John Pardey Architects has won approval on appeal for 56 homes in rural Surrey, nearly a year after its proposal was rejected by local planners
The planning inspectorate granted consent for the scheme at the redundant Alfold Garden Centre, on the edge of the village of Alfold, near Cranleigh, following Waverley Borough Council’s initial refusal in May 2019.
The scheme for Q-Developments will see the empty 2.92ha site developed with homes set around a village green.
The appeal inspector, E Brownless, disagreed with the council that the project amounted to a ‘cramped and contrived overdeveloped scheme’ but acknowledged that, due to the buildings’ height, it ‘would have a significantly greater visual impact than the former garden centre’.
Brownless said that, while it might ‘be materially harmful to the character and appearance of the countryside and surrounding area’, the development ‘would tidy up a presently unattractive area of land’. The permission includes a condition specifying external materials so as to safeguard the character and appearance.
The scheme will provide 46 two and three-bedroom houses and 10 one-bedroom apartments, split across two black timber barn-style buildings. Twelve of the homes will be for affordable rent and five shared ownership.
The form is intended to ‘echo the simple and adaptable houses, barns and outbuildings found in traditional villages’.
Brownless addressed five main issues concerning the development: the effect on the character and appearance of the surrounding area; whether the borough had an adequate supply of land for housing; whether the site was a suitable location having regard to the settlement strategy; accessibility of services and facilities; and whether there was adequate provision for play and recreation space.
The inspector deemed that the scheme fell ’within the type and scale of development’ identified in Waverley Borough Local Plan and was ‘not persuaded that the proposal would overstretch the existing services and facilities to the detriment of existing residents of Alfold’.
However, the inspector did not support the informal play provision outlined for the scheme.
The scheme challenges the common planning dogma
Carl Gulland, director at John Pardey Architects, said: ‘The scheme challenges the common planning dogma that sustainable development can only mean urban development: Alfold, like many small villages, has struggling shops and services, which will be bolstered by new homes and residents.
‘The proposed “outbuildings” with serviced loft space recognise the trend towards home working and seem all the more prescient in the current lockdown.’
Observation and analysis of local Surrey villages revealed logical growth patterns evolving along and at the meeting of country lanes. Our proposal sought to evoke this pattern of growth focused around a ‘village green’ and framed by a network of lanes and paths, creating improved links to the historic village and allowing for future connections.
As with many of the surrounding villages, the narrow lanes are shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Simple robust landscaping edged with dished cobbled drains, native hedging and low brick walls encourage slow vehicle speeds and safe spaces for all to enjoy.
Similarly, the proposed building forms echo the simple and adaptable houses, barns and outbuildings that constitute villages across the county – simple forms with dimensions dictated by the maximum span of available timber.
A common building depth and varying length creates a consistent grain of terraces of smaller houses and larger detached houses and apartment buildings.
The orientation and building line of houses is also varied, reflecting the grain of local villages, where consideration of access to land and orientation for growing vegetables often took priority over ‘conventional’ street alignment.
Outbuildings, originally for livestock and farming equipment, are another prominent feature of local villages. Garages with loft space are the ‘outbuildings’ on the scheme, allowing passive surveillance of public areas and intended for uses such as home working, teenage hideouts or gyms.
Large, bold openings, black window frames and stained timber combine with the red-orange brick and plain tiles typical of the area, creating a contemporary character that sits comfortably in the Surrey landscape.
1 birdesye from west
The former garden nursery is a sustainable location for helping meet housing targets and support and grow village amenities. The village green at the heart of the scheme is one of many familiar village features that create the opportunities for meeting and interaction and will encourage a coherent and sustainable community to grow.
Loft spaces over garages are ideal for home working and will also support a sense of community through increased daytime inhabitation of the development.
Hedgerows are the most widespread semi-natural habitat in England. Hedgerows are a crucial factor in the existence of many plants and animals – many declining species rely on hedges to survive. As well as tree planting and a wildlife corridor, over 2km of native hedging will be planted along the site boundary between plots and along house frontages.
ASHP with a strong fabric-first approach will lead to a 48 per cent total energy reduction over the baseline figure
The additional units justify much needed reinforcement and upgrading of infrastructure including foul drainage. The site doesn’t have access to the gas network requiring an alternative strategy for heating and hot water. Mesh Energy identified Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) as the most appropriate renewable technology, which, married with a strong fabric-first approach will lead to a 48 per cent total energy reduction over the baseline figure. As we move away from fossil fuels, ASHP will become an important technology for such schemes.
Brick, clay tiles and timber cladding are the prevalent historic building materials in area. As well as providing an obvious means of harmonising with the local building stock, these materials offer a sustainable palette with proven longevity. Combining these traditional materials with the clean lines of high-performance window systems offers a compelling and timeless character.
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Location Alfold, Surrey
Type of project Rural housing
Architect John Pardey Architects
Landscape architect Allen Pyke
Planning consultant Plan It
Energy Mesh Energy
Drainage Infrastructure Design
Number of dwellings 56 homes (including 12 for afforadable rent and five shared ownership)
Layout 2nd d se