A SITE WITH POTENTIAL
The site was an unusual one in that it was occupied by a former residential agricultural training college and had also been used for a number of other purposes over the years. In addition to the former college building, there were also a number of other outbuildings including a detached structure which had the benefit of lawful use as a residential dwelling.
With a little vision, one could imagine the potential of this site as being absolutely amazing. Upon entry from the winding track road, the site is relatively flat for the first half but then dramatically drops down about 2.5 to 3 metres initially but then dog-legs to the left into a dense woodland area of well over an acre which features a further drop in levels of around 5 to 7 metres so as you can imagine, my mind was racing with so many ideas even at this early stage. The site is also bordered on one side by a large reservoir which supports many species of local wildlife and is rich in habitat and bio-diversity.
Our clients had purchased the plot with the benefit of Outline Planning Permission (OPP) which allowed for the construction of 2 residential dwellings. OPP on a site simply confirms the most basic of permissions with a number of issues being left unresolved at the time of permission being granted. These are known as Reserved Matters and on this occasion, the Reserved Matters that we would be responsible for within the design and preparation of the application were Siting, Design, Materials, Appearance and Landscaping. These are aspects we would always deal with anyway but the fact that the site had OPP does take away some of the uncertainty when compared to applying for a dwelling on perhaps a garden plot or a replacement dwelling scenario.
I visited the site to meet the clients and get a personal one to one feel for the space, which for me as a designer is crucial to the beginning of a successful design process. We established a basic set of parameters for the project which was to consist of 2 houses, 1 large garage or barn and 1 other detached garage. The concept was that upon entry to the site, a traditional Suffolk cottage would be the first building viewed which was to be tucked away into the tree lined corner bordering the reservoir and with this would also be a detached double garage/car-port with integral log store. The second larger and more adventurous dwelling was to then be set down further into the site in a more central position and for both of these dwellings to then be screened from each other by the large garage/barn.
The smaller of the dwellings is a three-bay long cottage featuring open plan contemporary spaces at ground floor and 2 large bedrooms each with their own bathroom with all of the first floor spaces being vaulted up into the roof space. This design also features a classic combination of Suffolk vernacular detailing features such as narrow mullion windows and soft render/timber boarding finishes, but combines this with more contemporary touches such as large oak framed glazing and dramatic roof scapes.
I had the briefest of communications with the previous planning officer prior to submitting the application as I was confident in what we were proposing and duly submitted the application in early Autumn. We had some very minor modifications to make at the request of the planning office only relative to the position of the buildings and in all other respects they were very supportive of the proposals and praised them for their appropriateness to the location and character of the area and we received full planning approval first time round which was an absolute result in my book and one which I am very proud of.
This project was always going to be an exciting one and I have to say it has been one of my favourites of recent years. This is down to a combination of a great site in an area of the country that has classic vernacular architecture but also clients who had done their research into all aspects of self-building your own home. They had also focused in on how they wanted to approach the design process using a designer who understands oak framing but also can maximise the potential of a plot through knowledge of planning law and how this can be interpreted to maximise its potential.
My designs have now been appraised by Oakwrights and converted into full 3D models, which is always a great stage for clients to see and the project has been ordered for manufacture and delivery in the next few months. I would like to congratulate John and Sue in the gaining of their planning approval and also to thank them for the opportunity of working with them on this great site. Both myself and Oakwrights are sure they are going to make a great job of this project and we would like to wish them much success.