Frank Wood's pamphlet, Racing the Stable Clock, is on the way. But trees – and logs? Don’t talk to me about the wood kind of wood.
Why? I have spent many hours this week attempting to complete a “Householder Application for Planning Permission” for the external flue/chimney for a wood-burning stove. The saga is long. My advice would be not to read this blog entry.
We are putting in a wood burning stove. At least that is The Plan. The stove has even been chosen, and these things are not cheap. The installation requires the erection of an external steel flue because this house doesn’t have a chimney. Did we need planning permission? It was my job to find out.
I ransacked the Council website for information. I was taken to Building Regulations 2004, which cheered me up. I happily printed a section that indicated apparently clearly that no permission was needed for such an addition. But just to make sure, I emailed a free online facility known as Planning Aid. Belt and braces, I thought. A chap called ‘Armstrong’ replied.
I am very influenced by names. Anyone called Armstrong is durable, honest and steely to me. Mr Armstrong, however, sent me a document titled Guidance on Householder Permitted Development Rights. The regulations changed earlier this year, he said, and now you do need planning permission for flues and stoves: the relevant section is page 38.
I read page 38. Page 38 told me that a “flue forming part of a combined heat and power system” was not permitted “as they are permitted by other classes”. What on earth did that mean? What “other classes”?
On page 64, I found a statement I thought I understood. It said “a planning permission is needed for flues for dwellinghouses or flats within an Air Quality Management Area.” I didn’t, as advised, look up section 83 (1) of the Environment Act 1995 to find the definition of an Air Quality Management Area. I assume it is what used to be called a “smokeless zone”. Yes, we live in one of those. But log burning stoves are permitted in smokeless zones, so long as they are the right kind. Ours will be the right kind. Nevertheless, it appears the flue needs “a permission”.
I braced myself and set off to complete the planning document. Everything in the Council website encourages the applicant to do this electronically. Still, a small part of me was still hoping perhaps this planning thing wasn’t necessary, even though Mr Armstrong was strong, dependable, honest and almost certainly right. So I phoned the planning department, going through the usual options and waiting until one of our Advisers was free. The eventually-free Adviser didn’t know anything about stoves or flues but said she would also send me a paper copy of the application form, which had notes. Thank you, I said.
Of course, the notes in the paper copy must be the same notes that are on line. At least I assume so. I decided to complete as much as possible of the online document while waiting for the paper copy to arrive. This allowed me to discover the cost, which is £160 plus just over £14.00 for a small piece of OS map illustrating the site. Roughly £175.00 in all. Ouch.
Money is one thing. Time is also costly. In the middle of all this, I am attempting to:
- finish the HappenStance Christmas Card
- check the Inky Fingers proofs (don’t ask)
- complete Jim C Wilson’s pamphlet, cover, flyer, website info etc
- complete Jim Carruth’s pamphlet, cover, flyer, website info etc
- assemble materials for the imminent subscriber mailshot
- write three reviews
- log pamphlets for Sphinx reviews (pun intended)
- pack up and post three HappenStance orders
- make dinner
But a little thing like a planning application form? Half an hour.
Two hours later, I have shifted into the present tense. I am ranting and tearing my hair. I have done most of the form. I have attempted to pay the fourteen quid to Ordnance Survey or whoever gets the money for the few square inches of map I must mandatorily purchase. But World Bank says there is a problem with my card, my trusty reliable card used to buy so many online goods. World Bank has locked access to the bit where you pay for the map, so I can’t attempt to put the payment through with any other card.
Later and calmer the same day, and logging in with a different browser, I find I am no longer locked out and so I can pay for the bit of map. The money leaves my account painlessly. I now possess a tiny bit of OS map legally, which means I won’t have to use the illegal screenshot I took earlier. (I have never been good at breaking the law). Emotionally exhausted, I postpone the next bit to the next day.
Next day: the paper copy of the form arrives. I have a cup of tea and read carefully through each and every bit of the five pages of notes. They advise me that if in doubt I can apply for a “Pre-Application Discussion”. This sounds like a great idea, so I phone the Council again, go through the number options again, wait for Our Adviser to be free again.
Is it a Householder Application or a Something Something Something Application? Our Adviser asks me.
A Householder Application, I reply knowledgeably (it’s what it says at the top of the notes).
I’m sorry, she says. We don’t do pre-planning discussions for householder applications.
Back to the online planning application. If it turns out that I don’t need it, according to Our Adviser, they will refund half the money and give me a Certificate of Lawfulness instead. I have never had a Certificate of Lawfulness and I think I would like one. (You pay £70.00 for a Certificate of Lawfulness, which certifies that you don’t need Planning Permission. Effectively, it is a Certificate to confirm that you don’t need a Certificate.)
Oh well. I am all in favour of electronic approaches really. They save trees, which means more of them can be cut down and used for log burning stoves suitable for use in clean-air zones.
I click on the Location Map bit of the application and consult the piece of OS map with my house on it in its electronic window. The software requires me to draw a land boundary around my property, and assists me to do so by instructing me to click on all corners of the boundary line. To complete the job – Control + click (or Command + click if using a Mac).
I am using a Mac. I duly click at the corners and the line around the property appears neatly. How very clever technology is.
Wait! “Command + click if using a Mac” to complete the boundary line doesn’t work. I try again. It doesn’t work again. I try right-click instead of left-click. I try double click. Triple click. I try other inspired key combinations. I google for solutions to this command not working. I try some of them. Nope. There’s no way my mouse can release the line from the cursor. No way I can get off the map without leaving lines in non-boundary places. No way I can complete the required action and get on to the next bit. No way I can get far enough to pay the £160.00 and send off the application.
I do many things in my attempt to solve this problem. I lock myself out of the Planning Application more than once. In fact, the only way I can get back to the piece of map I have now purchased but can’t use, is to remove it from the planning application by unclicking the “map-attached” button, and then going back to square one and reattaching it. I am relieved the expensive map hasn’t vanished in the meantime.
An interesting purchase, this map, this little piece of Ordnance surveyed. Although I have paid for it, I don’t seem actually to have it. That is to say, it’s not on my computer. It’s inside the Planning Application that I can’t send off, though I have at least screen-shotted it.
By now, I have spent another couple of hours messing about. I consider phoning Our Adviser (although I don’t think Our Adviser is likely to help) but it’s Friday and after 4.30. Our Advisers will have gone home.
Wouldn’t it be good to have a satisfactory conclusion to this story? I haven’t got one. I have forwarded the link to myself at work, where I can use a pc, but not until Tuesday. Perhaps that will let me do the bit I can’t do at home. But at work I really do spend my time working. An hour spent on this jiggerypokery is more than I can afford.
What do people unfamiliar with the world of clicks and online payments and advance whizzkiddery do? I daren’t share this experience with my Other Half because he will just go into full mutter mode and tell me, as he has always told me, that all this modern computer business is complicated nonsense, don’t I know that yet?
The paper application is in front of me. It is quite short, and I find I mainly understand it well. At the top it refers to “The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 2008.” Apparently we are now following regulations 2012, but not on this form.
There are more capital letters, this time in bold font. They say PLEASE NOTE IT IS FASTER AND SIMPLER TO SUBMIT PLANNING APPLICATIONS ELECTRONICALLY.