Thirteen months ago I lost my studio in a ’empty shop’ in Bracknell town centre due to the start of the long planned regeneration. What started as a 2 year occupancy of the shop had lasted 7 years, it was a wonderful and memorable experience. Studio space lets you play, explore, experiment, be messy, go large, and grow as an artist, so its been hard without one. I spent 10 months looking for alternatives near my home that offered reasonable space at a price I could afford, the search was depressing and fruitless. Thanks to a small inheritance in February, and the support of my husband, we decided to make changes to our home to enable a ‘garden building’ to be built at the bottom of our long but narrow garden.
Well I made my target date of being in my new studio by the end of August, we put up guttering over the weekend and I got my water supply sorted. As piping in water and sewage was out of the question due to cost, I ordered 2 10 litre plastic water cans and have an assortment of buckets for dirty water. As my goal is to do a lot of work with plaster and concrete I’m hoping this will be a viable solution.
I’ll have to work awhile in my new space to see how light and air movements effect my layout but based on my previous studio set-ups this is feeling right. It was a lot of money up front, took almost 8 months from initial plan to being ready to sit down and make some work, but I am ready! I could happily hang-out and work here until I’m 80 when my career as a woman artist may take off!
It’s all been a bit of a blur, like the old saying about waiting forever for a London bus then three come along at once. I went from feeling like it would be months till I would have my studio to everything happening in quick succession. Got the keys from the builders, had 4 days in which to do 3 coats of paint, the first being a very wet primer coat that dripped everywhere. The black plastic the builders left to protect the floor soon resembled an action painting by Jackson Pollock. I finished in time for the electrician to arrive and install sockets, lights and a wonderful ‘turbo power’ heater. Deciding where my 4 double sockets would go would determine my studio layout and work flow, I needed to get it right. I wanted at least 2 above counter height for my workbench which I saved from my last studio, it had been stored under plastic in the garage for 15 months.
The electrician was done by 3 pm and I had a few hours to put a quick coat of gloss on the skirting board before the vinyl was laid the next morning. I picked the cheapest, but lightest coloured vinyl that Carpet Right had which was wide enough. It looks like slabs of concrete which I thought appropriate given the garden location and the fact that I wanted this studio for messy plaster and concrete work.
By Saturday morning I was ready to start moving in!
As last reported the builders were fast off the mark from planning approval to the concrete base, turned out they needed to get it done before staff were off on their summer holidays. I had to wait another week, patience not always one of my better virtues, until 4 guys and two trucks full of building parts arrived at my front door. I showed the foreman the back lane access, he was relieved, I think he was under the impression they would have to lug all that timber by hand to the bottom of the garden. I asked him to please make sure and not run into any oak trees as he weaved his way down the lane to my back gate.
I had a quick chat with the team of 4 as they started to unload and thought I’d give them a bit of time to get organised before making the first tea run, to my amazement when I came down an hour later the floor was down and the walls were going up. These guys were fast, having pre-made large sections in the factory that they just nailed together obviously helped. By the end of day one they had the walls, windows, door and roof on and felted, just as well as it bucketed down that evening. Day two was roof tiles and internal work, loads of insulation 10 – 15cm thick. I’ve never had a warm winter studio, this year I’ll be as ‘snug as a bug in a rug’. All in it took an average of 4 guys 17 hours to complete my timber 3m by 5.4m building.
I was finally handed the keys on Saturday, to save a bit on the bill I said I would do the internal priming and they left me a rather large metal bucket full of watery white paint. I had to get this done before the electrician arrived to wire up lights and sockets. He arrives tomorrow and after 2 and a half days of pretty steady painting I am doing the final coat today. The whitewash was rather messy, good thing they’d left plastic covering the floor, when finished the walls glowed with a lovely warm off-white, like a New England beach house. But for our old England dark, grey winter days I would need a lot more reflective bright surfaces which called for 2 coats of white matt emulsion. Better get to work . . .
I made a few attempts to find an Arborist to consult on what the local Council had requested as per my previous post, but they were either not available until October or never returned my calls. So I called the Planning Officer, I wouldn’t say I pleaded but there was certainly frustration in my voice. It seems it wasn’t her fault, she had flagged the application as approved, her colleague the Tree Officer had put the charge against us. It was also nothing to do with building in my own garden but the vehicle access down the lane at the back and the damage this may cause. I explained that vehicles had been using the lane for over 70 years probably and the lane is quite wide, it had been access to my garage after all which I had actually parked my car in daily. She was very helpful, almost apologetic, and explained that I had to talk to the Tree Officer, she needed to give the approval. When I asked how long this ‘approval process’ could take and she replied 8 weeks, I really had to bite my tongue!
So onto the Tree Officer who was not as helpful, she let slip that Arborists ‘needed the work’ so was surprised I couldn’t engage one. I used all my patience trying to explain the situation and ensuring that ‘no trees would be harmed in the making of this studio building’. In the end she agreed that if we wrote the ‘Method Statement’ indicating clearly the vehicle access in the lane and protection measures we would take, she could approve when next in the office in 7 days. Guess she thought we were going to use an HGV vehicle with a huge crane or something, she could have just asked but then I guess an Arborist wouldn’t get the work and the Council their extra £30 fee for releasing the charge they put on!
Homestead dealt with the Method Statement and the Planning Officer made a point to follow up on the morning the Tree Officer was back in, we had our approval in record time! On Saturday 2 guys and a small van with a trailer arrived to dismantle the garage clearing the concrete base ready for the builders to arrive this morning. They are extending the concrete base a bit and prepping the surface for the building work to start later this week, can’t wait.
Well the word from that silent Council planning officer mentioned in the previous post came through yesterday, permission was granted but not without another set of hoops to jump through first. “No development or other operation shall commence on site until an Arboricultural Method Statement and Scheme of Works in accordance with BS5837; 2012 has been submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority.” What, it’s a big shed not a housing development?
I’m now hoping to be moving in by the end of September rather than August.
We have large oak trees that line the dirt lane at the back of our property, they are covered under a council Tree Protection order which we were well aware of. The trees are beautiful all year round and we would never do anything to harm them, none are within our property but given our narrow garden one or two branches extend over the path close to the existing garage.
In our planning application it was stated that “The garden room will be situated in an area of the garden where no landscaping will be necessary. The proposed development will not have an adverse effect on any protected species/habitats.” Guess the planner didn’t agree. I was told by a friend that it may be they’re concerned about the roots that extend well into our garden, but I’m not planning a cellar, in fact the building is going on top of the existing concrete base that has been there for 20+ years.
So the removal of the garage scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled, I am now waiting for a local ‘Arborist’ to have a look and advise on this statement that needs to be submitted. I’m sure there will be a fee to him to write it, a fee to the council to file it, and given the council seems to take 6 weeks for anything, and it’s the summer holiday period, maybe I should revise my expectations on moving in till October!
Meanwhile this morning I heard about the Shed of the Year finalists, made me think I’m being very un-creative in opting for a basic timber building.