Rural Architecture. Paragraph 79 that used to be called Paragraph 55….
We love to visit those beautiful rural stately homes, manor houses and even royal residences that span the UK. With their awe inspiring high ceilings, grand staircases, secret doors and servants’ quarters to the meticulously manicured topiary in the garden. The overwhelming sense of grandeur often makes you wonder how anyone could ever have lived there! From Abbotsford House in Scotland, to Highclere Castle, made famous by the TV programme Downton Abbey to Hampton Court Palace we are spoilt for choice in the UK when it comes to fantastic architecture in the countryside. Forget about all those shiny futuristic buildings in our cities – I want turrets and drawbridges! These homes are the legacy of our past generations but who is building the next wave of amazing rural architectural masterpieces?
It feels, as a nation, we are now craving solitude in our surroundings. The need to keep family close and safe has never felt more important. As more and more of us are working from home and 2020 has really confined us to this new working environment people are feeling the need to leave the cities and suburbs and find that feeling of space. Of safety. Online meetings, zoom calls, skype, facetime – you name it, we’re using it and this technology has enabled us to continue to work from home. All of a sudden everything has changed and living near the office has definitely become much less relevant. For some, working from home has been a bit of a challenge especially for those of us that are usually at the office all day as we have been thrust into the daily household schedule. Even our news readers have been affected by cheeky toddlers wanting biscuits while they report live from their own homes. But this new enforced working environment has shown us that, in fact, we don’t need to commute, we can walk our dogs at lunchtime or spend more time with our kids and spouses. Gardening is the new socialising! The world has, weirdly, become smaller and more accesible thanks to modern technology.
So what’s keeping you in the city?
You no longer need to commute to work or spend your hard earned cash on lunch from a cafe. We are reportedly working for longer but at a more relaxed pace. So, wouldn’t you, and your family rather live your new 2020 lifestyle in the countryside?In 2012 the government released its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Due to our growing population and the shortage of housing, this new policy instructed all local authorities to take a more constructive approach to rural planning. In addition, it set out a special paragraph in the policy that encouraged ground breaking and innovative design in residential development. This paragraph known as paragraph 55, has now been changed to paragraph 79. In short, it encourages the highest quality modern architecture in the countryside. It even goes so far as to allow, in exceptional circumstances, the building of new country houses in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Conservation Areas. This is big news!
So, it appears we are now being encouraged to build a new wave of rural dwellings, however, it turns out that it’s not that easy. In fact it’s rather difficult. Paragraph 79 (formerly paragraph 55) sets out a list of very stringent rules that architects, designers and planners have to adhere to in order to achieve planning permission for any new rural dwelling. So in order for your stand alone masterpiece of a property idea to get the go-ahead there are a few rather high hurdles to jump over.
First things first – you need to think about where you’d like to live. Of course there is a lot to think about but imagine if you could build your own home? To your exact specifications, including all the things you’ve ever dreamed of! Swimming pool? Observatory? Helipad? Ok, I think maybe that’s a step too far!
Now, we’re not talking about new build houses, you know the kind with those winding cul-de-sacs of identical homes, identical gardens, identical front doors and identical windows – we’re talking about one off, beautifully designed, spectacular architectural masterpieces. Or how about a bungalow under a waterfall! You get the picture. But, before you get carried away and start sketching designs for that observatory it’s not exactly the simplest thing to get planning permission for this type of dwelling.
Planning policy allows rural development in exceptional circumstances only and paragraph 79 has a set of four unique circumstances that can permit your new dwelling in the countryside
- An agricultural worker’s dwelling. It’s quite difficult to create a business case for these so they don’t happen very often.
- Re-use of a heritage asset, e.g. saving a listed building.
- Re-use of redundant farm buildings. (Class Q is a form of permitted development which was introduced in 2014 and allows the change of use of certain buildings from agriculture to residential use).
- If the dwelling is truly exceptional in quality or innovative in its nature of design and reflects the highest standards in architecture. For a dwelling to be of exceptional quality or innovative in its nature of design, it has to pass all of these four tests:
- Help to raise the standards of design more generally in rural areas.
- Be of the highest standards in architecture.
- Significantly enhance the immediate setting.
- Be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.
All cases are different when it comes to a paragraph 79 home. There really is no guarantee of success. The unique design of the project and it’s individuality are key. As is sustainability. Everything needs to be considered, not only where you build but how you build. The process, planning and design of a Paragraph 79 home will never be easy. But if you’re ready to invest everything including your heart, soul, blood, sweat AND tears it will, definitely, all be worth it. It’s not a project to take on lightly. But we need pioneers! People that can take on the new shaping of our unique and wonderful landscape, and if it’s something you have always dreamed of doing then we say reach for the stars and catch the moon on the way up! You will be able to live forever in your amazingly designed one of a kind dream home, as will your children, and many generations further down the line. Quite a legacy wouldn’t you say?