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Loyn + Co appeal victory for Cotswold ‘country house clause’ home

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The planning inspector has approved plans by Loyn + Co for a ‘country house clause’ home in the Cotswolds 

The 680m² scheme, which was originally turned down by the local planning authority (see below), on an undisclosed ‘neglected’ hillside plot within an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

The 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize-shortlisted practice had relied on Paragraph 79 of the National Planning Policy Framework – the clause allows new-build homes to be constructed in open countryside under special circumstances.

According to the Penarth-based outfit, the ‘fabric first approach’ to the design includes a ‘highly insulated, well-sealed building envelope, working in conjunction with appropriate support systems, including ground source heating, laid beneath the new meadow, and solar thermal panels on the roof’. There are also plans for photo-voltaic panels to be installed away from the house on a south-facing plot next to the proposed gatehouse.

A spokesperson for the practice said: ’The scheme offers a 21st-century vision of a country house and its landscape. In the 18th, 19th and even the last century, country houses tended to impose themselves on the landscape. This scheme, however, has the house sensitively designed into the landscape, becoming part of it rather than an imposition on it. And what in an earlier century would have been gardens or an idealised landscape, here forms a real environment providing habitats for wildlife, especially endangered species, to flourish.’

They added: ’The scheme advances the country house tradition. This approach enhances the setting, is sensitive to local characteristics, and arguably is innovative.’

Work is not expected to start on site until spring 2021.

Crop hillview proposed coloured section aa produced in conj. with seed landscape

The planning journey from refusal to appeal victory: James Stroud, director, Loyn + Co

We all felt frustrated that the council’s view was different to the independent body of multidisciplinary experts who had reviewed and helped guide the design development, particularly as the local planning authority had been part of these reviews held during the pre-application stage. This was not a case where we used the design review panel in isolation; the local planning authority was part of the process and didn’t raise particular concerns until only a few weeks after the scheme was lodged.

In essence, the case officer report which recommended refusal simply stated: ‘Whilst this opinion (referring to the South West Design Review Panel) carries weight in the determination process the local planning authority’s assessment has come to a different conclusion in a number of areas’.

They cited two reasons for refusal. First, there was clear disagreement on the quality of the design between the South West Design Review Panel) and the council. As above, it was disappointing that, given the fact the council had been in attendance at the first and second presentations to the design review panel pre-application – and were invited to the third during the determination period but declined to attend – there emerged this difference in their assessment of the scheme which was only really ‘voiced’ a few weeks after the scheme was lodged.

We did feel that there was relatively little opportunity given to us to discuss and address the council’s concerns – for example the second reason for the refusal was that there would be ‘detrimental visual impact in terms of the spill of artificial light at night and also the glint and glare of sunlight during the day’. Post decision, this matter was subsequently demonstrated through factual design analysis by Arup not to be an issue for concern – on seeing the report this thankfully became common ground at appeal.

Hillview model 2 by sam parsons

Hillview model 2 by sam parsons

Architect’s view

The form and placing of the dwelling are derived directly from the thorough site and context analysis; the proposals have as much to do with the landscape as they have to do with the architecture, the two are inseparable, treated with equal reverence, equal importance.

The house has been designed to operate either as a fully utilised family home or as a partially occupied dwelling. The accommodation is set over two levels and the overall scheme involves a substantial amount of landscaping, with 88 per cent of the site given over to habitat creation. Ecological improvements are set to increase the ecological value of the existing site by 2,641 per cent. In addition, the proposal will create carbon capture of 1.82 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the 1.3ha of new woodland (and additional carbon from wildflower meadow planting).

The dwelling itself is predicted to have a SAP rating 38 per cent better than the base and will have 63 per cent lower emissions.

Hillview house entrance produced in conjunction with seed

Hillview house entrance produced in conjunction with seed

Entrance

The design takes its material references from the defining characteristics of the local vernacular, but these have been incorporated in a contemporary way.

For example, the proposed use of Cotswold Stone in selected areas, often to be draped with climbing planting, is a common feature in the village. Elsewhere the language is more directly contemporary, using modern construction methods with materials from local sources, including rammed earth and concrete walls, echoing the tonal and textural qualities of the locality.

The client brief asked for a ‘modern country house’. As such, key themes of the traditional equivalent have been reinterpreted as part of the design proposals, in particular informing its integration with the proposed landscaping: the arrival forecourt; the gatehouse; the principal courtyard; the stepped garden terraces and folly; the integration of water as a key landscaping element to the design and the creation of walled and hedged gardens as ‘outdoor rooms’.

This directly echoes the original intention behind the planning policy under which consent is granted for a new dwelling in the countryside, to enable ‘each generation [to] have the opportunity to add to the tradition of the Country House’ (Lord Deben).

Moreover, it accords with Natural England’s purpose of AONB designation which states that ‘AONBs are designed solely for their landscape qualities, for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty (which includes landform and geology, plants and animals, landscape features and the rich history of human settlement over the centuries).’

The architecture, working with the landscape, is carefully considered, taking into account a variety of factors to arrive at a contextual, rational and joyful solution.

Project data

Location Cotswolds
Type of project New build dwelling
Client Undisclosed
Architect Loyn + Co Architects
Landscape architect SEED Landscape Design
Ecologist Ecology by Design
Planning consultant Rural Solutions
Legal counsel Stephen Whale, Landmark Chambers
Structural engineer Integral Engineering Design
M&E consultant Holloway Partnership
Lighting consultant Arup
Models Sam Parsons
Gross internal floor area (main house) 680m²

Drone shot of site 02 credit skyrevolutions

Drone shot of site 02 credit skyrevolutions

Source: Sky Revolutions

Drone shot of site

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Are we still doing these “one rule for the rich one for the poor” houses? Architects should be struck off for this and the AJ ashamed of its endless support for them.

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  • It's surely very important to avoid criticism born of envy, for the architects here deserve praise for their very accomplished design.
    But, as far as building in the countryside - an A.O.N.B. to boot - is concerned, there seems to be a catch; doesn't the drone shot of the site rather give the game away?
    What's described as 'neglected' looks uncannily like the sort of erosion of a longstanding working field pattern by conversion to stables and paddocks (or, less often, smallholdings).
    Both frequently tend toward the scruffy and unkempt - for example, this has in recent years been breaking out in a rash on the fieldscape of the southern fringes of Dartmoor (not an AONB, a National Park) to a far greater extent than that found typically in the landscape.
    In an AONB how is it that this sort of neglect can't be discouraged?
    As it is, it greatly helps the argument for isolated buildings in the countryside 'improving' the landscape, when they only do so by default.

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