The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Smallholding => Buildings & planning => Topic started by: Scarlet.Dragon on September 19, 2020, 08:20:39 am

Title: Septic Tank "letter of comfort" required - any ideas?
Post by: Scarlet.Dragon on September 19, 2020, 08:20:39 am
I'm adding a small residential caravan to the property to provide ancillary accommodation for the house for the following reasons:
1) I'm getting a new kitchen put in and have a fear/premonition that I'll rip out the current kitchen, lockdown will be put in place and I'll have nowhere to cook/eat etc for a few months;
2) It'll give me "an outside loo" for when I'm working out with the animals all day and don't want to have to "decontaminate" before coming into the house;
3) I'm a key worker and will have my recently widowed mother staying for a few months over the winter period.  I need somewhere that I can, if necessary, self isolate and/or socially distance myself if I show any symptoms;
4) My nonagenarian neighbour struggles to accommodate her nieces in her house when they come to visit so it will provide an option for them to be "on site, but out of the house" to take the stress off her; and
5) Occasionally I may need to get animal sitters in for me to take a couple of days away to collect my mother and bring her here or return her home.

This is not a separate dwelling and it won't get "heavy" use.

I'm planning to use the existing septic tank (which was upgraded a couple of years ago from the original concrete bunker) for the waste.

The planners have asked me to provide a letter of comfort from an insured professional that the septic tank is fit for the additional outflow.  I'm struggling with this because I have no idea "who" to ask for this.  I tried the company that empties the septic tank but they said they've never heard of this and I asked the chap who installed it and likewise he's not heard of this before either.

I can't see there being any problem at all with the tank because:
1) It's a 4 person tank and I normally live alone;
2) All the "flood tests" were conducted before we installed the new tank to ensure it was draining ok with no back up under "heavy water use"; and
3) As previously mentioned there's no real "additional outflow" given that it's the same people will be using the caravan as would use the house if I didn't have the caravan.

Any ideas?

If there's anyone on the forum that knows what this is about and would be willing to give the letter of comfort can you also make yourselves known please?  I genuinely don't think there's going to be an issue and am willing to put something in writing to say that if there is I won't hold whoever gives the letter liable.  If anything goes wrong and there is an issue, I'm happy to get the tank emptied more frequently and/or have space to upgrade to a larger tank/put in a second tank in the future.

It's a bit frustrating as the planners have already said that whilst they'll support the application it will only be temporary permission for the "current circumstances" and I'll have to justify it if I want to retain it beyond 2 years, so I don't want to go to massive expense if I don't have to do so.

I'm also in a bit of a hurry to get this all sorted out now as the kitchen fitter is booked for the first week of November and I have to get the old kitchen out between now and then as well as getting the planning permission sorted, the groundworks done and the caravan sited.

Any help very much appreciated!!!
Title: Re: Septic Tank "letter of comfort" required - any ideas?
Post by: chrismahon on September 19, 2020, 09:38:43 am
Many years ago I had a problem with a septic tank installation and contacted the Severn Trent Water Authority. They sent an engineer out to have a look at it- a very helpful chap who gave me good advice. There was no charge.

Whilst I'm sure the tank is fit for the house, especially as only one person is normally resident, there would need to be specified conditions to ensure the 'four person' capacity isn't breached. Pretty important as too much flow into the tank could lead to waste going into the soakaways and blocking up or ending up in a water coarse.
Title: Re: Septic Tank "letter of comfort" required - any ideas?
Post by: SallyintNorth on September 21, 2020, 11:02:27 am
Personally I would think that if you wrote more or less what you've written here, that could be the required "letter of comfort" :).  Otherwise, could you ask the planners who has written the other letters of comfort they've accepted?  ;)
Title: Re: Septic Tank "letter of comfort" required - any ideas?
Post by: Womble on September 21, 2020, 12:38:39 pm

This is a bit of a weird one. My previous experience of letters of comfort is that it's something you obtain FROM the council, which basically says "we hereby agree that what you've got there is ok, and we promise not to come along later and ask you to do something different".

So for example, if the previous people who lived in the house had installed a septic tank without proper permission, you might pay for a qualified person to inspect the tank. They would then write a report that says "although this wasn't installed in the proper manner, it's actually ok, and is fit for purpose". Then the council use that report to issue you with a letter of comfort which says "Oh, that's ok then".

It seems in this case, what the council are asking for is the professional's report which says that the system is going to be ok for your intended temporary use.

If it were me, I'd write the letter Sally suggests which sets out the reasons why everything is ok (i.e. you're trying to persuade them that there's no need to involve an independent professional). If they won't take your word for it, you'd then have to get a qualified surveyor or septic tank designer to come and look at your tank and write a formal report that says "yup, it's a hole full of sh*t, and it looks ok to me for the change of use you're now describing".

Does that help?
Title: Re: Septic Tank "letter of comfort" required - any ideas?
Post by: doganjo on September 21, 2020, 01:29:21 pm
Having built a house  and renovated another three, then sold them on, that is exactly what is required, David

A letter of comfort is given by the council to allow the world to go on turning instead of everyone having to go all through a planning application with the ensuing probable -'take it out and start again' attaitude that planners have a wont to do.

looks like you have to get an official verification that it's Ok unless they accept your letter as you detailed above. - then they will give you a letter of comfort if it's all kosher