Planning consent for an oak frame family home and garage in North Somerset

Written by Helen Needham – a Chartered Architect and our Architectural Department Manager


A lovely couple with their young family approached us with a fabulous brief to design a replacement oak frame house and three bay garage. David Coleman, one of our Business Development Managers, and I met our clients at the beautiful plot in North Somerset they had just exchanged on. We listened to and discussed their ‘wish list,’ gave design ideas, and walked the ground to get a good feel for their site.


Recognising the potential of the plot

The plot comprised an old stone cottage with later extensions and a number of outbuildings. This had clearly been a well-loved family home over the years, but the building was in need of repair and alterations. So, a fresh design concept was considered to be the right thing to do to create a more environmentally friendly and efficient design, while bringing a new lease of life to our clients’ site.

The plot’s location provided an amazing opportunity for new and creative ideas. Working with the well-established trees and planting, the setting created a lovely backdrop to capture new views into and out of our clients’ proposed new home. In particular, the existing tree-lined driveway leading to a centralised entrance porch, and a dual aspect entrance hall viewing existing birch trees inspired moving the house footprint more centrally within the site, and indeed the initial building lines developed.

A drawing to show the front elevation of our clients' home, designed by Helen Needham and Mariyana Hartland

The architectural design process

Our clients’ driving design concept was agreed in that initial site meeting. Three oak bays were sketched on-site as the principle structure in plan, with two symmetrical gables either side of the new entrance hall and a further bay for ancillary uses to the west. A few locations were considered for their oak frame garage, however, the natural placement was towards the east boundary to the front of their site.

An L-shaped plan developed to the rear by looking at the natural contours of the garden and considering the sun’s movement, allowing morning sun in particular to enter the proposed open-plan kitchen/dining/family room, and the evening sun into the living room. The entrance core was designed with a sweeping staircase and void over a dining area, funnelling plenty of natural light into the core of the building. A further gable was introduced to the west side to create a feature seating area and dual aspect view from our clients’ master bedroom, with its own en-suite comprising a feature bath and dressing room. The bedrooms naturally ‘fell’ into the four gables, also allowing fully vaulted spaces to really appreciate the uninterrupted view of their oak frame.

The front elevation was designed with a more traditional and private appearance, while picture windows designed using our face glazing system were introduced to the rear. Several material options and proportions were explored as our clients’ design evolved. They opted for a brick plinth, with red multi-brickwork up to ground floor level and feature stone sills and lintels, with white weatherboard at the first floor level and a clay tiled roof.

Two feature chimneys developed into their design; one being in the centre of the living room feature wall, but still allowing the picture windows to give a full aspect of the rear garden. The second chimney was designed at the end of their family room, with face glazing either side. A balcony with an oversailing roof was designed for the master bedroom, naturally creating covered outdoor space leading out from the living room doors.

Developing this from some felt-tip sketches created on-site into a 3D model proved great design evolution, and was carried out by Mariyana Hartland and I. Creating the design from early concepts in 3D allows our in-house Architectural Design team to work with the site topography too. Very importantly, this also helps our clients to visualise their future home’s internal and external spaces, views from the rooms and even the approach to the house more fully. We can make adjustments to the terrain in relation to the surrounding grounds, gradients etc. to ensure the proposal is appropriate for the plot.

This drawing captures the vision for the rear elevation

Our Architectural Design team also work with our frame and encapsulation designers at the very early stages to ensure the look of the frame, spans, and junctions are all buildable. This process is so useful and ensures a good-looking frame both inside and out! We offer a design meeting once this process has been carried out to walk our clients around their model and to agree amendments, ensuring the design meets their exact desires.

This site slopes in an east to west direction and the L-shape that had formed within our design created a really appealing rear courtyard that will become a real suntrap. Our clients employed a landscaping specialist to manicure the landscape design, including the permeable hard landscaping choices and the species and spacing of new planting.


The planning application process

The site is in green belt, so immediately the location, proposed amount, and style was known to be a sensitive matter. We worked alongside a brilliant planning consultant, allowing him to concentrate on the planning strategy and policy, and our teams on the design and build. We often take on our own planning preparation and submission, but we also know when to bring in a specialist if needed. In this case, his local knowledge was excellent. The planning process wasn’t plain sailing in the height of lockdown, with Zoom calls rather than face to face meetings, but it resulted in positive feedback and indeed planning permission approval for our clients’ new oak framed home and three bay garage. Our team also carried out the Building Regulations drawings and consent for the scheme.


This build is now on-site, and it is exciting to see the stages as they develop. We know it will be a stunning home that will be lived in and enjoyed by a lovely family for many years to come. We wish our clients well with their development, which you can follow on Instagram, and we feel privileged to have helped them to create their dream home.


The team behind the design of this oak frame project:

  • Business Development Manager: David Coleman
  • Architectural design: Helen Needham and Mariyana Hartland
  • Planning: an independent consultant
  • Building Regulations: Lee Wilson
  • Frame design: Sarah Connelly
  • Encapsulation design: Carrie Powell
  • Estimating: Ellie Jude
  • Project Manager: Matt Michael
  • CGIs: David Bowes


Please note: the above planning consent story was written when this oak frame home was under construction on-site.