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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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We won! – Nous avons gagné

Tom explains the design of the house (in French!).

Tom explains the design of the house (in French!).

Although we didn’t want to Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de L’Ours avant de l’avoir tué we were quite hopeful of success when we saw that our house had been used as the main image for the marketing of Prix Regional Construction Bois.  As luck would have it, we won first prize in the Maison Individuelle category!  Tom had to go to Niort to pick up the award and then give a speech in French to the other winners, runners up and judges!  He said that everyone was very complementary about the house and the design.

All the winners

All the winners

As winners of the Poitous Charente regional award we are automatically entered in to the national awards.  There is no date for when these will be, but we will probably be up against houses in Provence and Cote d’azur! But hey, I’m not to sat that this will happen quand les poules auront des dents – because you never know.

 

 

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The big event of the wooden building – Le grand rendez-vous de la construction bois

Présentation des projets du Prix Régional Construction bois 2015

Présentation des projets du Prix Régional Construction bois 2015

We have written about the organisation Futurobois a few times on this blog.  It was recommended to us but the regional Architect that we contact them to talk about our build.  The Architect also thought that they could help with suggesting a builder who could build to the specifications that Tom has designed. For those that don’t know  Futurobois is an inter-professional association of timber companies in the Poitou-Charentes region, including all firms, from logging, to architects, to sawmills, coopers and carpenters.  They also assist professionals in the responsible and sustainable development of their business, through collective or individual actions.

The also happen to hold a Regional Wood Awards which celebrates buildings made of timber that have been built over the last year. Now in its 11th Year, the event, ‘Building with wood;’ is being held on 29th January 2016 in Niort.  Tom and our builders Marandat entered the competition, but are yet to hear if they’ve been short listed.  However, the programme for the day has been released and we are chuffed to see that Tom’s building has been used on the front cover!  Even if the house is not short listed, this is great advertising, everyone who attends the conference will see his design and you can’t get much better than that!


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Planning permission is granted! – Le permis de construire est accorde!

Today we received a very exciting letter from the Mairie in Montemoeuf telling us that we have been granted planning permission for our house! Our only planning condition (accord avec prescriptions) was in relation to the drainage (more on that below).   It took them under 2 months to decide, so probably a lot less than you would expect from planners in the UK.  We were worried that they wanted more information about the drainage and that this would hold things up, but it appears as though this was sorted out for us.  We were also concerned that we were going to have to put in an application for a septic tank, but seeing as there is a drainage system right by the land, we are able to connect directly in to this.

The letter we have been waiting for.

We have both been very impressed by the service that we have received from the planners in Confolens and the speed in which they got back to us.  We are also pleased that they have approved something that isn’t typically ‘French’ and seem have embraced the designs that Tom has come up with.  Then again it does appear as though there are a few timber framed houses in the Charente and near to where we are, so maybe things are changing.  Also with organisations such as Futurobois building in timber frame is no longer seen as ‘out there’.  Futurobois which is an inter-professional association of timber companies in the Poitou-Charentes region, including all firms, from logging, to architects, to sawmills, coopers and carpenters.  They also assist. professionals in the responsible and sustainable development of their business, through collective or individual actions.

There are still a few legal matters that we need to get through first though.  Once consent is granted a public notice procedure follows.  We have to display a notice on site, which must remain during the whole of construction period and must be clearly visible to the public.  During the first two months in which the notice is displayed, the planning decision can be contested by third parties!  The Mairie also places a decision notice at the town hall  for at least two months, although a failure by them to do so does not delay start of the period for contesting the consent.

The Mairie also have a period of three months when they can withdraw the planning consent that may have been granted, on the grounds that is was granted illegally although this is not common! A similar right exists for the local préfet for a two month period after the consent was granted.   Tom and I are not too concerned by this, but it is good to know where we stand and the possibilities that could hold us up.

We are now obliged to start work on site within two years and we must proceed in a reasonably regular manner, or risk having the consent rescinded.  I don’t think that there is any danger that we will not comply to this, it is just a question of finding the right builders to do there work.  Tom is hoping to pay a visit at Easter, but this will slightly depend on our impending arrival….All the more reason to apply to Grand Designs, they like nothing more than a pregnant woman working on site!


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One step closer – un pas de plus

Our most recent trip to the Charente started in Montemboeuf so that we could visit our plot.  This was the first time that we were able to stand there and say, ‘this is ours’!  It was quite a good feeling and very exciting to know that we had got this far.  We were there to take a survey of the land and measure the changes in levels, as well as plot where all the trees were and make a note of what species there were.  It was great to see the land looking in great condition,  maybe that has something to do with the sheep – and as we found out later from the man himself, a local farmer, who has been keeping and eye on things, cutting back the verges and stacking wood for us!  Very kind of him, especially when all we are doing is letting his 4 sheep graze the land!  It seems like a win win situation!

We have a lot of fruit trees on the land

We have a lot of fruit trees on the land

The trees were laden with fruit while we there it was a shame we couldn’t take it with us.  In the hope that not all of it goes to waste we told the owners of our friendly B&B to help themselves.  We worked out that we have apples, quince and hazelnut trees – wonderful!

After our flying visit to Montemboeuf, it was off to Confolens to meet the regional architect and the local planner to discuss our designs.  One of our biggest fears was that they would ask us to site the building nearer the road which would mean cutting down some of those amazing trees.  Our fears were completely allayed when the architect asked us if we planned to keep the trees.  When we told him that we did and that the plan was to site the building further down the hill, he was very pleased!

The meeting could not have gone better, they liked all of our plans and designs and the only comment the architect made was that we should use natural wood if we decide to clad in timber.  The architect is going to write us a letter of recommendation to go with our planning application!  Fantastic news.  Although, next step will be to write that application and send it to the Mairie in Montemboeuf.  Luckily the planner has offered to help us if we need it.  The architect also recommended that we make contact with a group called Futurobois.  They are a professional association of timber companies in the Poitou-Charentes region.  They include firms that deal in everything wood from logging, to architects, to mills, coopers, carpenters, etc – a very important group of people to know if we do decide on a timber construction.

Plans and elevations

Plans and elevations

Our next stop was to meet some builders.  Tom had set up a meeting with a local company called Bati Paille-Constructions.  These guys are specialised carpenters who build low ecological housing and build with passivehaus consumption principles – and they are 30 minutes drive away!  We were both really impressed by their design and knowledge and clearly a lot of other people are as well because they are busy until September 2014!  We are also impressed by their time scales – the house would be pre-fabricated in their factory which takes about 6 weeks.  It then takes them about 2 weeks to put the building up and make it watertight!

 Tom plans to send our designs to them so that we can get a quote…..so quite a lot to be getting on with before our next trip!