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oak house planning consent story




A planning consent story by Oakwrights Architectural Designers

I first met Cassandra and Rob at an Oakwrights open day which took place at a stunning house in the village of Cudham, in the May of 2012. This open day left a good impression on the couple, so much so that within a couple of weeks I was sitting around their kitchen table discussing design possibilities. It was evident from this initial meeting that Cassandra and Rob were very passionate about what they were looking for in a new family home.

ashdown forest planning

initial sketches

ashdown forest consented drawings

consented drawings



The site in question is on the outskirts of the village of Hartfield in East Sussex, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The couple had purchased the property in 2010, with the intention of razing the existing chalet style bungalow to the ground and replacing it with an oak framed, one and a half storey, open planned family home.

At that initial meeting we developed a ’lifestyle’ brief. As Cassandra and Rob had already spent a couple of years living on site, they were able to identify the site’s attributes and constraints. The design brief became very concise, both having clear expectations of their new family home. Apart from the obvious requirements of number of bedrooms etc. one of the main objectives was to design a home that would maximize the stunning far reaching aspect over the surrounding Ashdown Forest to the south.

As the conceptual scheme for the site as a whole developed it was apparent that the orientation and internal layout of the principal rooms were going to be the key factors in creating Rob & Cassandra’s dream home. As part of the process, alternative layouts were explored and dismissed until I was confident that a successful solution had been achieved. One particular issue arose as we looked to fill the internal environment with natural daylight. Due to the sloping nature of the site, a sunken lounge area was introduced. This allowed us to maintain the open planned feel of the internal layout whilst effectively giving clear definition to individual living areas.

Rob and Cassandra were presented with the initial sketch design scheme a few weeks after our initial meeting and with minor tweaks here and there we were in a position to submit a pre-application enquiry to the planning department of Wealden District Council. A subsequent meeting at the Council offices took place in September 2012 to discuss our proposal with an assigned Planning Officer.

The feedback received from the planner was at first disappointing, with the Planning Officer insisting that the proposed replacement dwelling within the AONB was significantly materially larger than the home we were replacing. Therefore, unless we reduced the scale and mass of the proposal, the planners would not support such a scheme.



Whilst this may have been seen as a setback, I was convinced that the planners’ stance was misguided as they were purely based on the proposed uplift in floor area. Having designed and achieved planning permission for a similar scheme in a neighbouring village, I was confident that we could demonstrate that the uplift in actual volume was within the ‘acceptable’ parameters. Also, by way of a paper exercise, we could demonstrate the extent of lawful development, which could be undertaken upon the site which would not require planning permission.

When such a response is received from the planners, you either take their concerns on board and redesign the proposal accordingly or, as in this case you feel so strongly that this is an appropriate scheme for the site that you plough on and formally submit a detailed planning application without any alterations to the design. With the aid of a very robust Planning, Design and Access Statement and photomontage, emphasizing that the scheme would not detract from the openness of the AONB but would be of benefit to it, a formal planning application was submitted in the October of 2012. Cassandra worked tirelessly approaching neighbours for local support which would further bolster our chances of success. With this level of support gained, it also meant that if the planners were going to recommend the scheme be refused, we would have the opportunity for a decision to be made by the local planning committee.

The aesthetics of the new dwelling is one of a combination of materials, with a mixture of oak weatherboarding, tile hanging, faced brickwork and exposed oak framing. The internal layout to the ground floor is predominately open planned with consideration given to the relationship of the rooms and the immediate outdoor living spaces. The first floor area accommodates four bedrooms, all of which have vaulted ceilings. Whilst the principal (front) elevation is one of a traditional nature, the rear, south facing elevation takes on a more contemporary style and feel, with predominantly full height, gabled, glazed sections.

During the course of the following two months, the application was carefully monitored with regular phone calls and emails to the case officer to see how things were progressing and to identify any potential issues. To our delight planning approval was granted just before the Christmas of 2012.

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