Garage Special - January to August 2004
The loss adjuster confirmed the insurance company would do whatever was necessary to reinstate the garages! True to its word the insurance company authorised the additional costs of architects and planning application(s) and of storage arrangements for what we had salvaged from the garages that was presently adorning our front room.
In discussion with a Council representative we were advised that we also 'technically' needed permission to demolish the garages, but that a letter confirming the dangerous state of the building would overcome that obligation. However, additionally, and somewhat incredulously, we were advised that if one wall had been left standing and the other new walls had been tied to it, then the work would have been considered a repair and that no planning would have been required. Then the remaining old wall could then later be replaced and, also being considered a repair, would not need planning permission either!
We were also told that, had the garages not been there originally, then it would be very unlikely that approval for a 'new build' would be gained. We subsequently considered this an interesting comment as planning was later gained for a 'new build' garage just 100 meters away directly in front of what is arguably one of the finest views in Cornwall (our garage doesn't interfere with any views but our own).
Two months later we were advised by the Council that the building was too high and wouldn't be approved. Whilst neighbours had written in support of our application, unknown complainants had submitted issues about the windows of the garage and the height. In an effort to demonstrate this, somebody had trespassed on our property to take photographs of the part built garages and send them to the Council. However, fortunately we had taken photos of the garages in their burned state and was able to show clearly that the front elevation was the same as the original in reference to the label on the electricity pylon immediately next to the building. This was acknowledged by a Council planner. We did however agree that the rear elevation was higher but what had been built was not to be the finished height as the roof slope from the front hadn't at that time been cut into the block-work.
We confirmed to both the Council and the builders that all we wanted was our garages back the same size as they were originally with a sensible internal height that would accommodate the new door as agreed with the insurance company. The builders, being somewhat frustrated, came up with height arrangements that they were sure would be passed by the Council but we were certain were lower than the original building height. It seemed to us that the builders were attempting to persuade us to have something less just to get the job completed. The builders actually stated that our photos did not prove anything and that we were wrong in our asserting the build height to the front elevation (even though this had been acknowledged by a Council planner). The builders suggested dimensions that would see the front to rear beams lower than the window lintels! Actually lower than the glass!!! Eventually we agreed sensible dimensions with the project manager to be resubmitted to the Council even though the builder's management appeared to remain unconvinced of success.
Upon any submission to the Council there is a two month decision making process; so yet more delay. Eventually the Council approved the garage rebuild the letter confirming this having been received on August 6th. So we and our neighbours have had an eyesore of a part-built garage for over nine months and now have permission to do exactly what we needed in the first place.
We are grateful to the Prudential for agreeing to the storage of salvaged items from the garage as without that we would not have been able to continue our renovation work. South West Garage Doors also kindly held on to a rather large door for a rather long time. And the Council was genuinely trying to be helpful even when tied by the rigidity of regulations that are not allowed to be sensibly interpreted in individual cases.
In working throughout Cornwall, both the builder and the insurance loss adjuster said they had never come across these problems before and it is my opinion that the Council would have preferred not to have been forced by complainants to take the actions they were obliged to. All that was achieved was unnecessary expenditure and delay and the continuation of an half-built eyesore. Our renovation work had been put back by several months that cost us dearly.