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Gorst unveils £2m 'New Country House'

James Gorst Architects has submitted a planning application to build a major new house in the country which promises to test planning guidance and its commitment to truly 'outstanding design' in rural areas.

Gorst, who picked up a RIBA award for his last rural house - Whithurst Park Cottage in Sussex (AJ 29.11.01) - has applied to Chelmsford Borough Council to build 'New Country House', a contemporary, flat-roofed scheme at Ropers Farm in Essex.

The £2 million project will test PPG7, which states that an isolated new house in the countryside may, 'be justified if it is clearly of the highest quality, is truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings.' The guidance also notes that schemes which give account to local or regional building traditions and materials stand a better chance of permission.

The New Country House follows an established typology of farmhouse, farmyard and attendant agricultural buildings on a 33ha site near Writtle, just west of Chelmsford. To be constructed of local bricks, the farm extends from the creation of an enclosed courtyard framed by old barns and the new build, as a contrast to the exposed countryside around. The two entrance axes leading into the courtyard are the drivers of the rest of the accommodation, which is of plain interlocking volumes and voids, again as a contrast to the undulating landscape. The scheme includes a dramatic, double-height drawing room, winter garden and cantilevered main bedroom, along with flat, turfed roofs and a commitment to low energy, rainwater collection and other sustainable measures.

James Gorst has attempted to convince the planners that his team's proposal is 'more than just a house in the country' but 'a country house' in terms of its physical size - 1,800m 2.And in terms of style he veers away from the Neo-Classical houses already passed under the ordinance of PPG7, declaring that the 'replication of past, deracinated architectural taste and preference is a worthless exercise'.

Gorst is working with landscape architect Watkins: Dally, the practice which worked with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris on its sustainable school at Notley Green, also in Essex. The planners have been 'constructive'regarding the project, which has also now won support from CABE.

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