Thought I'd document what's been happening, so you can see we've not been twiddling our thumbs and also share our pain/frustration - sharing is caring, after all! Also, in years to come, I'll be able to look back at this chapter of the project and reminisce how stressful it was and Mark and I shall laugh at our inexperience and naivity - "what WERE we thinking?!"
We placed an offer on Ivy House back in March 2018, having first looked round it in November (? I think) last year. Once the initial wrangling over price had taken place we were all set up to take the keys on 2nd July - the start of the holidays. I duly handed my notice in at work and on 30th June 2018 left my permanent full-time secure, full pension/sick pay/annual leave role as a speech and language therapist with the NHS, celebrating with afternoon tea at Brodies.
The day before I left work, the lawyers (having had a good 6 weeks to look at the paperwork - why oh WHY do they only look the few days before exchange?!) found that there was no retrospective listed building planning permission for a dividing wall removed 11 years ago. Once it was established that this really was needed before the sale could go through, we went through the fairly painless but lengthy procedure whereby neighbours were asked if they minded a wall being removed 11 years ago and once noone had complained, 6 weeks later we got retrospective listed building planning permission.
So, the whole summer that could have been spent renovating Ivy House was spent....well, not.
Eventually, we got the keys on 23rd August and then discovered that the change of use we got back in March 2018 (because I thought I was on top of things) was only for Town Planning and that we also needed change of use permission from Building Standards. Two completely separate departments, I have learned. This might not be new information to others but it was to me. how difficult could that be, I thought - we'll submit the application ourselves. After all, we only want to replace all doors with fire doors, install smoke detectors and children's toilets.
It turns out that when you request a change of use with Building Standards from a domestic property to a commercial one, it's virtually like having a new-build, which gets tricky when you own a 19th century listed building. Yup.
So after Building Standards (BS) stopped laughing enough to send our application right back into our laps, advising us that we would need to take on an architect, submit a fire engineers report (as opposed to the fire officer's advice we have already submitted) and an accessibility report, we moved quickly to get these in place.
Firstly, our architect - the lovely David Major from White Hill Design Studio - was super-prompt and expertly made us some plans which didn't look like they were a 12 year olds' homework for Design and Technology. He has been amazing throughout the whole process and I wish we had known sooner that we needed him.
Secondly, DGVoice, "The Voice of Disabled People in Dumfries and Galloway" came and did an access report for Ivy House. They kindly pointed out that (as the vast majority of buildings on Moffat High Street) Ivy House wasn't accessible for wheelchairs and gave us a list of recommendations that we should implement prior to opening. We have been working super-hard to find ways to please, DGVoice, Listed Buildings Department and the Fire Engineers. To date, we have widened all the doorways, we will install a disabled toilet (once we have approval by BS) and we will replace the bridge upstairs to widen and raise it, thus allowing access upstairs. Unfortunately, we still have the issue of the 3 steps from the entrance down into Ivy House which cannot be resolved by a ramp (would be too steep) nor do we have the extra £15k needed to install a platform lift. Something to work towards....
Lastly, the fire engineers report. As there is no fire engineer in the whole of D and G (seriously, there's an opportunity right there!) we sought the advice of BBSeven in Glasgow. They were very lovely and did a thorough report which ticked all the boxes for BS. Reassuring that they agreed with our original proposal for fire doors and fire detection system. Yet at the same time mildly frustrating that they agreed with our original proposal for fire doors and fire detection system.
Note to self: when choosing a building for opening a nursery, consider that having a listed building may pose problems. For example. Listed Building would be unlikley to grant consent to remove the timber staircase. However BS will not allow a timber staircase for a fire escape. DGVoice recommend having a stair lift, BBSeven say absolutely not. And so it goes on.
Whilst we have been waiting for BS to approve our application (it's taking a while - I think they've been busy with other educational buildings - ahem - in Dumfries) we have been doing everything that we could do without consent in a domestic property. For example, you don't need BS approval to put in underfloor heating, lay laminate flooring, improve accessibility in your garden, paint, and install fire doors. So we've been busy!
On the actual subject of early learning and childcare setting, the Care Inspectorate have visited a few times to help us with our registration and they are more than happy with our paperwork, staff recruitment process. Rachel, the deputy manager, has been working with me since the beginning of September and has been amazing in going through the paperwork.
All the Care Inspectorate are waiting for now is to sign off the building before they grant us our registration.
All we are waiting for is Building Standards to approve our application and I've been reliably informed that that should be soon.
Once BS have given us the go ahead, we can get the bridge and toilets in. In the meantime, we have the most comprehensive fire detection system in the whole of Moffat for a domestic property!
Lessons learnt so far:
-Listed Buildings cause extra problems.
-It costs nothing to get retrospective listed building planning permission, but takes a while.
-Planning and Building Standards have the same address but are completely different departments who don't appear to talk to each other.
-To get your application for change of use through Building Standards, you have to spend approximately £15,000 more than you budgeted for.
-You can work 14 hour days/ 7 day weeks but the Council don't. So any times you have in mind for opening are completely in the hands of an under-staffed department, with a different sense of urgency from you.
-Telling the fire detection installers that there is no flooring in the attic PLUS having a written sign at the entrance to the attic saying the same will not guarantee that they won't put their foot through your ceiling, bringing down 2 plasterboards.
-Being a structural engineer, architect, lawyer or fire engineer is a lucrative career. In fact anything other than being a speech and language therapist in the NHS it would seem.
-Builders drink a lot of coffee and energy drinks but work bloody hard.
-My new commute to work is 135 steps (one way)
-When 'they' said it would be stressful, they were right.