Planning consent for a woodland-style home in rural Cambridgeshire

Written by Pete Tonks – a Regional Architectural Designer within our Architectural Design team


The architectural design process

This designated plot for our clients’ timber framed home was one of two adjacent plots, sold with outline planning permission attached. It sits within the conservation area of the village bordering open countryside, right on the edge of the settlement boundary

For the original design of our clients’ home, we prepared various concept proposals to configure the optimum room layouts and assess their impact on the plot in terms of position, orientation, sun, shading and the overall impact.

We advised our clients that an arboricultural survey would be required due to the trees on and adjacent to the site, along with a topographical survey which deals with the levels, drainage and other important information such as boundaries and access. We then progressed further into the design process and assessed the concepts against national and local planning policy. On this occasion, we also worked in conjunction with the village design group which was a self-representing committee made up of residents who have an interest in the design balance of new development within the village.


The planning application process

Once we’d agreed on an in principle scheme, we attended meetings at the local planning authority with our clients and had in-depth discussions with the planning officer and the conservation officer.

The planning application consisted not only of the plans and drawings but also the tree survey, topographical survey, photo montages, street scene perspectives and the design and access statement, which is a written record of the process and the ultimate objective of the proposal. Unfortunately, due to numerous staffing and procedural changes at the local planning authority, the application for our clients’ oak frame home was initially refused and subsequently also dismissed at appeal. The main concern was that all the way through the application we had the support of the planning officer and the conservation officer. However, a new conservation officer was appointed, who was not supportive of the scheme, so we had no choice other than to re-design.

A drawing to show the north and west elevations of our clients' home, designed by Pete Tonks

Revisiting the original design

We embarked on a re-design process working with our clients, new conservation officer, planning officer and village design group, eventually creating a scheme which all parties supported. The good thing about this was we hadn’t diluted the original scheme significantly, therefore our clients were still happy with the proposals. This ultimately is the most important goal for any Architect or architectural designer.

Two further revised planning applications were made as well as in-depth negotiations with the planning authority and village design group. This resulted in full planning approval, and to say our clients were happy would be an understatement!

This project is special because it was built in an old woodland orchard, so from a design perspective, we wanted to create a traditional woodland house rather than just a barn.

Its uniqueness is within its layout and spatial qualities, which were all focused on the clients and how they wanted to live in the future. The house was designed to the Lifetimes Homes standard and uses natural materials, including a green oak frame and our WrightWall Natural encapsulation system, which comprises insulation made from recycled newspaper. Our clients’ home is also highly specified with renewables, including an air source heat pump and solar panels, as well as a rainwater harvesting system.


As a designer and a big fan of woodland/barn-style homes, I am extremely proud of this project, which was always intended to be a contemporary spin on a traditional wood-clad home (images of which can be viewed in the gallery below.)