Barn style home with oak frame in the heart of the New Forest

A planning consent story from the perspective of Oakwrights Architectural Designer, John Williams:

A beautiful countryside location would probably be high on the list for many people when first thinking about a self-built project. ‘Getting away from it all’, for the peace, views, space, and fresh air – there are many obvious reasons why living rurally has its attractions. But of course these landscapes have restrictions placed upon them that so often make gaining permission to build your dream home difficult.


Derek and Liz’s site is in just such a beautiful setting in rural Hampshire. However, not only is it set in true ‘open countryside’, one of the most protected designations set out in planning policies, but it was also in an area designated as ‘Ancient Forest Farmlands’ within the New Forest National Park.  And it also happens to be in a Conservation Area!

As is often the way, Derek and Liz had bought their plot with a house already on it – a modestly sized bungalow with an attached garage – functional but uninspiring, disconnected from the surrounding grounds (set in one corner of the large plot) and not taking any advantage of the fantastic views available in all directions.   So the proposal was to try and gain approval to build a new oak frame house with a much more sympathetic character and appearance in this location than the existing ‘suburban’ style brick bungalow it would replace.


From our first meeting on site, it was clear that the new house needed to be relocated to a position more central on the plot, where it would gain the best views, the most advantage from the sunlight, and where it could be closer to an existing outbuilding.


Although the whole site had been classified at a previous time as ‘domestic’, the local authority planning policies for replacement dwellings in such sensitive sites were extremely restrictive, preferring any new buildings to be positioned broadly in the same position as that which they replaced.  These policies also placed very precise limits on any increase in size available, as well as emphasising the need for considerate and appropriate design solutions in keeping with the local area.

Liz and her home went on to be featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine

Given all of these potential issues, we advised Derek and Liz that we should take the time to submit an early draft of the proposals to the Council for pre-application advice, to try and avoid any unforeseen issues arising when it came to the application proper.


The design developed around a post-and-beam style internal oak frame, creating the structure for a ‘barn-style’ building – with two bedrooms and bathrooms to the first floor, using roof-lights rather than cottage style dormer windows.  Clad externally with timber weatherboarding over a brick plinth, the new house was intended to sit harmoniously beside the adjacent existing barn.  An ‘open plan’ layout on the ground floor incorporating the kitchen, dining and living rooms was shown to try and increase the sense of space in this relatively modest sized area. 


Along with the house plans themselves, Derek and Liz had ideas for landscaping their grounds which included installing a wildlife pond, creating outdoor sitting areas, paths leading to site features (such as the stream running  along their northern boundary) and increasing the number of ornamental and fruit trees on the site.  It was therefore very important to include in the design generous areas of glazing to make sure the house visually and practically connected with the gardens and land around.   The approval included for a basement beneath the whole of the new house, to provide much needed storage space, and fortunately not included in the area or volume limits set by the council.

Armed with a carefully worded letter from the Council in response to our pre-application enquiry, that supported the replacement principal, the approach taken to the design, but stressed the precise limits on any increase in size and their concern about moving the position of the new dwelling, we set about putting together the full planning application making our case as strongly as possible.


The planning process, of course, had its twists and turns! Having provided support to the design approach at the pre-application stage, we suddenly found that they no longer felt that a barn style building was appropriate – forgetting their earlier advice.  After alerting them to this inconsistency, this cause for concern was resolved, only for the matter of the re-siting of the house to take its place as a possible reason for refusal.  The production of 3D computer model images of the existing and proposed houses, and combining these with views towards the site from the surrounding roads (using photomontages) enabled us to provide the necessary reassurances, with the final result that planning was approved, to the delight of all of us!


A willingness to understand and accept the restrictions of the planning policies, along with patience and perseverance to fight for the features of the scheme that really mattered has given Derek and Liz the chance to make their mark in this beautiful rural landscape with a building that is sympathetic to its surroundings, and from which they will be able to enjoy all the delights of the countryside that drew them there in the first place.

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A beautiful countryside location

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