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MatchBox wins planning for insect-friendly 'country house'

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Growing practice MatchBox Architects has won planning approval for this £600,000 ’country house’ clause home in rural Essex

The 239m2 semi-subterranean house on the outskirts of Alresford, Colchester has been designed to tempt bees and butterflies back to the former orchard site.

The practice relied on paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework - an exemption allowing new-build homes in the open countryside under ‘special circumstances’ - to bag permission from Tendring District Council ‘at the first attempt’.

Set up by Neil Scroxton, the studio was among the first to be featured in the AJ’s new practice column in 2009 and now employs 13 staff in its offices in Northamptonshire and Surrey.

The Butterfly House is due to complete in early 2017.

The architect’s view

Good buildings are born of good design, great clients and, just as importantly these days, a high quality planning department. Working with Tendring District Council has been a refreshing experience and although they were ‘only doing their job’, their support for the proposal’s contemporary design and the ecological agenda was as much a reason for success as the creative input we provided.

The scheme aims to have a minimal impact on the site so that it can be removed as easily as it can be constructed. The semi-subterranean design and landscape proposals have been conceived to encourage bees and butterflies and other insect species back onto the site; just as they would have been when the area was an ecologically rich orchard. A simple pallet of gabion construction, exposed concrete, glass and timber help to ground the scheme in its surroundings. Glimpses through the tree lined boundaries allow the building to be viewed from the roadside ensuring that the project is not hidden from scrutiny.

MatchBox Architects' Butterfly House, Alresford

MatchBox Architects’ Butterfly House, Alresford

Project data

Location - Alresford, Colchester, Essex
Type of project - Residential
Client - Private residential client - Karen Beale
Architect - Matchbox Architects
Principal Designer - Matchbox Architects
Ecologist - Huckle Ecology
Funding - Privately funded
Tender date - anticipated May 2016
Start on site date - anticipated June 2016
Completion date - anticipated January 2017
Contract duration - 9 months
Gross internal floor area - 239m2
Garage - 40m2
Form of contract and/or procurement - Proposed - Traditional RIBA Contract
Total cost - £600,000



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