The country house clause is an element of the National Planning Policy Framework, specifically paragraph 55, that advises local authorities on granting permission for the building of houses in isolated rural areas.
In 1947 the Town and Country Planning Act stipulated that no new private dwellings could be built in Britain’s countryside. The aim of this restriction in house building was to maintain Britain’s green fields and as a result Britain’s landscapes are much different to our European neighbours who had no such act to curb countryside building.
Architects and home builders have been opposed to the outright ban on all rural building since the outset as it has strangled the supply of new houses in the country. Also, new houses built in isolated areas of the country had long been a testing ground for innovative designs and construction methods.
But new planning policies in 1997, renamed in 2004 to the National Planning Policy Framework, allowed for country houses to be built under ‘specialised circumstances’.
Planning permission for these isolated private houses would only be granted if the ‘architectural design is of the highest quality’, ‘shows innovative ideas’ and is sensitive to the characteristics of the local area’. Ground breaking or innovative eco technology may also sway planning officers to grant these specialised houses planning permission.
In 2011 CZWG was granted planning permission under paragraph 55 to build a new house on an existing apple orchard in Kent. The house design was carefully selected to position the house in a direction that lessened its impact on the surrounding countryside and environmental strategy was at the heart of the design proposal.
Many other major architectural practices have won permission for new houses under the ‘Country House Clause’ in recent months causing the clause to win headlines. Practices such as Sanei Hopkins, Hudson Architects, ADAM Architecture and Burrell Mistry are among those practices and are looking at starting their country house builds within the next year.
Since 2004, 75% of houses allowed under the so called ‘Country House Clause’ have been contemporary in design, allowing some fantastic works of architecture to be built sensitively throughout Britain’s countryside.