Advice Center

Advice Center

Everything to know about Area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB)

What is an area of outstanding natural beauty?

An AONB is an area of countryside in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, that has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. It is also protected by the countryside and rights of way act 2000 (CROW Act).

How are AONBs made?

Natural England can make orders to designate areas of outstanding natural beauty or vary the boundaries of existing ones. Before natural England proposes an area to become an AONB, it must meet the natural beauty criterion. This could be multiple different factors, such as:

Landscape quality.

Scenic quality.

Relative wildness, such as distance from housing or having few roads.

Natural heritage features, such as distinct species and habitat.

Relative tranquillity, where all you can hear is natural sounds.

Cultural heritage.

History –

The idea that would eventually become the AONB designation was first put forward by John Dower in 1945. Dower was a civil servant and architect, who was a secretary of the standing committee on national parks. Dower suggested there was a need for the protection of certain naturally beautiful landscapes that were unsuitable as national parks. They were usually unsuitable because of their small size and lack of wildness.

Can you build or renovate an area of outstanding natural beauty?

Before developing your property, it is important for you to know what rights you have as a property owner in an AONB. Because of the area, your permitted development rights may be reduced, and planning permission grants may become more uncommon.

Permitted development is a development that you can carry out without needing to apply for full planning permission. You may still need approval under other legislations.

You might be able to extend a house in an AONB under permitted development if you follow the rules, are some examples:

It must not go more than 4m beyond the rear wall of the property if it’s a detached house or 3m for any other dwelling.

Must not be more than 4m high.

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Advice Center, Architecture & Building

Top things to consider when building a home for the disabled

There are a number of disabled people that are living in a home, made for an abled person. By living like this it can make their life and day-to-day tasks a lot harder. This is why it is important that more disability-friendly homes are being built.  

A disability-friendly home should ensure independence for homeowners or family members with a disability. Whilst also allowing freedom of movement and comfort for all of the family members and visitors.  

Here are the top things to consider when building a home for the disabled:  

Wider doorways – 

One of the first things that you need to consider is building wider doorways so that it is easier for wheelchair access. For wheelchair users to comfortably navigate within their homes, it’s essential that doorways must be at least 32 inches wide.  

It is also better to use lever door handles because knobs can be difficult for people with dexterity problems. However, even if you don’t have a disabled person within the property, these features are still the most practical. Wide doorways are also growing in popularity which is a great thing for the future.  

The correct flooring – 

Flooring can actually affect the way people with certain disabilities live. Here are some options of flooring:  

  • Hard wood floors are very useful for people who use wheelchairs and walkers, because it is slick for the wheels.  
  • Vinyl floors are a popular choice because they are affordable and are known to be slip resistant.  
  • Carpeted floors provide softer cushioning which is great for people who suffer from joint pain. This is because having a softer floor helps to avoid aggravating the pain.  

Safer bathrooms –  

Bathrooms have proven to be the most difficult area in the home to access. It is important to give the bathroom more space than you would for an abled person. This is so there is more mobility for those who need it, this is why wet rooms are popular within these houses. If you don’t have a wet room or a shower, adding a bath lift will help you get in and out of the bath easier.  

It is crucial to use slip-resistant floor tiles so there is less chance of falling over. Installing hand railings where necessary will also help to provide stability when in the bathroom.  

Security –  

Adding an intercom or alarm system to the property can be very important because it could end up saving someone’s life. If someone falls, they could set off the alarm, and help can be on the way. You should also think about installing outside lights just for extra safety.  

Driveways –  

Driveways for disabled-friendly homes should be about 3.8 meters in width and 5.4 meters in length, maybe even bigger. This is because they need enough room when getting in and out of the car. There should be a wide flat path between the front door, with no plants or trees in the way. Having ramps and slopes is a must in these types of homes so that they are accessible to everyone.  

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Advice Center

The best 6 insulation types for a loft conversion

Firstly, a loft conversion is a great way to add extra space to your home. As well as, adding an extra room to the house, a well-insulated conversion may also provide savings by reducing the energy bills. It is important to know about and choose the best type of insulation for your home.

Here are the 6 main insulation types:  

Rigid foam (PIR/ PUR)-  

Both PIR and PUR boards are made by mixing chemicals with a blowing agent. However, this forms large rigid blocks which are low density, closed-cell insulation sheets. The gas which is trapped in the closed-cell of the insulation has a very low thermal conductivity.  

Extruded polystyrene –  

So, extruded polystyrene is rigid insulation that has also formed with polystyrene polymer, but manufactured using an extrusion process. . This means that there will be no further movement of the foam. Ensuring that it will retain its final structure and thermal values.  

Mineral wool (glass/ stone) – 

Mineral wool is available in rolls or slabs. It is man-made from a range of materials including, recycled glass and fibers. In addition, mineral wool is a porous material that traps the air, making it one of the best insulating materials. It is also good because it doesn’t fuel fire or propagates flames.  

Multi-foil insulation –  

Multi-foil is thin reflective layers of insulation. The layers are separated by wadding and foam. This insulation is perfect for preventing radiant heat loss.  

Expanded polystyrene –  

Also, expanded polystyrene often known as Styrofoam is produced by the expansion of beads. These beads contain pentane as a blowing agent. In addition, This closed-cell structure provides minimal water absorption and low vapor permanence.  

Phenolic foams –  

Finally, phenolic insulation is made by a process in which plastic foam forms. It creates an insulating core between two flexible layers.  

This insulation is perfect for preventing radiant heat loss.  


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Mineral wool is available in rolls or slabs. It is man-made from a range of materials including, recycled glass and fibers. In addition, mineral wool is a porous material that traps the air, making it one of the best insulating materials.

Advice Center

Everything To Know About Damp Proofing Your Property

What is damp proofing?  

Damp proofing in construction is a type of moisture control applied to building walls and floors to prevent moisture from entering the interior spaces. Dampness is one of the most frequent problems that happen in homes.    

The most common causes of dampness is:  

  • Condensation – is the change of the state of water vapour to liquid water when in contact with a liquid or solid surface.
  • Penetrating damp – is the development of moisture through the walls and roof or below ground area of a building. 
  • Rising damp – moisture absorbed from the ground and into the walls.  

Damp may be clearly visible from:  

  • Damp patches 
  • Mould growth 
  • Mildew, salts, staining and ‘tide marks.’ 
  • Slip hazards 
  • Frost damage 
  • Poor performance insulation 
  • Damages to surface finishes 

Methods of damp proofing –  

There are a range of ways you can damp proof your home, some of the more popular solutions are:   

Installing a damp proof course –  

A damp-proof course will provide a horizontal layer of waterproof material within the walls of the building. Protecting against moisture rising up through the walls, perfect if you have a rising damp problem.  

Installing a damp proof membrane –  

A damp proof membrane is a sheet of material that is waterproof. It is laid under a concrete floor, which should be connected to the damp-proof course. So, that the building is sealed from dampness.  

Integral damp proofing –  

In concrete, this involves adding materials to the concrete mix to make the concrete itself watertight.  

Installation of fans –  

Condensation is an inevitable damp problem in all properties. In addition, the kitchen and bathroom are the most susceptible to dampness. The installation of ventilation, such as fans, allows constant airflow throughout the property.  

Improving the exterior of the property –  

Penetrating damp is a form of damp that causes significant damage to exposed areas of a building’s roofs or chimneys. Penetrating damp expands in horizontal movements opposed to rising damp, which travels vertically. Clearing out your gutters regularly will allow water to flow away from the property.  

Damp Wall

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Advice Center

What are Structural drawings? All you need to know

What are structural drawings?  

Structural drawings are plans for how a building or structure will be built. The drawings are created by engineers. They are also based on information provided by architectural drawings.  

In addition, the plans show the size and materials to be used. They also don’t address architectural details like partition walls, surface finishes, or mechanical systems.  

What is the purpose?  

Furthermore, They are used to progress the architect’s concept by specifying the shape and position of all parts of the structure.  

What do the drawings entail?  

  • An actual drawing of the building project 
  • Structural details & instructions  
  • A licenced professional engineer’s signature & stamp 

When will you need a building permit? 

This drawing is a great way to communicate important building information to your local building department. Although, the information is straightforward your building permit may be a quicker process.  

Structural drawings set –  

  • Firstly, general notes are part of structural drawings and they cover the codes used in the design and by the laws of the building. Structural notes provide information regarding material properties or construction requirements. 
  • The structural drawings show the foundation, floor, and roof plan of the building. These inform you of the size and location of the structural elements in the plans.  
  • As well as, the elevations show the exterior walls of a building structure. In elevation drawings, you can find the height of floor & roof elevations.
  • Finally, the details drawings provide information on how to construct or connect the structural elements.  

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Elevations show the exterior walls of a building structure. In elevation drawings, you can find the height of floor & roof elevations. 

The detailed provide information on how to construct or connect the structural elements.  

Advice Center

The importance of tree surveys and will you need one?

What is a tree survey?  

A tree survey is an important survey that is performed on private or public landscapes. The goal of the survey is to provide useful information on the trees so that property managers or homeowners can make informed decisions. Based on the information that they receive from the survey; they may then decide what to do with the trees.  

The information from the survey will reveal:  

  • Age of the trees  
  • Life expectancy  
  • Species of the tree  
  • Overall health of the trees  
  • Measurements of the tree such as height and diameter  
  • Management recommendations  

Are tree surveys required?  

A tree survey must be submitted where there are trees within a proposed planning application site. In some regions, a tree survey is mandatory. In addition, this is to prevent protected trees from being cut down accidentally, based on the Wildlife and countryside act 1981 

When will tree surveys be required?  

  • New buildings. A survey will be required of all trees on the site and within 12 meters of the site boundary.  
  • Alterations to the existing properties. Where no extension of the building, no new service lines or no change of access is proposed, it is unlikely that a tree survey will be required.  
  • Extension to existing properties, or change of access a survey will be required.  

How long is a tree survey valid for?  

As the conditions of trees can change significantly over a very short period of time. This is due to external factors such as environmental conditions, disease, and storm damage.  

What is a tree preservation order (TPO)?  

A TPO is made by the local planning authority to protect specific trees or a particular woodland from deliberate damage and destruction. 

What happens if you cut down a tree with a preservation order?  

If a tree has a TPO, it is an offense to cut down, uproot or deliberately damage/ destroy it. If you do indeed do this you could be fined £20,000. In most cases, if you damage the tree and destroy it you can still be fined up to £2,500.  

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Advice Center, The science of a happy home

Everything to know about an Eco-house

What is an eco-house?   

An eco-house is an environmentally low-impact home. Designed and built using materials and technology that reduces its carbon footprint and lowers its energy needs. Eco-homes are important to the environment because they meet the sustainable needs. For example,  

  • Reducing waste by re-using and recycling materials.  
  • Energy generation  
  • Controlling pollution  
  • Water conservation 

Why are they important?  

There designed to have little impact on the planet. Standard homes burn fossil fuels for power and heat; however, the fuels are the leading cause of climate change. Whereas, eco-friendly homes are all about being energy efficient and using natural materials.  

The 3 key elements to most eco homes –  

Renewable energy –  

Firstly, a renewable electricity supply is vital for an eco-house. The most popular way to generate your own electricity is by installing solar panels. Initially, solar panels can be quite expensive, however, in the long run, you will be saving loads.  

Insulation –  

Eco-houses hold onto heat better. In addition, insulation, airtightness, and double/ triple glazed windows are important in sustainable designs. By creating an insulated, airtight house regulates its own temperature. In addition, meaning you won’t need a boiler or a heating system. 

Sustainable materials –  

Finally, an eco-house is one fully built from sustainably sourced and natural materials. Wood is used to build timber frames of eco-houses. It is best to use recycled materials, instead of getting brand ones.  

Benefits of eco-houses –  

  • Lower energy bills  
  • Less maintenance works  
  • Better air quality  
  • Higher property value  
  • Innovative design  

How much does it cost to build an eco-house?  

The price of your eco-house will depend on the size, location, and whether you’re starting from scratch or renovating an old property. In addition, Eco-houses can be very expensive. However, it is proven that in the long term they are actually cheaper.  

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Advice Center, Planning Permission

Can you make amendments to a submitted planning application?

To apply for planning permission, you would need to submit a planning application. However, it is easy to make a mistake such as the wrong name, or if you want to make amendments. This blog will explain to you if you would be able to change a submitted planning application. 

Making amendements to your application –  

According to the council, it is possible to amend your plans while the application is running. Although it would only be acceptable for minor amendments. Any big amendments won’t be accepted and you would need to apply for a new application. 

You can submit an application via the planning portal. It is often the easiest way because they also have a lot of information to help.

What do the statuses of your application mean?  

  • Drafted. Meaning that you are filling out the application and haven’t sent it to the local authority yet.  
  • Submitted. These applications can be amended as they haven’t been downloaded by the Planning Authority.  
  • Transferred applications are changed in a controlled manner. This is because they’ve alrbeen received by the planning authority.

How long do amendments take?  

The council should give you an answer within 28 days. Unless they have contacted you and a different time has been agreed upon.  

Cost of an amended application –  

The application fees can change due to the nature of the amendments, and you may need to pay an additional fee. If you believe a refund is due, then you would need to discuss this with the local planning authority. Once they have validated your amended application and confirmed the fee due.  

The application fees can change due to the nature of the amendments, and you may need to pay an additional fee. If you believe a refund is due, then you would need to discuss this with the local planning authority once they have validated your amended application and confirmed the fee due.  

What you CAN and CAN'T do after planning approval

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Advice Center

All the information you should know about agriculture

What is agriculture?  

Its the process of producing food, feed, fiber, and many other desired products by the cultivation of certain plants and the raising of domesticated animals.  

Agriculture was the key development in the rise of human civilization, whereby the farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities.  

In addition, while other scientists, inventing and others devoted to improving farming methods are also said to be engaged in agriculture.  

What is agricultural land?  

Its the controlled use of other forms of life, particularly the rearing of livestock and the production of crops to produce food for humans. It is a synonym for both farmland and cropland.   

The origins of agriculture –  

The development of agriculture enabled the human population to grow larger. In addition, there is no single origin. A variety of plants and animals have been independently domesticated at different times, in numerous places. The first one appears to have developed at the closing of the last glacial period or ice age. 

Agritecture –  

Agritecture is about applying architectural thinking when designing for the built environment. Architects and urban farmers incorporate it into the surrounding city environment in very different ways.  

According to Henry Gordon Smith, one of the early advocates of agritecture. In addition, he describes it as the art, science, and business of integrating agriculture into cities.  

“Architecture can no longer stand in place, while climate changes. Architecture and urban planning can serve as a mitigator or hindrance to climate action. It is with this regard, that agriculture can start to respond. By integrating within architectural designs. Urban farming solutions and cities could address environmental, social, and economic challenges thus developing resilient food systems in the face of climate change. “  

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Advice Center, Planning Permission

How to apply for a dropped kerb

A dropped kerb is where there is a dip in the path and kerb that lets you park your car on a driveway outside your house. The kerb is dropped from the normal height and the path is strengthened to take the weight of the vehicle.  

Before you apply –  

To have a dropped kerb it must: 

  • Leave enough room for you to park your vehicle completely on the property. 
  • Be a minimum width of 2.4m  
  • Be more than 10m away from a road junction.  
  • Meets visibility guidelines 
  • Have suitable drainage near your house.  
  • Be at least 1.5m from streetlights. 
  • Avoid removing tree roots 
  • Have permission from the property owner. 

Planning permission –  

You must contact your council to find out if you require planning permission for a dropped kerb. Then, if the council confirms that you need to require permission, you will then have to apply for an application. However, if the council tells you planning permission isn’t necessary, they would require confirmation. 

Existing dropped kerbs –  

If you would like to extend an existing dropped kerb, you must create a new application.  

Application cost –  

Householder application  

  • The cost to apply for permission is £320 
  • £150 will be returned if the permission is declined or not approved.  
  • Applications are usually handled by the housing or environmental health department at your local council. 

Developer application 

Administration and inspection fees are based on the following rules:  

  • 2 to 5 properties – £215 per property 
  • 6 to 25 properties – £106 per property 
  • More than 25 properties – £2,650 

Building cost –  

Once you have got the planning permission, you can then hire a contractor to start the work.  

The average cost of building a drop kerb, and depending on the complexity will cost around £1000. And a contractor will usually charge an additional £180 – £220.  

There can also be additional costs that you should be aware of. Here is a list of extra things you may want to consider when dropping a kerb:  

  • New driveway 
  • Wall demolition 
  • New driveway gate 
  • New fence 
  • Skip hire 
  • CCTV system  
  • Outdoor lighting 
  • Removing trees 
  • Moving a street light 

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