The short days and poor weather in early 2013 delayed the start. Planning permission would also require a bat survey, but because these hibernate this has to take place in summer.
Preliminary repairs began at Easter and it rapidly became clear the job was bigger than it first appeared. The walls were so damp that the first floor was no longer attached and was being supported by the incongruous modernist fireplace in the lounge.
At this point the architect had to withdraw due to illness, having advised us to make the building structurally safe. This meant gutting the house, taking down most of the dairy and attempting to repair the kitchen.
The bat survey came back ‘clear’ in June 2013, but by now the house was no more than walls and as the dairy roof and render came down, it was clear the eastern chimney was unstable. The kitchen also proved so rotten it required demolition and replacement. The sodden thick stone walls were taken down and replaced with much thinner, well-insulated, modern walls.
It was at this point that the National Park planners spotted the work and decided we were acting illegally. Apparently even an unsafe structure requires official agreement for both demolition and reinstatement. We immediately applied for retrospective consent.
Eventually we were summoned to a meeting. It was strongly hinted the chances of consent would be greatly improved if we made a significant gesture towards tradition. Restoring sash windows on the house would be appropriate the officer said. Without these he hinted darkly that the prolonged lack of occupation might mean the building was ‘abandoned’.
Now planning permission is not needed for repairs to an existing dwelling. Sash windows are expensive and by this stage we had already bought all the house’s windows. Angered, we applied to restore not only the dairy, but the milking parlour and forge (the idea being to make ‘sacrifices’ to get what we really wanted). So appropriately grandiose drawings went in.
Fortunately we spotted the five ‘wasted’ windows could go in the extension and found affordable sashes which clearly looked better than the modern versions. This sugared the planning pill and the scheme was passed in its entirety to leave a far bigger project than originally intended.
To read a fuller version of the above – download the following: Restoration Process