Getting a water supply for a no-commercial studio-workshop.

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Dee J

Established Member
24 Jan 2006
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West Devon
Looking for some information or experience on a wood-working adjacent question... Art studios.
We're very fortunate in having a place we hope to use as an art studio (and for some woodworking DIY too) : it's the upstairs space of a building that we use the downstairs as our garage (just parking our cars, nothing commercial). It's an old shed of a building with an interesting and chequered history. Luckily it has electricity, but sadly no water or drains connected (and it's not on the same plot as our house). So that takes us to South-West Water's new connection forms. It's easily defined as an existing building, and it's not really a change of use (other than shed-without-water to shed-with-water), and while it's not domestic, in that it won't be living space, it's not really commercial either. The physical resources are all close by, it's the bureaucratic technicalities that confuse. Anyone had any experience of this sort of situation when setting up DIY workshops or other not-exactly commercial set-ups, like men's sheds?
Your problem is that you will need to cross someone elses land with a pipe from your property, if you request a new supply from South West Water then they will still be in this position and you end up eith a new meter and account. Another problem will be drainage, what do you do with the grey water ? If I was in ths situation I think I would look at

something larger

For just general use you could get a water butt as well.
Yes I see why you’re asking, so easy to put your foot in it.
You could buy gallons of water from the supermarket for hot drinks but that means you will need toilet facilities even more, what happens to your rainwater at the mo? Also, is it just one or two of you or would there be general public using the building?
As above, I would be tempted to go for water collecton with butts and so on for some uses, and take a 10l camping jerrytcan thingy of tap water for human consumption. You could even get a pump or foortpump in the style of camper vans - our old vw had a water container in a cupboard unit and a robber button footpump to make it come out of the tap. Refill every couple of days. Try t for a year or so, if it gets frustrating then find out about connecting water. A proper water supply will be costly and as a seperate building it will have to pay water charges.

If its just you, you can use portble toilet facilities, again look at camper van suppliers. If its vistors you may need to do a proper job.
Your problem is that you will need to cross someone else's land with a pipe from your property

To me, while that is true, it is perhaps slightly mis-stating the problem.

In the spirit of being helpful to the OP, maybe we can rephrase that as saying "how far away is the nearest mains water and mains sewer"

If you have to cross a dropped kerb in the pavement to go into the garage from the public highway, it is a simpler issue than if the place is half a mile down a private driveway.

Hence, it is a 'levels of difficulty' issue rather than a yes or no.

How far away is the nearest property that does have water and sewage?

Gather all the relevant information and call someone from SWW. If the place has an address and postcode, or if it appears on a map, that will help. Find the place on Google maps and note down the GPS co-ordinates so anyone else can find it. A good first outcome would be to have them send someone out in person to do a survey and tell you the cost.
Thanks for all of you for replying. It's really the bureaucratic nicities rather than the practical aspects. The water main is in the street out front, with several stop taps within half a metre of the corner of the building. A shared sewer and someone else's metered water supply already runs under a strip of land associated with our building (our freehold with others rights of access). So land issues really aren't the problem, it's more the domestic or commercial definition, and the problems we might face with that.
Water is much easier than sewers, once you have mains water and sewage then how will the council view the property, ie will they want business rates ? From a council perspective you will need to declare a usage which sounds like it will be a change of use, how is the building constructed and what was it's original purpose, it could have been agricultural . If they deem it a business then you might have more problems.
I have arranged quite a few new connections to utilities, you may need a wayleave, but the water supplier should sort that, if needed, they will probably ask for an assessment of usage, as in the number of WC's, sinks, Washing machines, dishwashers, showers and baths etc, non of which will apply unless you do intend to fit a "bathroom/toilet", then that could also be classed as notifiable, under Building Regs, along with the drain connections.

Or find a private contractor who could tap into the existing facilities...
Ask SW Water. Water companies are generally helpful but not very speedy.
From what you have written it sounds like you are using it domestically and will continue to do so. Having water and a bog doesn’t make it commercial. I could put a bog and water in my detached garage ( I actually took the water out) and it isn’t going to become commercial by doing so. Storing cars, art, diy woodwork all without financial gain are not commercial operations

Maybe have a look at green/composting toilets if not for heavy usage

Were this a connection for a domestic dwelling (assuming you had planning permission) there would be no issue. You would ask the water company for a connection, they would no doubt do a survey, and come up with an estimated cost (probably much more than you first guessed).

So the "mechanics" of the requirement are straight forward.

The two associated questions seem to be:
  • are the water company obliged to connect a non-domestic or business property. I am not sure why they would refuse as you would pay the costs of connection + on-going usage. However you may be lower priority if their resources are stretched.
  • do the premises currently pay council tax, business rates etc - if so, will the costs change when connected to water and sewage. AIUI for domestic and business premises, improvements to, and the nature of the way in which it is used, can increase payments.
  • I would approach the water company and ask for costs and timing
  • If these are acceptable, consider talking to the local council to understand any rating implications.
  • You may need to talk to the council anyway as I suspect connections to public water supply and sewage have building regulations implications
  • These sort of conversations must be routine as both business and domestic projects will frequently need this info at the planning stage even if projects do not then proceed
Your original question focused on the description of the use, or use class, of the building for the purposes of your application for water and sewer connections. From what you’ve said, I’m making a couple of assumptions here. I’m assuming that the building is owned by you but, while not on the same plot of land as your house, is close to it and has, for some time at least, been used as your domestic garage.
If that’s the case it would currently be considered as a domestic outbuilding, similar to a row of garages that serve nearby houses. Whether the change of use, from whatever it was previously, required planning permission is a different issue. For the purposes of your connection application it’s now a domestic garage/outbuilding.