused to take my calls. He then sent an email saying that he would accept the reduced plans but would be instantly refusing them. Grant by name but not by nature!
I decided to leave the plans for Peter Grant to refuse rather than withdraw them. A refusal meant that we would be able to appeal.
In my new role as Planning Troubleshooter, I was actually quite looking forward to going to war with the council. It might even involve an appearance in the Supreme Court. Naturally, I would be representing myself. In my mind, I imagined travelling down to London on the train, leather briefcase in hand, glasses donned whilst studying a sheaf of papers earnestly.
But then just as was preparing for battle, there was some astonishing news – in the form of an email.
‘Peter Grant has decided to grant planning permission to the reduced extension,’ it stated.
It was the ultimate U-turn – at the eleventh hour!
Basically, in 9 months of planning hell, we have managed to secure a reduced 4 metre by 4 metre extension, which will give us (drum roll)… an extra bathroom. Oh, and a porch (which I drew myself).
I’ll never know why Peter Grant changed his mind on the decision day itself.
What I do know is that we definitely won’t be fulfilling our original dreams of a double side extension, a double garage, a basement ‘media’ room or a master bedroom over-looking the garden.
Still, it’s a small victory. And right now, it tastes quite sweet.