The case studies below provide a more detailed account of the selected projects, and the planning processes through which they have been.
They are designed to help prospective clients with their decision-making as to how they might proceed with their projects, to offer a realistic account of the time and costs involved, and to encourage the exploration of the potential opportunities that their site or building may hold.
House Extension in Rural France
Budget: €60 000 (Partial Self-Build)
Area before: 75 square metres
Area after: 144 square metres
Requires Consent: Yes
(Permis de construire)
Extra Permissions: Septic Tank
Architect obligatory: No
Phases: Concept Design to Planning Approval
Mairie: Fontanières 23110
Planning Approval: 15/7/2019
The client, a couple from Wales, approached us in December 2018 to submit a planning application for a change of use and the design of a two-storey extension to this rural outbuilding in the Creuse départment of central France. The resulting dwelling is to be used a holiday home over the next few years, and ultimately as a permanent residence.
Following a telephone discussion with the client to help define their brief, we visited the property with them in early January 2019 to discuss this further and to take a dimensional survey of the existing building. It should be noted that the client did not own the property at the time of our appointment, but that they had made an offer on the property. We suggested to the client that they could request that their Notary added a suspensive condition into the sale contract that made it conditional upon the approval of a planning application, so as to avoid the situation where they had purchased a building for use as a holiday home that might be refused permission for such a change of use.
Following the survey, the existing drawing set was developed in our studio in Paris, alongside a number of options for potential extension forms and materials. The client then selected the version with which they were happy, and this was developed into a planning file, including the necessary forms and paperwork, alongside the existing and proposed drawings and the above visualisation. The planning application was submitted on 25th March 2019.
The existing building is not connected to a mains sewer, nor to a septic tank. The client was advised to appoint a bureau d'études to undertake the design and specification of a suitable septic tank, alongside our development of the planning file. A local bureau d'études developed this portion of the project, including undertaking a site visit and soil permeability test, and submitted the necessary documentation to the local SPANC (Le Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif), the local government department who govern installation of septic tank systems. Following their approval of the septic tank design, they provided the required attestation de conformité document to complete the planning file held by the local Mairie. This was received on the 5th July 2019 and the complete planning application approved on 15th July 2019. The sale could then proceed, and at time of writing the client is now the owner of the property and has commissioned BoBo to undertake the detailed design parts of the project, and on-site supervision of the implementation phase.
Challenging planning consent next to an historic monument
Budget: €400 000
Area before: 200 square metres
Area after: 200 square metres
Requires Consent: Yes
(Permis de construire)
Extra Permissions: Architecte des Bâtiments de France (ABF), EDF, Architecte Conseil, Architecte Coloriste.
Architect obligatory: Yes
Phases: Concept Design to Planning Approval
Mairie: Saint-Gervais-les-Bains 74170
Planning Approval: 25/10/2019
The client approached us in July 2018 to design a scheme for a radical renovation to an existing pottery workshop and apartments in the alpine town of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, next to Mont Blanc. The client had previously engaged with a local architect, and had begun discussions with the local Mairie at the point that they contacted BoBo. The advice that they had received was that the proposed alterations to the property would not be acceptable, and the client wished to try the same approach with a different architect.
The existing property is located not only within the highly controlled 500 metre radius of a magnificent 17th Century Savoyard-style Church, it also sits within its 'viewing corridor' (i.e. it can be seen within most views of the protected church). As a result, the proposed scheme required the approval of the Mairie's local planning committee, a locally appointed Architecte Conseil, and the regional Architecte des Bâtiments de France (ABF) in Annecy. An Architecte des Bâtiments de France (Architect of French Historic Buildings) is a state-appointed architect who has undertaken specialist training, above their required university study to qualify as an architect, in the protection and preservation of listing buildings and their urban context.
One of the requirements of the client's brief was that the design should feature large and unobstructed views over the nearby mountain ranges (see photograph above). We suggested to the client that we could design a scheme that ameliorated but protected the façade facing the town centre (involving the protected viewing corridor), but propose a radical intervention consisting of a 21 metre length of clear glazing to the rear of the building, the façade that faces the mountain range. In this sense, the building could achieve the contextually sensitive renovation required by the planning authority, as well as meeting the client's brief to frame the views over the mountainscape. There were additional alterations to the roof profile to increase the internal floor to ceiling height of the top floor, the addition of an 'internal' balcony to the master bedroom to afford that room the key view also, as well as a double garage the ground floor. The existing Pottery studio is proposed to be retained as a similar artisanal activity space for rental.
A draft planning scheme was compiled in November 2018 and an initial meeting with the Mairie and their Architecte Conseil was arranged. Following these discussions, some minor amendments were made to the design scheme and a planning application submission (permis de construire) was submitted in early February 2019. This application was approved by the Mairie's local planning committee and Architecte Conseil, and subsequently sent for review by the regional ABF, where it was refused. A meeting with the ABF and BoBo was arranged in Annecy in April 2019, where the project was presented and discussed. We decided that it would be useful to have our legal advisor present at this meeting, in order to make an accurate record of what was said, and to attempt and bind the ABF to their expressed opinion. There was one particular element of the roof design that was considered to be controversial, and following this meeting the scheme was again amended. A new application was submitted in early July 2019, which was approved by the ABF and subsequently refused by the Mairie's local planning committee. An application refusal at the Mairie level when an ABF approval has been gained does not signal the end of that particular application process (as it does with an ABF refusal), and this then initiated a period of further negotiations between the Mairie and BoBo, with further minor amendments to materials and the roof form. The Mairie then appointed their Architecte-Coloriste, an architect with a specific knowledge of the colour palette of this spectacular alpine area. Further negotiations were held with the Architecte-Coloriste, who prepared a colour palette scheme that was at odds with our client's requirements. After exhaustive negations and amendments on this final matter, the application was approved by the Mairie and issued in October 2019, 15 months after our first site visit.
This scheme and its application are demonstrative of both how much protection is afforded to the central areas of France's most magnificent villages, towns, and cities, but also that unusual design schemes with highly desirable elements that would otherwise be in breach of local planning regulations can achieve planning consents, albeit with time, patience, client commitment, and some flexibility on all sides. The outcome here will certainly be a spectacular and highly valuable building upon completion.
If you are considering a project in a particularly sensitive location, works to an historic monument, or a project that is otherwise complex in nature, it would first be useful to arrange to discuss the site and your brief on the telephone. Please find provide at least the site address and postal code so that the necessary research can be undertaken before the planned discussion. You can send the necessary information to firstname.lastname@example.org.