Information on Planning Permission Impact from Leading Newcastle Architectural Design Firm

17 Aug COVID -19 and the planning process in England – should we expect delays

Most industries have had to make changes to their processes and the way they work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I write this information from my own home; which seems to have become the new norm for a number of workers in Britain. A number of clients have been unsure of the impact of the pandemic on planning applications and the planning process in England and the North East, so we have put together a brief bit of information which will hopefully offer some reassurance to those wanting to undertake a home extension, renovation or self-build project.

Former Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, summarised the situation well, stating that we need to be ‘practical’, ‘pragmatic’ and ‘plan for recovery’. This seems to be exactly the line taken by our local councils (Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside). At Acre Design, we have found that applications are moving forwards at a steady and, on the whole, ‘normal’ pace.

Planners working at our local Councils seem to be keeping up with applications and communications and like many businesses, working from home seems to be suiting their process well. All local councils have been responsive and helpful, which has been reassuring and has enabled us to maintain usual timescales on most of our projects. Some local authorities have taken a little longer to respond than others, however it hasn’t been too problematic for our clients. We have seen a very pragmatic response to the extension of applications due to lapse where this has been necessary.

Understandably, the public can no longer visit a Council office/library or send comments by letter and Acre Design cannot submit hard copy applications at this time. However, this is not our usual process, our preference has always been for a speedier, electronic application.

In addition, temporary legislation has been introduced to assist businesses during the recovery period, for example, by granting temporary permitted development rights for a range of developments that would normally require planning permission. Further guidance on these and other measures introduced to make it easier to operate the planning system at this time  is available on the Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Planning update webpage here :

I hope this offers some reassurance on the impact of Covid-19 on Planning Applications in the UK. We have been delighted by the level of communication and support given by our local Councils during this unusually challenging time and expect no serious delays in coming applications.

As part of our mission to keep our customers updated with industry developments, we will continue to monitor the situation. For more information on the cost of building materials or to find out how we can help design your next residential building development, get in touch with us at Acre Design on 0191 680 8088 or e-mail Our friendly, experienced staff are waiting to take your call.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative.
Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

Top Ten Tips for Designing and Building a Home Renovation Project:



Contemplating a home extension or renovation project can be really overwhelming, even for a professional. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to interview our designers about their experiences, having completed home renovation projects as professionals in the industry. First up, I spoke to Marc about his experiences…


Completing your own project, how does this differ to designing for others?

As a designer, I usually work collaboratively with the clients to make decisions. Ultimately, the client makes the final decision based on what will work best for them personally. Being the designer and the client for my own project, I felt like I was only thinking of ideas that I knew I loved (as I know the client – me – so well!) which made decision making difficult. It has made me appreciate collaboratively working with clients to offer suggestions and working together towards the one that works best for them. Tip one – collaborate! Don’t be afraid to offer your ideas and consider other approaches that you perhaps cannot visualise.

What has been your proudest moment during your project?

When my wife, who had previously only been able to trust my ability to visualise the space, started to understand the space as walls were removed. It was very satisfying when her faith in me paid off and to be able to use my skill for layout design to improve the way we use our home.  Tip two – try to see the bigger picture!

What has been your biggest lesson?

This brings me to tip three – don’t underestimate the upheaval that even a small project will bring. Be prepared for lots of dust and difficulty when moving between rooms when the build is in full swing! The real lesson, though, is that it all becomes a distant memory very quickly when you start to reap the rewards of the completed project.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could have a do-over?

Not for my own project as we had lived in the house for over 3 years and I knew exactly how the new space would work. I do, however, have experience of wishing the previous owners of my home had added a dormer when converting the loft as this would have made a huge difference – this is our next project! Tip four – once you start, the need to improve won’t stop!

Will your personal experience impact has this impacted on your work as a designer? If so, how?

You always take something away from every project. For example, my project introduced me to new solutions that I chose to use that I will recommend to clients in future designs. For example, plinth radiators in kitchens to allow more wall space for kitchen units, or sockets inside cupboards for charging wireless vacuums (or, in my case, to power a coffee machine that pulls out of a cupboard and can be hidden away when not in use!) Tip five – really try to imagine living in your new space before finalising some details.



How have you found living in your home whilst work has taken place?

Tip six – enjoy the journey! It hasn’t been too much of a problem as I knew what to expect, but for others it can be understandably stressful. The excitement of seeing things take shape and the potential being realised quickly becomes the main focus, though!

Do you have any advice on managing living in your home during a renovation?

Accept the upheaval! Yes, it can be difficult but the resulting new space would be impossible without it, so embrace it and grit your teeth during the challenging times (which often feel like they flashed past when you look back at it all!)


What is your favourite part of you new space?

Our exposed brick wall, without a doubt, which was a laborious effort by myself and my wife to remove the plaster and clean the brick with wire brushes and chemical cleaner before sealing it. Worth every painful minute! Tip seven – the effort you put in now will be worth it!




What do you get the most compliments on?

Our fully black kitchen, which people find an unusual colour for a kitchen. It’s from Ikea so it was extremely cost effective and offered the exact finish we wanted – black matte that would look great against the exposed original red brick.



Where did you look for inspiration?

I always read home improvement magazines – Build It and Homebuilding & Renovating are great to subscribe to if you want your own inspiration. There are always some great ideas being showcased in those. Tip eight – keep a scrapbook of images ideas you like.

Would you recommend any particular products or companies?

I can’t fault Ikea for our kitchen. They offer an incredible range of space-saving solutions and all at an extremely affordable price. I also fully recommend track lighting as this offers flexibility in light fittings that simply clip into the track anywhere you want, so you can focus light on your favourite features.

How has your professional experience impacted on your renovation project?

I was able to order products myself – I’d recommend clients to do this too. It is very simple as well-known retailers offer products you can view and purchase yourself. Our glazed folding internal doors are from Wickes, for example. Tip nine- don’t be afraid to source your own materials appliances. 

Lastly, what helped you stay calm during what can be a very stressful time?

Knowing that the end result would improve our home lives massively! And also being able to close off the area where the work was taking place – tip ten – keep as many of your other rooms as normal and organised as possible during the build so that you can retreat to these rooms, close the door and forget about the build during stressful times.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home!

14 Inspiring Self-Build or Extension Design Ideas

We love designing self-builds, who are we kidding… we love designing full stop. But, if you are lucky enough to be able to build your dream home from scratch, it doesn’t get much more exciting.

Developing a detailed brief with your architect is an essential stage of your build process; communicating your needs and having these understood is paramount! You get to decide how your house will look, perform and function. You are in control of the budget.

Putting extra thought into the small details will make your new home truly exceptional. We love working with clients to help their dreams come to life, so we’ve put together some inspirational self-build design ides to get your creative juices flowing.

#1 How about a sunken bath?

Now, we LOVE a nice freestanding roll-top bath or a trendy ‘egg’ shaped bath. However, there’s something about incorporating a sunken bath into your self-build or home renovation design that gives off such an exquisitely opulent, organised feel. When the lighting is right, your bath can become a real treasure in your home. It doesn’t take much designing in and this element could really make your home stand out from the rest. Imagine stepping down into a large, warm bath, filled by a generous waterfall tap… heaven.


#2 Timber cladding, inside!

With the rise in popularity of the ‘Scandi’ design style, earthy, natural feeling spaces are so fashionable. What’s more, they just make you FEEL so good. The warmth, texture and colour brought by wood cladding is so refreshing. Another good thing about interior timber cladding is it can fit a traditional or a modern taste pallet. Talk to your architect about how best to incorporate internal wood finishes, it may sound trivial but when it is planned well, it can look incredible!

#3 Not just a kitchen island…

Installing a kitchen island has become a bit of a must when designing a kitchen. We love the idea of getting creative with your island. Making your kitchen island a focal point will create a real stand out space for entertaining. Huge, sweeping designs can also add masses of storage! Have a look at our pinterest boards for further kitchen inspiration.

#4 Booze, glorious booze!

Displaying your collection of wines, spirits or beers has become a very fashionable, and, we have to admit, satisfying thing to do. Loads of our clients are designing wine fridges or racks into their kitchens. If you have the luxury of the space and it’s something that floats your boat, why not think about making a feature of your collection? We’ve designed wine storage to meet traditional tastes as well as crisp, modern looks and we have loved all of them.

#5 Hidden ceiling lighting

Adding some secret, hidden LED lighting is a fantastic way to soften a space and create a warm, inviting, homely feel. This can also be a nice opportunity to add some colour to your interior design scheme too! Thinking about this at this stage allows you to incorporate crevices for lighting in your build, making it much easier and cheaper to install.

#6 Wood storage

Like most of our clients and us, you probably love the romantic idea of a wood burner. They are becoming more and more popular and for good reason: they are good for the soul! If you haven’t already read about the Danish idea of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), get reading. What freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danes. The idea of Hygge is about finding joy in simple, cosy things such as: candles, blankets, fireplaces and so on. There is even a word for that favourite pair of jogging bottoms that you would only wear in the comfort of your own home – “Hyggebusker”. To us, a crackling fire surrounded by neatly organised wood piles is the epitome of cosy calm. Thinking about incorporating wood storage into the design of your home takes it from a pile to a beautiful feature.

#7 Pocket doors? What are they?

Pocket doors are a stylish space saving solution. They slide effortlessly into your wall, removing the space reduction and layout limitations of an opening door. Plus, we think they look pretty stylish. You’ll need to think about having your architect design these in as the adjacent wall will need a cavity for the door to slide into and you’ll need to avoid any plumbing and wiring.

#8 Non-standard doorways

Pocket doors could be really effective with a non-standard doorway. Thinking outside the box on door openings could create a truly exceptional space. A standard door opening is great but imagine one that mimics the angles and lines of your roof or windows. Or perhaps a curved opening could add a softer touch to your design?

#9 Stylish storage

If, like us, you love everything to have a place; it is well worth considering your built-in storage early on in your design process. When building a new extension or self-build home, you have the perfect opportunity to create storage that is perfect for your belongings. You could make an inventory of any bulky items or things you have a lot of (shoes for example) and then think about where they would be used and how you could create a stylish storage solution within your design.

#10 Relaxing window seats, with a view…

The window seat always adds a traditional, peaceful, elegant touch. We’ve incorporated a lot of these into our extension designs recently. A window seat can turn your open-plan lounge/kitchen/diner into a tranquil haven for you and your family. Incorporating one or more of these in your self-build project can add a special space for you to sit, reflect and deeply enjoy the space that you have created. If you love your garden, can you imagine anything more satisfying than sitting on a rainy day and looking out onto your hard work? See our post on window choices to add some even more exciting dimensions to this idea!

#11 Marvellous mezzanines

Our team get a little excited if a client mentions the word ‘mezzanine’. There is something beautifully dramatic about creating a grand, yet practical split space. Utilising a mezzanine floor as your office, play or relaxation space means that you can incorporate a vaulted ceiling without feeling overpowered by the enormous space. When you incorporate a high-volume ceiling, this also gives you the opportunity to use giant, invigorating windows. Winner!


#12 Work with nature

If you are building a self-build project or adding an extension, looking at the natural make-up of the plot is vital. Trees and other natural elements don’t have to be a hindrance. Try working alongside your architect to use these elements as starting points for your design. Obviously, careful consideration and planning needs to go in to designs around trees; roots can require engineered and creative solutions!

#13 A sheltered outdoor space

By continuing an interior wall to the outside of your home, you can break down boundaries between the garden and your home. In Newcastle and the North East, also adding a covered area for shelter from the elements is great common sense too. If you incorporate bifold or sliding doors/windows, these outside spaces can make your new space feel gigantic.

#14 Outdoor fireplace

If you love relaxing outdoors but are realistically pessimistic about the amount of time you can spend doing this in Newcastle, an outdoor fireplace might be for you. Chimeneas and firepits are readily available in DIY stores, however an integrated fireplace outdoors would make an incredible centrepiece for entertaining or relaxing after a long day. You could even ensure that the fire was visible from both inside and out.

The Team @ Acre Design hope we have given you some food for thought! Please check out or latest projects if you’d like to see more of what we’re made of. Our Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook pages are all brimming with extension, loft conversion and self-build inspiration too!