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Cassion Castle wins approval for rammed chalk Paragraph 55 home

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Cassion Castle Architects has won planning permission for a new ‘country house clause’ home in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Shepway District Council has approved the plan for The Outlook, a five-bedroom home on the site of a former rural coalyard.

The innovative use of rammed chalk both internally and externally helped it qualify as an architecturally outstanding proposal, allowing it to escape restrictions on development in the open countryside. Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework allows for new-build homes in the open countryside under ‘special circumstances’.

Practice principal Cassion Castle said: ‘The Outlook is the first building in the UK to use rammed chalk at this scale both structurally and as an external finish.

‘There is a tradition in the UK of building in rammed chalk, but the use of it externally is an innovation.’

The building will consist of a cubed, flat room sectional form, with traditional and grand architectural influences including a colonnade running along the southern edge and floor. It will be set over two floors which step up, following the contours of the hillside.

The rammed chalk will be excavated from the site and mixed with sand and lime to create load-bearing walls and piers. Window frames will be made from powder-coated aluminium, and doors will be made from timber.

The council approved the development despite concerns raised by its own landscape and urban design officer, who said: ‘Whilst the building is innovative and of high quality, it is likely to be a very dominant feature in a rural setting when viewed from certain directions because of its mass colour and form.’

Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit was also sceptical about the scheme, saying that although it supported the use of chalk, it was ‘not considered to outweigh the harm of the new building in the landscape’.

It said that the development would ‘result in a structure that is higher than the existing buildings that would be much more apparent in the landscape, appearing as an incongruous feature harmful to the natural beauty of the AONB, particularly in views from the south.’

Despite the concerns, planning officers at the authority concluded that ‘although the dwelling will be visible from certain vantage points within the landscape, this is the intention so that the highest standards of the architecture can be enjoyed and so it can visually enhance the site and its setting, compared to the bland and uninspiring current appearance of the site.’

The building will sit next to a smaller house on the site by Guy Holloway Architects, which was approved last year.

That scheme, which involves the demolition of an existing bungalow, was designed in conjunction with the Cassion Castle home.

Shepway planning officers said: ‘There were concerns that if the existing dwelling were to remain, the setting of the Paragraph 55 dwelling would be so compromised it may not enable it to meet the necessary test. It is intended that the two innovatively outstanding designed dwelling houses would sit side by side to complement each other, instead of retaining the old and visually bland existing outlook dwelling house.’

Castle said detailed design work on the Paragraph 55 house had started, and construction was due to begin in May.

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