Grand Designs: An Environmental Assessment


Ali Stanton, of Argyll Environmental, discusses the TV prgramme Grand Designs and the showcasing of planning costs and delays in the building process

Grand Designs is always good at highlighting how expensive and time-consuming new build projects can be. From caravans at the end of a snowy garden to Kevin getting frustrated at a dwindling budget, when it comes to developments it’s always important to proactively address any issues or unexpected costs that may come your way at the beginning of the process.

The recent season of Grand Designs on Channel 4 struck a chord with us at Argyll as it accurately highlighted how environmental planning restrictions can play a part in these costs and delays. Across the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at a number of Grand Designs projects from the current (and previous) series to highlight and investigate the range of environmental conditions that would have been addressed throughout the planning process.

Case one: Mill pond project, off Church Lane, Oughtibridge, Sheffield

Grand Designs Mill 2018
Fiona Walker Arnott 2018

The first episode that we plan to delve into featured twin brothers, who were building themselves a home each on a plot of land on the northern outskirts of Sheffield.  Known for its industrial history, this particular site was interested as historically it was occupied by a mill. A mill pond is located adjacent to the site, with an old water wheel situated underground, even though a functioning mill itself is no longer present.

For this development, it is clear that several environmental conditions were placed on the application. The Local Authority requested contaminated land be investigated through a staged approach, due to the potential for contamination associated with the former mill.

Flood Risk

A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) and surface water drainage strategy were also requested. The purpose of the FRA and drainage strategy was to ensure that increasing building cover at the site didn’t generate excess runoff which might overwhelm existing drainage, including the adjacent pond.

Ecology Surveys

A tree survey and ecological survey and management plan were also requested by the Planning Team to ensure that the biodiversity of the site was protected throughout the development.

Ecological surveys can be particularly time consuming dependant on the type of species that are likely to be present. For example, given the location of the site next to an established pond, there may well have been a requirement to survey for great crested newts. Due to newts’ hibernation patterns, this type of survey can only be undertaken at certain times of the year, which could ultimately end up delaying a build project by months if not considered at the earliest opportunity.

Programmes such as Grand Designs highlight the planning process and just how time consuming it can be. Obtaining proactive advice and assistance from the outset vital to ensuring the design and build process is as smooth as possible.


If you would like more information on this service, or other services that Argyll offers, please contact the team on 0845 458 5250 or email


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