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Butterfly plan should come out of the cocoon

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The butterfly plan (a subject raised in 'Material Values', aj 18.11.99), fashionable from the 1890s until the First World War, is perhaps due for a revival. It still provides a diagram which works effectively for a house on an elevated (and therefore exposed) rural site with panoramic views, particularly if orientated to the south or southwest.

Planning permission for a new house outside of settlement boundaries is usually only granted with an agricultural -occupancy condition. However, ppg7 states that 'an isolated new house in the countryside may, exceptionally, 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.'

South Somerset District Council has just granted permission for a house on a fruit farm on the site of a house destroyed by fire in 1963. The hard landscaping and some of the garden terracing remain and will be reused, but the planning authority required a design which maximised the potential of what is an exceptional site on a southwest-facing slope with glorious panoramic views over the Vale of Camelot to Cadbury Castle. Planners were also looking for a scheme which used vernacular forms and natural local materials, but incorporated low-energy design features.

The butterfly plan centres on a double-height living space entered from the north behind a massive stone chimneypiece. All rooms are orientated to-wards the south and southwest with glazed spaces acting as solar collectors. The east wing facing Cadbury Castle contains the areas most used and the west wing provides flexible accommodation which could be a granny annex, homeworking space, children's or guest accommodation. The stone walls rise to full two-storey height at the rear with the pantiled roofs sweeping down to the front and sides following the slope of the hill. The use of the 135degrees butterfly creates an exterior space to the front which balances a wide view and a comfortable level of enclosure.

Although this scheme is outwardly vernacular, and is therefore as strongly contextual, it shows how well the butterfly plan can adapt to modern living requirements.

Val Russell, Brimble, Lea and Partners, Gillingham, Dorset

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