Category: Architecture & Building Surveying

Land and Property Professionals

We sell, rent, manage, survey, plan and advise...what can we do for you?

Bedford: 01234 351000 (Sales, lettings and viewing enquiries)
01234 352201 (Professional services and general enquiries)
Buckingham: 01280 428010

When purchasing a building, you are investing a significant amount of your funds, time and life.  While a property may seem appealing and suitable for your needs, consideration should be given to ensuring that there are no significant issues or major surprises. Whether in a residential or commercial context, the building survey and the role of the professional surveyor is vital in protecting a buyer and managing risk. A survey and report by an independent building surveyor will help you to have a balanced view.

Our detailed surveys involve a thorough visual inspection of the building fabric to ascertain issues such as structural movement, dampness, deterioration and lack of facility. In our reports, we consider our findings and give context to defects found in terms of significance and urgency of repair. Estimated costs of repairs and improvements are also included.

Our specialism is surveying older properties, typically pre-1920s buildings and listed buildings.  Recent commissions include:

Are you soon to purchase a property? Find out more about our building surveying services by calling Stuart Brown.

Boundary disputes are on the rise. They can be costly, traumatic and time consuming to resolve so we thought we would provide some tips and advice to help you understand the basics and avoid potential pitfalls when dealing with them.

  1. When buying a property, ask your solicitor for an official copy of the current title plan so you can clearly assess the boundary.
  2. Compare this title plan to the property itself and flag up any differences with the seller prior to exchange of contracts.
  3. Talk to your neighbours to establish who is responsible for maintaining the boundaries. This will help you avoid problems in the future.
  4. You should never change a boundary feature without your neighbour’s knowledge or while they are away.

Disputes occur when boundaries have changed over time but not been recorded, boundary structures are replaced without consulting neighbours or when a neighbour tries to build right up to a boundary. If you are looking to build up to the boundary line then we can help. Refer to our article ‘Understanding the Party Wall etc Act 1996’ found here.

What to do if a boundary dispute arises?

The key to resolving a dispute quickly and successfully is to seek professional advice as soon as possible. We are Chartered Building Surveyors regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and are experts in providing advice on boundary disputes.

Our services include checking the title plans, reconciling current plans with historical documents and photographs and surveying the site. We always advocate good communication between neighbours and try and resolve disputes swiftly and amicably.

Please also refer to our previous article about ‘Why use our service to produce Land Registry compliant transfer plans?’ found here.

If you are struggling to locate your title plan, are unsure where your boundaries are or are worried a boundary dispute could arise then please contact Robert Franklin.

Although the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 has been active for the last 25 years in the UK, there is still some confusion over when it applies, to what building projects and what it covers.

The original Party Wall Acts only previously applied to the London Boroughs with its origin dating back to just after the Great Fire of London in 1666, when timber party walls were outlawed and masonry construction achieved firebreaks between properties.

The Act of today covers more than just work to walls separating dwellings or buildings of different ownership. The key to the scope of the Act is inclusion in the title of ‘etc.’. This is perhaps why there is still a lack of awareness of the Act and its applicability to building projects.

The Act covers:

The principle of the Act is to protect next door from damage caused by the notified works and if it does occur then there is a mechanism for resolving the damage without resorting to court. It also allows the building owner to rights of access to carry out the work where required.

We have recently seen a flood of enquiries precipitated by neighbours being contacted by ‘ambulance chasing’ surveying firms who look at planning application registers on local authority websites. They check where developments are taking place and then they cunningly contact the neighbours out of the blue. The letters often imply that they have been appointed, but it is important to highlight that until a Notice is served by the building owner, no appointments can be made under the Act.

Some enquiries we receive refer to a Party Wall Agreement. The terminology used in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is an ‘Award’. This is drawn up by a surveyor(s) and it determines whether the work is permitted under the Act and if any particular methods of construction are required to implement the construction in order to protect the neighbour’s property from damage. It also identifies rights of access onto the adjoining property for the purposes of the work.

When you have a building project, or your neighbour notifies you of their project under the Act, you should consult with a surveyor who has sound knowledge of the Act and procedures. An experienced party wall surveyor would be able to advise you on the risks to your property and whether a simple consent to the work should be given or an Award is required. Under the Act, all surveyors are required to be impartial in their advice and see that the terms of the Act are properly implemented. This allows the party wall surveyor to act as an agreed (joint) surveyor for both owners.

Our party wall surveyor, Stuart Brown, has been administering the terms of the 1996 Act since inception and has dealt with several hundred Awards over the years covering Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, including Milton Keynes, Biggleswade, Luton and Hemel Hempstead.

If you are intending to carry out building work close to your neighbour’s property or if your neighbour is about to build, please call Stuart Brown, Chartered Building Surveyor on 01234 362923 or email spb@robinsonandhall.co.uk to obtain advice on whether the Act applies and what procedures are involved.

Robinson & Hall’s Architecture & Building Surveying department has been thrilled to assist Oakley Pre-School with its new expansion in the form of two new purpose-built classrooms.

We have been heavily involved in the project from start to finish, including planning, design and project management. The new, high quality building was created off-site in Lincolnshire and delivered to the site in Oakley. Arriving in pre-formed sections, it was then bolted together and up in a day! Watch the action for yourself below:

The Pre-School has been running in the village for over 50 years and has a fantastic history supporting generations of families over many decades. The new building means they can offer space for up to 40 children.

Please contact Oakley Pre-School direct for further details of spaces available. Their website can be found here.

If you have a project which will help enhance your community then please get in touch with Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying at Robinson & Hall, on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk

The recent storms and high winds have caused havoc and significant structural damage in many areas. If you have suffered significant structural damage, the aftermath of the incident can be a very anxious time.

Clearly it all depends on the severity of your damage.  The odd roof tile and fallen over fence panel is not going to need our assistance. But professional assistance may be required if your property has suffered from:

It takes just moments for weather to harm your property and if wind damaged areas are not addressed quickly, it can develop into severe problems.

Check the wording of your insurance policy. Your policy may allow you to instruct a local building surveyor to assess the damage and liaise with your insurance company to get things moving.  In most like-for-like reinstatement scenarios, our fees are covered under your insurance claim so it shouldn’t cost you anything (over and above any excess your policy dictates).

Sometimes, there is the possibility of reconstructing things differently to achieve a more modern layout or an economic design. We can help you weigh up the options and see if there is a more feasible rebuild approach.

Given how busy all the insurance companies are likely to be, you may get frustrated waiting for an assessor to come out. In the meantime, see if you are able to contact a local building surveyor to advise you. We wrote an article about making a building insurance claim and the process, which may also be of interest to you. Click here.

For more information or to find out how our Architecture & Building Surveying department can help you please contact Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying, on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk

Keeping your property warm has never been more expensive. UK wholesale gas prices have rocketed and have been at their highest level for years. More and more people are investigating greener alternatives and trying to become more energy conscious to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying comments “Consequently, I believe it is essential to ensure the energy we are paying so much more for, heats our properties for longer. It is becoming increasingly more important that we investigate ways to better insulate our homes and businesses. We have discussed this in a previous article here.”

In addition, as part of the Government’s plans to strive towards net zero, it has announced from 2025 that all new homes will no longer be built with gas boilers. They are also currently consulting on raising the threshold for acceptable EPC ratings for all properties which are rented out (domestic and commercial).

We are all focussing towards cleaner, greener energy sources for our homes. So, what are the current available renewable alternatives to mains gas?

Heat pumps

From April 2022, the Government will be offering subsidies of £5,000 for homeowners in England and Wales to make the switch from gas boilers to heat pumps.

There are two common types:

The most common type which is suitable for most households is the air-to-water heat pumps. These can typically cost between £8,000 – £12,000. You also need suitable space outside with enough space for air to circulate.

The price of ground-to-water heat pumps is much more expensive and typically around £25,000 – £30,000. You will also require a sizable area of land to install the necessary underground pipes.

Solar panels

A common sight on many properties. Photovoltaics solar panels capture energy from the sun, which is converted into electricity. This can be used to power your property, or exported to the grid, for which you’ll be paid.

This is a truly renewable energy source and, while they work best in sunshine, they still generate electricity without direct sunlight and on cloudy days.

The average cost of a typical system is around £6,000 – £8,000 and prices are dependent on the size of the installation and suitability of your existing roof.

More recently, new household batteries have become more readily available and affordable. When connected to form an energy system, these allow you to capture and store electricity during the day for you to use in the evening when your solar PV panels are no longer generating electricity.

Biomass

Biomass is a renewable energy source usually generated from burning logs, chips or pellets.

This can heat a single room, such as with a standard wood-burning stove. Alternatively, it can be fitted with a boiler and connected to your central heating and hot water system. They are often suitable for larger properties or multiple developments where economies of scale are much easier to achieve.

Wood-burning biomass boilers are larger than gas or oil boilers and they are not suitable for most urban properties. In addition, you also need storage space for the fuel and for accommodating a suitable flue. Costs are more difficult to estimate and will be dependent upon each individual project.

Summary

All the above technology is expensive to install, which is why it makes more economic sense as part of larger refurbishments.

While the upfront cost may seem off-putting, renewable based systems should save money on your energy costs over time. Nobody thought that the UK’s transition to net zero would be an easy road to follow and there will be many hurdles and further solutions along the way.

We can help you make your properties more energy efficient and save you money. Whether it’s improving insulation, lighting or heating, we can guide you through all the regulations and ensure you futureproof your assets. If you’re considering a building project, please include us at an early stage as many of these aspects can easily be designed and incorporated in your building works and trying to do them retrospectively can be expensive and indifferent.

If you require more information or would like to discuss how we can help make your property more energy efficient, please contact Robert Franklin.

Land registry title plans represent the Land Registry’s interpretation of a conveyed boundary and as such they are the go to document to determine ownership. It is a requirement that all exchanges of land ownership are registered with the Land Registry.

Solicitors will carry out searches of the Land Registry and check carefully that boundaries match those registered so it is important that the maps are correct to avoid costs unravelling anomalies.

It is imperative that the plans prepared and being submitted for first registration, or for land being divided and transferred, are accurate and meet the minimum requirements of the Land Registry to avoid registration applications being rejected or delayed.

The Land Registry requires that plans submitted are of good quality and conform to their published guidance as follows:

Drawings prepared for leasehold have different requirements including the preparation of a detailed floor plan layout to a larger scale.

We prepare Land Registry complaint plans following the guidance published by the Land Registry. All plans are digitally produced from the latest Ordnance Survey data to enable accurate plans to be prepared and sent electronically to facilitate a speedy transfer of data between solicitors, sellers, buyers and the Land Registry.

We recommend that a site survey is conducted to take site dimensions for annotating on the drawings and to check that the Ordnance Survey data is up to date and correct. This often flags up errors within the tolerance of the Ordnance Survey Maps but which could otherwise cause conflict and/or ambiguity in future years (the Ordnance Survey data’s published accuracy is +/-1m).

If you need an accurate Land Registry map or if you have an anomaly on your historic Land Registry map then please contact David.

More changes are on their way regarding the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for commercial properties in the UK.

Energy efficiency is at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment. The Government has committed to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and the message is clear that change is definitely on its way. We are unlikely to see any further significant delays to the proposed legislation as a result of the recent pandemic, therefore action is needed sooner rather than later.

Current position

The current position regarding MEES, which has been in place since 1st April 2018, is that it is unlawful for a landlord to grant a new tenancy of a commercial property with an EPC rating of lower than E (unless an exemption applies).

1st April 2023 – minimum EPC rating of E for all existing leases

The important fact that all commercial landlords need to be aware of is that from 1st April 2023, this same rule will apply to all existing leases. This means that subject to limited exemptions, it will soon be unlawful for a landlord to continue to let a commercial property with an EPC rating of less than E.

The time to consider your current portfolio is now.

Government to increase EPC rating to B

The Government continues to review the legislation and has recently consulted on proposals to increase the MEES target for all commercial property even further to a minimum EPC rating of B by 2030.

In addition, a landlord of a rented property will need to have an EPC at all times. At the moment, a property is only in the scope of the MEES regulations if there is a valid EPC in place. This has created a loophole for properties that do not currently have a valid EPC, i.e. an existing EPC has not been renewed after 10 years. However, this loophole will soon be closed. We will know more information when further guidance is issued at the end of 2021.

Further issues to consider

Under the relevant regulations, it is the landlord’s responsibility to comply with MEES and all costs currently fall on them. However, an occupier will not be able to sub-let unless they can demonstrate they comply under the MEES regulations.

Certain exemptions are already in place and we can advise you whether your property falls within one of these categories. It is proposed that a new central database of compliance and enforcement be set up where landlords will submit their compliant EPCs or details of any exemptions. Any exemption will need to be reviewed every 5 years to ensure it remains valid under the regulations.

A clarification has been provided that a listed building should have an EPC but will be able to apply for an exemption if the MEES standard cannot be practically achieved, i.e. by virtue of such works being incompatible with planning or listed building criteria.

The perils of obtaining an accurate EPC are well documented in previous articles on our website. Needless to say, if the Government continues to place so much emphasis on EPCs then it is imperative you obtain the correct advice and an accurate EPC.

Non-compliance brings the risk of high financial penalties. There may not have been many high profile examples, however this is about to change. Bedford Borough Council has recently announced it intends to clamp down on domestic landlords who continue to ignore the legislation. Other local authorities will follow suit and also include commercial properties, as they see this as an easy way of raising revenue. So you have been warned.

How can we help?

We can help you make your properties more energy efficient. Whether it’s improving insulation, lighting or heating, we can guide you through all the regulations and ensure you futureproof your assets. If you’re considering refurbishing or converting a property, please include us at an early stage as many of these aspects can easily be designed and incorporated in your building works and trying to do them retrospectively can be expensive and indifferent.

Any changes you consider will make your property more attractive to potential tenants and should ultimately make it easier to let at a higher rent.

Regardless of the Government’s final response to the consultation, it is clear change is on its way. Be prepared and start planning now.

If you require more information or would like to discuss how we can help make your property more energy efficient, please contact Robert.

Our Architecture and Building Surveying team are experts in providing practical and dynamic advice to clients on all manner of projects, from small domestic refurbishments to multimillion pound new build commercial premises.

We are often involved in a scheme from inception with the preparation of a feasibility study or drawings prepared for a pre-application planning enquiry, where appropriate.

Why should I use Robinson & Hall?

Our Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) planning specialists and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) building surveyors work in harmony to produce the full package of drawings and application documents. This provides a combined approach based on our knowledge of planning policies, statutory requirements, construction, specification and heritage experience.

When do I need to employ a project manager?

The benefit of our involvement at an early stage is in providing realistic budget costs and practical construction experience before proceeding with statutory applications. This ensures that the design is practical for its intended use, together with detailing and designing structures that are efficient; both for construction and the end user, covering all health and safety risks and total lifespan maintenance.

Whilst it’s ideal to be involved from the outset our Chartered Building Surveyors are also able to advise clients once a planning consent has been obtained or even once the construction process has been commenced.

What advice do you offer clients before considering building works?

Our advice when considering a project at the outset is to have detailed plans and specifications agreed and documented in writing. We often see enquiries, particularly from domestic clients, once they have experienced construction problems when there is a lack of detailed documentation. We advise to have a written formal contract to avoid ambiguities.

What does your project management service involve?

Our project management service is bespoke to the client’s requirements to cater for domestic and commercial, agricultural buildings or even civil works. Our ethos is being involved in the design, planning and construction phase to see that the client’s objectives are met and secondly that the project management phase is detailed and managed to avoid miscommunication.

Our project management service will generally include:

Once clients have chosen which contractor to instruct, we will then arrange for an appropriate building works contract with suitable terms to be prepared and signed by both parties. The contract sets out the terms and formalises the contractual procedures. If there should then be a construction problem, the contract sets out the procedure for remedying any issues.

We will act as the contract administrator to monitor and oversee the works within the terms of the contract with instructions and valuations being issued following the contractual procedures.

We are also able to act as the principal designer under the Construction Design and Management Regulation 2015 (CDM 2015). If you don’t appoint a principal designer for your construction project (involving more than one contractor) you may be automatically taking on the duties yourself and be responsible for not only the client duties but also that of the designers.

If you have a project in mind or are planning construction works then please get in touch for a no obligation conversation to see how we can help.

Our Architecture and Building Surveying department has been pleased to assist Oakley Pre-School to expand and construct new purpose-built facilities in Oakley village.

The Pre-School has been running in the village for over 50 years and has a fantastic history supporting generations of families over many decades. They are currently based in the village Methodist Church Hall, however a few years ago the Pre-School identified the need for larger premises. They subsequently started thinking about plans for new purpose-built classrooms which would allow them to teach more local children.

A local landowner kindly offered part of the paddock behind the current pre-school premises. Robinson & Hall helped to design, and obtained planning consent for, the new improved facilities. We have also since assisted with preparing all the necessary detailed plans and obtained tenders to construct the new building to ensure the Pre-School obtains best value for money.

The new building is currently being constructed off-site in Lincolnshire to a high, insulated specification. It is being formed in sections which will arrive separately and then bolted together on site.

Contractors have already completed the ground works which include specialist steel piles driven into the ground to support the new prefabricated structure. These were installed with critical pinpoint accuracy and their thin profile also avoids damaging the established surrounding tree roots which form important screening to the paddock.

The new building will be ready in early 2022 and will provide a spacious learning environment for all the children. The new outdoor space will make use of its rural location and include a forest school area to enhance children’s experiences with the surrounding natural world. With space for up to 40 children, the new building will ensure the Pre-School can continue supporting the community of Oakley for decades to come.

For further information and to contribute towards fundraising for the new classrooms then please visit www.oakleypreschool.com

If you have a project which will help enhance your community then please get in touch with Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying, on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk