FAQ

General FAQ

How long will it take?

I’m afraid this will depend on the size of project. But if you give us a call and arrange a free meeting we can give you an idea of timescales and costs, specific to your project. At your free consultation, we will be able to give you a good idea of timescales, once we have had a look at your property and listened to your requirements. We will always send you a timeline for your project, at the very beginning.

How much does it cost?

‘Budget between 5-10% of total build costs for Acres Design fees, structural calculations (if required) and the council fees. We charge on an hourly basis for our work at £70 per hour. The time  it takes to complete each stage will depend on a number of aspects:-

  • We are required to measure the existing, so the bigger the house, the more time it will take.
  • The complexity of the existing house. A bungalow takes less time to draw that an stately home.
  • Do you know exactly what you want? If so we won’t need to show you as many options, reducing the time to agree a design.
  • The scope of the works. The larger the project the more time it will take to complete the proposals.
  • The complexity of the proposals. If you are looking for a cantilever balcony from a zinc clad dormer window this takes longer than a simple detached garage.
  • Planning requirements. In a conservation area you will need a heritage statement and design and access statement to be submitted with your planning application for example.

We will give you a price at our free initial consultation where Alistair will go through the stages, and apportion an amount of hours to each stage, you will then get a fully detailed quote within 48 hours of our visit.

Do you cover my area?

We work mostly in the following North East and Teesside areas;

  • Newcastle
  • Cramlington
  • Gosforth
  • Tynemouth
  • Whitley Bay
  • Jesmond
  • Forest Hall
  • Ponteland
  • North Shields
  • Gateshead

Please don’t hesitate to give us a call if your area is not on the list. For the right project we are happy to travel further (we have completed projects as far south as Berkshire, and as far north as Aberdeen).

Design

Why do I need a measured survey?

At Acre Design, we draw your existing house up on our 3D drawing software. We then use this to formulate your design proposal and eventually, your detailed technical plans. Our detailed plans allow you to obtain more accurate quotes from builders.

What happens in the design process?

Our work is usually split into four main stages: Preparation (measured survey and drawing of your existing property), Concept Design (completion a first draft to be developed with you), Developed Design (making alterations to your design to ensure it is perfect whilst meeting any planning criteria) and finally, Technical Design (Detailed construction drawings and Building Control process).

After we complete your measured survey, we will draw the existing plans and produce a first draft proposal. We will then invite you to comment on this concept design.  This is an opportunity for you to tell us ‘what a great idea’ or ‘we never would of thought of that’ or alternatively tell us of any changes you need or areas you don’t think will work for you. We then make those changes and the process starts again (with another meeting or over email) until you are happy, then we will invoice you and apply for the relevant approvals.

What types of projects do you work on?

Acre Design have now completed well over 400 projects in Newcastle, the North East and throughout England and Scotland. The types of projects that we have designed are:

Planning Permission/Building Regulation Approval

How much are application fees?

You can find the up-to-date information on prices for planning applications here.

How do I get planning permission?

If you choose Acre Design we will act as your agent throughout the planning and design process, once you are happy with the final design we will then submit your planning application to the appropriate Council through the planning portal. Acre Design will copy you into all emails, and you can keep an eye on your application on the council’s website. You can see if your planning application has been registered online here.

Do I need planning permission?

The majority of building projects need planning permission, however, some rear extension, loft conversions, garage conversions, summer houses etc. may not need planning.  The easiest way to find out is for Alistair to come down to your home and have the first free initial consultation with you. At that stage, he will be able to tell you if you require planning permission and building regulation approval. We can also apply for a certificate of lawful development which is the council confirming you don’t need planning permission (useful if you ever sell your home).

If I don't need planning permission do I still need plans?

Think of a building project like a massive piece of IKEA furniture, you wouldn’t buy it unless it came with the instructions to put it together. Imagine trying to put it together without the instructions, it’s not going to look as good as it could have at the end, is it? That’s why spending a small percentage on detailed plans is so important. Planning your space and really considering how you will live in it will ensure you end up with the home you always dreamed of.

Am I guaranteed permission?

Like any architecture firm, Acre Design can’t guarantee planning approval, however, we only take projects on that – with our experience – will likely be approved. We will try our hardest for planning permission to be granted the first time but sometimes that’s just not the case. We usually make a pre-planning application (application fee of £30) to see how the planners feel about a scheme. Pre-planning lets us know if the final design will be accepted or not. If amendments are needed, this is the time to make minor changes to the design, with the client, to give us the best chance of gaining an approval.

How long does planning permission take?

Planning permission usually takes around eight weeks from application, and our plans will be ready in around 2 weeks from appointment, so leave yourself around 3 months, don’t let it put you off though – sometimes it takes time to achieve your dream and we take away and fuss by acting as your agent throughout the process.

What are building regulations

Building Control (Alistair’s previous job for 10 years) do not care about the size of a building, nor what it looks like they are concerned only with how it is built. This is where our detailed technical plans come in, they take care of things like fire safety, drainage systems, ventilation, insulation, safety from falling, glazing requirements etc anything that falls under health and safety and so much more!

Do I need building regulations for a small extension?

Some porches, outbuildings (non-heated and below a certain size) and conservatories are exempt. It’s best you give the office a call to explain your circumstances so we can advise appropriately.

If your new extension will be heated from your central heating you will almost certainly need to let building control know. This is so they can make sure that it is built to the current building regulations and check the insulation levels, as well as a number of other aspects. They do this by checking the architectural plans first for compliance, they then make sure your contractor is building it on site as per our detailed technical drawings. If you ever sell your home the buyers solicitors will ask for the paperwork, so it is best to have all this sorted before you start building.

How much can I extend my house without planning?

The planning department is always very busy with big and complex applications. To speed the planning process up the government have allowed home owners to carry out certain extensions to their home under what is called permitted development rights. Acre Design will always get confirmation that planning isn’t required from the council (in case you sell and the solicitors ask for it).  Generally speaking, you are allowed to build the following extensions without planning.

 

 

Anything more than 4m in height will need planning permission though (two stories) and if you live in a conservation area or a listed building you will need to apply for full planning. Even if you don’t need planning you will require building control approval for all of the above projects. If you need to get quotes from builders they will want to see detailed construction plans. Not requiring planning will save you around 8 weeks, but is it worth changing your dream extension just so you don’t need to apply? Only if what you want won’t get planning, otherwise let Acre secure your planning and you will get exactly what you want.

How big an extension can I build without needing planning?

Any extension must not cover more than 50% of your current garden, this is to protect your outside space for future generations. After that, it kind of depends on the type of house you live in. If you are in a detached house, miles from a neighbour you are allowed under permitted development to build quite a large extension. So long as you use matching materials and it doesn’t go higher than 4 metres at its highest part. Plus, a couple of other rules that don’t usually cause an issue.

 

Side extensions – If you plan to go out to the side, it mustn’t be more than half the width of your existing house, single storey in general. It also must not be forward of the principal elevation of the

host dwelling.

Rear extensions – If you are looking to build on the back of your house, you can go up to 3 metres in an attached house or 4 metres if it is a detached house.

Loft or garage conversions – Loft conversions can be built without planning permission with only Velux windows.

If your loft conversion requires a dormer to increase head height or space then this will require planning permission and must not be on the front of the property.  You must not extend over any porches or any previous extensions.

How much does it cost to add a room to a house?

The short answer is it depends. It depends on things like access to where the extension is to be built. It depends on the complexity of the finalised design, it depends on the size, and how you finish it inside. A rule of thumb is to allocate (for the finished decorated shell) £800 per square meter for a basic extension, £1000 for a mid range extension with some more architectural merit, and £1500 for something that is more top end, architecturally significant.

 

Acre Design will produce plans that we think are within the discussed budget (or plans that match what you have asked for). We will make sure that we comply with the building regulations as cheaply as possible. That’s not to say your extension will be sub standard, far from it, England and Wales building regulations are some of the most stringent in Europe. You will have an amazing extension and there will be no wasted money at all.

 

In fact, we are confident that whatever you pay us for producing these plans, you will make back easily with saving from clever accurate design. So, you get amazing ideas, as well as saving yourself money on your extension.

Why Should I choose Acre Design?

Alistair set up Acre Design in 2014. Having spent 10 years working in Building Control, dealing with all aspects of planning permission and building control approvals firstly at North Tyneside Council and then Glasgow City Council. For 10 years he was meeting architects and designers, clients and builders ensuring compliance to the huge amount of regulations the government subjects on us all. Firstly, he would check the submitted plans, often of very questionable quality and accuracy for compliance. Then, whilst undertaking his site inspections solving problems the designer had not taken into consideration. After 10 years of this, he finally said enough is enough! He knew he could provide a design service that puts the customer and their wants first. Alistair aimed to create the best, detailed plans on the market.
This meant the clients had an amazing design with which they had a helping hand in creating. They have their detailed plans in hand, so there are no nasty, hidden surprises or additional costs when the building work commences.

3 years later, his vision has become the guiding principle for Acre Design. Acre’s incredible designs are drawn accurately with so much thought and subsequent detail. He now receives compliments from clients, builders, planners and building control alike. We are the benchmark for architectural plans in Newcastle and are always striving to improve.

Will you keep us updated throughout the process?

Acre Design will provide you with updates throughout the whole process. We can get your first draft to you within 10 days. After this we will invite you to the office to go through our initial design, we also give you a full print out to take home and look over. Once you have got back to us with any thoughts we make the changes quickly, ready for you to approve our final design and we can prepare the drawings for planning permission. This next bit is where patience becomes a virtue, once we have applied for planning permission it can take 8 weeks for a decision to be made. Acre Design will send you a link once we have applied to the local authority public access where you can keep an eye on your application in real time.

If you are looking to start your building work as soon as planning is approved, we will immediately begin preparing your technical building control drawings. Once these are complete (usually within a week of planning being applied for) we will send these to you. If required we can forward a couple of plans to our trusted contractors for them to begin pricing the job for you. You can also arrange in this time meeting them or going to see some of their previous work.

How much does it cost?

Our fees start from £750 plus VAT. This usually works out at around 5% of the whole project cost for the projects we get involved in. We offer so much value with our amazing 3D renders and detailed building control plans. In the long run, you will be delighted you chose Acre Design.

Do your fees include the planning application costs or the building regulation fees?

Our quotes don’t include these fees for a few reasons. They are variable and are dependent on the design we agree on and what the council might ask for. Our pricing is very clear throughout, any additions that either building control or the planning department ask for are not included. Sometimes, they ask for a whole array of strange things like a bat survey, water consumption calculation, structural calculations or a ground investigation report. If we included all these things you’d pay more than was absolutely necessary.