Not Much Going On (Part 18)

Martin & Mandy

Turraaah!! That's a fanfare going on - all the paperwork to get an electricity supply to the church has finally happened. It's almost been an episode from 'Yes Prime Minister' getting to this stage! Ages ago, right at the beginning of the project, I stood in the fields to the south of the site with seven very keen people from EDF, pretty much all of whom were connected with the physical activity of putting a power feed into the site rather than the paperwork side. Frankly if I'd said 'Go' then they would have been doing it immediately but no, as you would guess, there is unfortunately a lot of paperwork involved.

So, electricity exists on a set of power poles running west to east about 300 meters south of the site and the task in hand is to get a piece of cable buried joining the pole to the church - how hard can that be? For EDF to run a power cable across land they need a thing called an 'easement' signed by the owner of the land. Basically this just gives permission to transit a cable across the land and pays the land owner a stupidly small amount of money, £1.15 for every 50 meters or part of 50 meters of land that the cable crosses.The land south of the site is owned by the Church and so in the process of purchase our solicitor agreed an easement to be included in the sale papers - all nice and easy. I get a provisional quotation for the supply of power to the site and I sit down with a bump - it's a couple of quid as it goes - in fact it's several thousand but still, we need power, so what can we do.

The purchase of the church goes through and Mandy & I are then the proud owners of 0.98 acres in Hertfordshire and I call EDF again, 'Oh can we do another site survey please' they say - sure when shall we meet? This time I meet a really nice lady called Angela, who spends half an hour walking round generally admiring the building and the view, which I now know is a good start to a meeting. After a bit of plotting she suggests we put a three phase power supply in from a different pole from the one we'd originally intended - that way the cost will actually come down and we will get a better feed of power. Great - this is good, cost coming down and more interesting feed of electricity - what can possibly go wrong?

Angela produces a new reduced price along with a detailed route diagram for me and I write the cheque out and send it off. This gets me introduced to the legal department which is outsourced to a third party company and a lady called Liz, who is also really nice, a bit of tinkering around and she discovers that the cable needs to run across four different bits of land. EDF also decide that they don't want an 'easement' anymore - they want a 'wayleave'! So back to the Glebe Committee at the Church who kindly sign yet more paperwork, the two neighbours both also need to sign wayleaves and that duly happens.

It comes to pass that one of the strip lynchets from years ago was sold and changed hands a couple of times and the details of it on the Land registry site do not tie up with the actual owner, so that needed to be sorted out to keep EDF happy and provide them with agreements to actually travel cable across the fields.

Eventually all the bits of paperwork are in place, Robbie the engineer who's actually doing the work can't wait - he likes the site and already has my transformer cluttering up his yard - then I get a call from Liz, the lady dealing with all the paperwork. She has everything she needs – except - she has just discovered that the power pole I'm planning on connecting to does not have an owner at the Land Registry - well that's easy I say - just look at the wayleave you have for when you put the pole in and see who's signed it ... 'Arh well' she says 'we don't have one of those'… So now we try to find the owner of the land by nailing a notice to the pole asking for the person who owns the land to come forward and claim their £1.15 or whatever it is - bonkers really. The land divides two fields and both fields are owned but Land Registry does not have the fields butting up against each other on their plans so EDF think it's owned by nobody. They wait a bit and then give up and she sends all the paperwork back to EDF who sort of go 'Oh well whatever' and process the order.

So that's got the paperwork sorted, now all we need to do is get a trench dug across a couple of fields and round the back of a barn, fortunately this is all built into the tender for the garage build and since we are not in a tearing hurry we can choose our time carefully. At the moment the fields are full of mud and about to be sown with a crop so it looks like late July after harvest is the time to actually dig the trench and then get power delivered and that's what the plan becomes.

In the mean time we are also looking at samples of bricks, tiles and flint for the garage. We have a small list of items that need to be 'officially' approved by the conservation officer but in reality there's a whole pile of things to carefully choose from material wise. I've built industrial units before and they are really easy - I did not even look at the building blocks for those jobs, but this build requires a lot more considerationto make sure it looks right. Hand made bricks come from a number of sources in the UK and whilst theyare all pretty much the same they are all very different, if you see what I mean! The conservation officer Sarah, and Brian our builder, are both really helpful along with Julian the architect, but in reality the final call comes down to our choice. Brian gets hold of a selection of sample tiles and bricks and off we go to his offices to ponder over bricks. Once we decide they get dropped off at the council Published Versionoffices for Sarah's view. We also need to build a test panel for the flint infill on the walls. This is done so we can get the colour of the lime mortar correct. It strikes me that this is a bit of a hard call as there are so many variables that affect the colour of the mortar once it's dried, but Brian has produced a subcontract brick and flint worker who is like Graham the bell frame chap, a specialist in his work, and he proves to be a wealth of knowledge and experience and helps us sort out the flint work panels to decide how to successfully match them in with the church.

The problem with the panel is what do we try and match it to? The church has at least five different types of flint work, ranging from full hard core knapped flint on the porch of the building to a rubble infill wall with lime mortar plasterwork half way up the North side of the tower. In the end we decide that the Porch is the part of the building to match to. Unsurprisingly it's not like ordering breeze blocks from a builders merchants and the tiles, flint and bricks all have 10 week delivery times but this fits in with the general time frame, so after lots of pondering and consideration we choose bricks and tiles, with the conservation officers help, and Brian puts the order in to the manufacturer for them.