New build in the countryside – dream or possibility?

 

As the world tries to move on from the Covid pandemic, there is anecdotal evidence that we are increasingly seeking life outside the city. Building a new home in the countryside and becoming a rural dweller may seem like a impossible dream but it is becoming an increasing reality for some. One reason is that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) allows new, isolated homes to built in rural areas, if they are of exceptionally high quality of design. We explain the rules below.

RISE Design Studio - new build in the countryside

The right house in the right place

Current NPPF policy recognises that new housing can be very homogenous – the ‘cookie cutter’ developments that have been all too common across the country. This has led to a push to improve the design quality of new housing, particularly in terms of environment considerations.

In the new NPPF, paragraph 79 encourages local authorities not to approve new developments on unbuilt land in the countryside. However, there are some important exceptions to this rule. These include where a house is designed to exceptionally high quality, helping to “raise standards of design more generally in rural areas”. In addition, a house would have to “significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area”.

No single route to success

The requirement for “truly outstanding or innovative” design means that there is no ‘right’ type of house that would receive planning permission. Instead, there is the need to focus on the individuality of a project and be aware that it is likely to be a long and intensive process.

It is clear that the sustainable design elements of the new build are key. Using natural, local materials can help the property to ‘take root’ in its local context. Equally important is how the property would positively impact the site, complementing and enhancing the existing landscape. Planning committees are more likely to approve houses which ‘belong’ in a landscape and use sustainable building technologies that are unique to the site.

Chances of success?

It is worth noting that the number of applications and the corresponding success rates are both quite low – a study found only 66 approvals between 2012 and 2018 (this was a 58% success rate, compared to an 88% success rate across all residential applications). Each case tends to have it own unique circumstances and the rules may be applied differently in different local authority areas. Engaging the local authority and any local communities or stakeholders early on in the project is very important. This will help to ensure that those making the final decisions about the build are confident in the quality, suitability and acceptability of the design and location.

We considered a lot of these aspects in the design of our Clogher Forest Village project.

Permitted Development Rights II: House extensions

 

An extension or addition to your home is something that you can do under ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (PDR), meaning that you do not need to apply for planning permission to undertake the work (see the general introduction to PDR in our last post). There are, however, certain limits and conditions that you need to be aware of and we cover some of those in this post.

Permitted Development Rights II

For all types of extension, no more than 50% of the area of land around the ‘original house’ can be covered by the addition (bear in mind that ‘original house’ means the house as it was first built, or as it stood on 1 July 1948, if it was built before then). You will need to check whether a previous owner added an extension as this is included in the calculation, as are sheds and any other outbuildings.

Single-storey extensions

For single-storey extensions, if the project is completed by 30 May 2019, the rear wall of a detached home can be extended by up eight metres. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, this is reduced to six metres. These upper limits have been temporarily increased and if you extend more than four metres beyond the rear wall (detached) or three metres (semi-detached/terraced), you will need to go through the Neighbour Consultation Scheme to notify the local planning authority of your intention to use PDR in this case.

Under PDR, the extension must not be to the front or side of the building (if it is, it requires planning permission). The materials used in the extension should be similar in appearance to those on the exterior of the rest of the house, and the extension must not exceed four metres in height.

Double-storey extensions

For higher extensions of more than one storey, the addition can be no higher than the existing house and it may not extend more than three metres beyond the rear wall. You will also need seven metres between any boundary opposite the rear wall of the house. As with single-storey extensions under PDR, the materials you use must be similar to the existing house, and there are some additional rules about upper floor/roof windows.

Other points to bear in mind

The permitted development allowances that we have described in this post apply to houses in England only. If you are seeking to alter or extend a flat/maisonette, a converted house (or a house created through the PDR to change use), other buildings, or your house is in an area where there may be a planning condition (e.g. protected/designated area), you will need to check separate guidance and rules with your local authority. Some local authorities are able to confirm in writing (for a small fee) whether or not a planning application is necessary. Most extensions still require approval under Building Regulations.

You can read more detailed guidance on the Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Portal, or contact us for advice about a project you are considering.