Building plot, Woolley Moor, Derbyshire

Realising the dream: building a home in rural Britain

While it may be the dream of many to build their own home in their desired location, national planning policy and guidance, along with local planning policy on issues including the green belt and development in the countryside all have to be taken into consideration before building can begin.

A balance between housebuilding and protecting the countryside needs to be found. Paragraph 55 in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a policy which allows for new build houses to be built in some of the most scenic parts of England and Wales, subject to certain requirements and criteria.

The policy is designed to encourage homes which are architecturally outstanding and exceptional, allowing ‘one of a kind’ projects to continue in rural areas where development is otherwise restricted. Because permission is only granted where the highest standards of quality and innovation are demonstrated, very few new properties come forward under paragraph 55 each year.

The NPPF states that there are some special circumstances which permit new builds in the country. These are:

  • That the design is truly outstanding or innovative, helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas.
  • It reflects the highest standards in architecture.
  • It significantly enhances its immediate setting.
  • It's sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area; or
  • to the essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside; or
  • where such development would represent the optimal viable use of a heritage asset or would be appropriate enabling development to secure the future of heritage assets; or
  • where the development would re-use redundant or disused buildings and lead to an enhancement to the immediate setting.

In some cases and on suitable sites, the most fitting exemption – and perhaps the only option – could be to create an exceptional or innovative building, but if this is something you’re considering then the following points are important to note the following:

Relinquish control

One of the only realistic paths to success in these circumstances is to relinquish control to a team of specialists and you’ll have to be prepared to compromise, which can take some of the fun out of the self build process. You must trust in your architect wholeheartedly; after all, it is their design which will be a key factor in whether or not planning permission is granted.

Make it fit

To be successful, you must be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area and ensure your design complements its immediate surroundings. 

Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day and similarly getting plans passed for an architecturally outstanding home in our beautiful countryside won’t happen overnight – finding the right site and an appropriate scheme can be a challenge.

Beware of the risks involved

You must be prepared to spend up to £100,000 on the design and planning and success or failure ultimately rests on the opinion of a planning officer, local councillor, and in some cases, a planning inspector. The criteria for an exceptional design is highly subjective, so you must be able to argue the merits of the site and justify how it complements the surrounding area. Only a small proportion of new houses applied for under paragraph 55 are granted permission.

Paragraph 55 homes are the pinnacle of rural domestic architecture, drawing from and adding to a quintessentially British tradition of beautiful countryside homes, not to mention the exclusive and extraordinarily high value market that these homes enjoy.

For many of us though, a bespoke home in the countryside remains a dream that may never become a reality, and for those who aren’t willing to take the risk, but still want a chance to create their very own corner of the world, seeking out land with planning permission under the Paragraph 55 clause may be a good alternative.


Further information

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