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When James Gorst Architects was approached two years ago to design a country house near Northampton, it was, the practice principal believes, reminiscent of a bygone era.

The scheme is, Gorst claims, the first signifi cant rural estate designed as a single project since before the First World War.

The architect says the 1,500m 2 scheme, which sits within a 400ha site, harks back to how the Edwardians designed their houses before the Great War.

'Following the decline in farming fortunes', he says, 'there hasn't been that sort of investment in one-off houses in the country.

'It is a near-extinct building typology - the rural estate - in which the house and its attendant estate buildings are a unified entity, ' he adds.

The scheme was granted planning under the Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 7 'country house' clause, which, says Gorst, has given his practice the freedom to produce its most sculptural and formal building to date.

He says: 'It's obviously tremendously liberating to be able to design without the usual constraints of a residential dwelling.'

'We were able to produce double- and triple-height spaces in areas such as the reception, which would only usually be done in galleries. It gave us a chance to play with the space, light and shade.

'It is also very liberating to work in stone, a local Banbury blue-and-brown ironstone, quarried just 11 miles away.'

The scheme sits in the footprint of a house built in the 1980s, on the edge of an escarpment to the north.

The development will use sustainable technologies, such as wind turbines, green roofs and biomass boilers burning woodchip taken from orchards on the site.

The estate will also be a working farm, with landscape elements designed by Dan Pearson Studio.

The main farm building will house the rearing and sale of free-range poultry, beef, pigs and sheep, which the public can purchase from the farm or from selected stores.

Gorst says: 'The owner of the development has also bought a pub nearby, which will be turned into a gastropub, which will also use the produce from the farm.'

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