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Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

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Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Humphreysbogort » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:19 pm

Hello,

Very much a pipe dream at the moment. However I have recently moved to a farm. The farm has a large complex of outbuildings currently used to store hay and farm machinery. Solid concrete bases with steel frames and tin roof.

I had an idea to convert the space into a professional recording space at sometime in the future. Kind of a hobby business alongside my antique dealing day job.

My question really is, what sort of planning issues might be involved? Would the council allow me to convert an outbuilding into a commercial studio. The buildings have been there for nearly 40 years, so it would be a change of use situation rather than a new build. However this is green belt land.

Obviously I don't want to think anymore into it until I know that the idea is a goer planning wise.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:52 pm

Planning is easy, but is also the very least of your worries! You will, of course have to comply with all the laws on full heat insulation, wheelchair access and lavatories, fire prevention, air circulation, waste disposal, water supply, electrical installation, etc., etc., but none of that is anywhere nearly as daunting as some would make out.

BUT (in England and Wales)

You will also have converted the agricultural outbuilding to a commercial building and will have to pay full commercial council tax, which will be more than you presently pay for a domestic building - at least £1,500 p.a. There will be other obligations as well, such as book-keeping, hiring of an accountant, insurance, fire, health & safety inspections and a few other things. The extent of these further obligations depends on a variety of factors, inc. the form of company (Ltd., sole trader, etc.) and the need to comply with a whole variety of regulations on pay and the need to inform various governmental bodies (e.g. Companies House, Office of National Statistics, Inland Revenue, your local council and oodles of others) of your activities, imports, exports, staff and anything and everything else.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Humphreysbogort » Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:31 pm

Hello,

Thanks. As a small business owner already I am of course familiar with the various laws and regulations and insurance etc.

As I said, it is very much a pipe dream/ at the idea stage at the moment, but I did not want to dream any more until I knew that the council wouldn't sit on the idea due to planning restrictions.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:26 pm

Well, firstly, you should obviously bring your studio into your existing business, as far as books and accounts are concerned.

Secondly, there are two issues here - planning and the viability of a commercial studio.

1. You will just have to find out what sort of planning rules and 'atmosphere' apply in your area. Some councils are staffed with F-wits and some have planning officials who bend over backwards to help you realise your project to the end. The thing is, if you are using the out-buildings to store and renovate furniture, then you have already changed the use of the buildings. The thing to do, is to toddle along to your local planning office and ask them for a simple list of things you would have to do, to get their approval. This gives you a 'to-do' list and you should be able to work out the costs from there.

2. As a sort of self-financing hobby, a small-investment studio with good rooms could work. It could never make a profit, but it could pay its' way, just as long as you do not expect to be paid for your time! If you have bought the farm, then that might just work. If it is rented and you have to pay extra rent, well, ouch!
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Richie Royale » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:54 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:
1. You will just have to find out what sort of planning rules and 'atmosphere' apply in your area. Some councils are staffed with F-wits and some have planning officials who bend over backwards to help you realise your project to the end. The thing is, if you are using the out-buildings to store and renovate furniture, then you have already changed the use of the buildings. The thing to do, is to toddle along to your local planning office and ask them for a simple list of things you would have to do, to get their approval. This gives you a 'to-do' list and you should be able to work out the costs from there.

+1 to this, including the quality of Councils. You can find some that are really good and others who seem to refuse almost everything. Bladder knows all about the business here and his advice is very good.

Speak to your planners, just get an idea of who you are dealing with and what their view is.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Humphreysbogort » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:31 pm

Cheers folks,

I've spoken with my architect, who happens to be having a meeting with a planning consultant this week, so a clearer picture may emerge.

I'm interested to know why you think it wouldn't make a profit? I know of a few studios in my region who are turning away work, they are that busy - and some of them are not that great.

As a full time antiques dealer at present, I'm 'all about' profit as it were.

I own the farm. None of the building work or audio gear will be bought on finance and will be payed outright. Other than the obvious maintenance/rates/heat light etc, running costs will be minimal. If i get not a single punter through the door, so worst i'll end up with is an expensive toy My plan would be to continue with the antiques in parallel to the venture, and up the antiques side of things if the studio is quiet, and roll back the antiques if the studio gets busy --- on a week to week basis if needed. The antiques trade is very much a 'pop up' business that you can dip in and out of.

Anyway, that's my current 'idea' in a bit more detail.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby tomas » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:31 pm

</envy>
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cheers,

t-:


Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Madman_Greg » Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:29 am


Suggest you think about not only the studio, but say rehearsal space as well and possible combining the two.

You would then add some diversity and possibly income streams.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby Richie Royale » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:44 am

No offense to your architect, but I have found some sorely lacking in planning knowledge. You may be better off seeking out a qualified Town Planner (MRTPI) for advice on planning matters.
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Re: Planning issues relating to converting out buildings to studio

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:46 am

narpin99 wrote:I own the farm. None of the building work or audio gear will be bought on finance and will be payed outright. Other than the obvious maintenance/rates/heat light etc, running costs will be minimal. If i get not a single punter through the door, so worst i'll end up with is an expensive toy My plan would be to continue with the antiques in parallel to the venture, and up the antiques side of things if the studio is quiet, and roll back the antiques if the studio gets busy --- on a week to week basis if needed. The antiques trade is very much a 'pop up' business that you can dip in and out of.

Well, I have a similar operation, except that the other things I do are related to the studio and links to the music and media business. And that is my first point that I would like you to think about - symbiosis.

It has been my experience that if a new venture is to succeed within an existing business operation, it has to be a natural progression from the existing business. In other words, your core skill, the ability to spot a good Queen Anne drinking mug or Victorian trinket and know which auction house to place that with - and when! - is wasted in a recording studio. Also your antique customers and suppliers are unlikely to carry over to the studio. Old Mrs Millie Tooley, down on her luck and needing to clear her attic, is extremely unlikely to want to lay down some beats, or shake that Tele as she slams some wicked power chords. Corpulent Colonel Stoat-Posture is looking for some chairs to match Regency style dining room and is not going to whip out his Takamine and start singing "Where be that blackbird, be. He be up a tree."

The reverse is true. Some spotty Herbert grunge band Nirvana wannabees are not going to break off head-banging, because they've just seen a nice bit of inlay on an 18th Century tea caddy.

The plumber who came to fix the studio heating at our place last month, wanted to start a limo service. His wife (sensible woman) smacked him on the back of the head and told him to concentrate his efforts on pipes, boilers and lagging. "The pipes, the pipes are calling!" she told him and said that he could open a show room or an on-line outlet on eBay.

She also thought that a plumber who turns up, driving a Rolls Royce, may project what the marketing boys call 'an inappropriate image!'

My second point is that all studios are struggling. They are rather like Wile E. Coyote in Monument Valley, chasing that Road Runner. They have run too far and are now over the edge of the abyss. "Meep! Meep!" If they look down (or rather look at the books) they will fall 300 feet to their deaths!

The idea that there are studios having to turn customers away, conflicts directly with what I get to hear day-in, day-out, from small-to-mid-sized operations in every part of Planet Earth. From Abbey Road to Yours-Truly, we are ALL having to find other sources of income. Why do you think Abbey Road has rented out large parts of the building and is working hard on creating TV programmes and other products and trying to get away from studio rental? Why do I concentrate my efforts on language programmes and books?

The land around our studio contributes more to the bottom line in mushroom collecting, firewood and timber, hay and grazing, than any rock band inside the studio ever will!

So before you hire an architect (who will make a complete mess of any studio, unless he is an expert) I would bear in mind that at no time will you ever turn a profit from this venture. For that reason, I would build a studio for myself, if I were you. If others want to use it, well, that's fine, or dandy. (Sometimes I'm fine, sometimes I'm dandy, but I have yet to be fine and dandy at the same time.)

The moment you start hiring architects, the whole thing starts to cost real money. As in £200k or more and you are going to have to apply for planning permission, build wheelchair ramps and install water sprinklers and fire extinguishers, toilets and smoke detectors, emergency exits and RCDs. Architects (rather like lawyers) have a brilliant knack of spending your money, without actually knowing what they are doing. For that reason, if you read this book Amazon web page then you will know 100 times more about building a studio then any local architect ever will.

(You could also add to your shopping list, Philip Newell's book 'Recording Studio Design.' It is well over 600 pages long, but don't worry, the interest picks up no-end, around page 200 when he gets to sliding doors! Amazon web page )

So, by all means build a studio for your own enjoyment and don't tell the planning authorities and get bogged down in pointless costs. Read those books and design the thing yourself. Install a cheap DAW and have fun. But don't forget the day job. You will earn more from one bit of Meisen, than from a whole month of recording the local fat girl with the unfortunate squint and a voice like a poll-cat on heat.

Them fake Queen Anne mugs don't sell themselves, you know!
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