Just as the best recipes don't always need the most ingredients, a design team doesn't need a consultant from every single discipline, but it's important that those you do employ mix well to create the best possible proposal. As heritage consultants, we are used to working as part of a wider design team, generally encompassing planning consultants, architects, building surveyors, ecologists, and any combination of the above. But what part exactly do each of these team members play when it comes to your project?
A heritage consultant may know planning policy like the back of their hand when it comes to the historic environment, but there is so much more to planning. From change of use and lawful development certificates to advice on highways and feasibility studies, they have a holistic understanding of planning as a whole and can put you in touch with the right consultants to undertake the required appraisals and surveys for your particular project. Whilst there is certainly some overlap with heritage consultancy, planning consultancy encompasses a wider range of situations not confined to those with heritage implications, and some projects require that level of oversight. Engaging the right planning consultant means that you will have a qualified and competent single point of contact for the rest of your design team, ensuring everything goes as smoothly as possible throughout the application process.
It probably goes without saying, but a good architect is crucial for your project. Without the right set of existing and proposed plans and elevations to submit alongside your planning application, it wouldn't get very far but an architect is so much more than just the provider of drawings. Architects are both visionaries and facilitators, taking your ideas and putting pen to paper to show you different options and make suggestions to bring your project to life. They provide a baseline for the rest of the design team to comment on from the perspective of their respective fields, such as heritage, building regulations, etc. These comments can then be incorporated into the final revision of plans to ensure that the submitted scheme fits your brief to the letter.
There are several different types of architects out there, each with their own distinct style. Some opt for a more artistic look, with hand-drawn sketch plans, whereas others are more technologically-minded and incorporate the use of 3D visuals. Whoever you choose, make sure they understand your vision and the motivations behind your scheme, as they'll be the ones bringing it to life.
Building Surveyors and Structural Engineers
Whilst a heritage consultant can comment on the general condition of a building, we're not qualified to prepare statements with regards to how stable a building may be for alterations or conversion. This is where building surveyors and structural engineers come in, the former to assess the current level of stability of the building and the latter to come up with the right engineering solutions to keep your building in tip-top shape and ensure it meets building regulations. You'll need to bring these guys on board too if you're looking to justify part or whole demolition of a building, as they will need to demonstrate its poor state of repair and unviability for conversion.
Ecologists are often painted in a bit of a negative light in the planning world and given an unfair reputation of obstructing development. Certain species, such as bats and newts, are protected by legislation and any proposed development which has the potential to impact upon their habitat needs to be inspected by a suitably-qualified ecologist. This can take the form of a simple survey, such as Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs) to establish whether a roof space poses an appropriate habitat for certain bat species, all the way to more comprehensive monitoring surveys. The level of survey required is usually stipulated by the local authority and depending on the findings of initial surveys, further study may be required.
We acknowledge that there is some overlap across the disciplines above, and while we all sometimes deviate into each others' lanes, it's important to recognise when one is out of their depth. Just like we would not venture to write a Planning Statement or prepare architect's drawings, be mindful when an architect or planning consultant claims to be qualified to write a Heritage Statement. We've seen countless of 'statements' submitted by fellow professionals in adjacent fields and refused at validation for being a single page long or not following the requirements within NPPF. When it comes to a design team, we all have our parts to play and working collaboratively is always the best approach.
If you are looking for qualified and accredited heritage consultants to join your design team, then please do get in touch and we would be more than happy to have an informal chat about your project. Equally, we are fortunate enough to work with a broad and experienced range of fellow co-consultants in their respective industries, so if you are after a personal recommendation for an architect, planning consultant, or surveyor, then we would be happy to recommend vetted options to suit your project and budget.