How we defined the "limited infilling in villages" Green Belt exception

In our January newsletter, we mentioned that we were waiting for the results of a planning appeal for a new build Passivhaus located within the Green Belt, within a Conservation Area, and adjacent to a Grade II listed building. Finally, after an 11 month wait, we received the decision. Unfortunately, our appeal was dismissed, but there was one very significant win in that we were able to get at least one of the two reasons for refusal overturned. 

The original planning refusal that we were appealing had listed two reasons for refusal:

(1) that the proposals constituted inappropriate development in the green belt; and

(2) that they would cause harm to the setting of a listed building and to the character and appearance of a conservation area. 

On the green belt issue, the local authority had suggested that the proposals did not qualify for the "limited infilling in villages" green belt exception, based on their own narrow definition of the phrase, but in our appeal statement we used previous planning appeal decisions to define the meaning of this phrase, which is not otherwise defined within planning policy, and we highlighted how our proposals did in fact align with this definition. The appeal inspector agreed with our assessment and therefore confirmed that the proposals do in fact constitute appropriate development in the green belt. We are delighted about this, and believe that others could potentially also rely on our definition of the "limited infilling in villages" exception, hence we have prepared a Limited Infilling In Villages Infosheet which you can download for free by clicking the graphic below.


Making the case for the cumulative public benefit of self build developments

As for the second reason for refusal that was upheld, the appeal inspector judged that the proposals would cause harm to the heritage assets, describing this harm as "less than substantial but nevertheless of considerable importance and weight" and pointing out that "under such circumstances, paragraph 202 of (the National Planning Policy Framework) advises that this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal". 

Unfortunately, while it was acknowledged that there is unmet demand for custom and self build (CSB) housing, the inspector was of the view that since the proposals were only for a single dwelling, any public benefit would be limited, and insufficient to outweigh the perceived harm to the heritage assets. This was disappointing and contradicts at least one other appeal decision that we are aware of involving proposals for a single dwelling in which the contribution of that single dwelling to meeting unmet demand was judged to be a "material consideration of substantial weight". It also doesn’t make sense as self build developments are by nature mostly single dwellings. The public benefit is cumulative and the contribution of a single dwelling should not be disregarded. By this we mean that cumulatively, 100 separate self build developments each providing a single dwelling would provide the same public benefit as single development of 100 dwellings on the same site.

We always knew that obtaining planning permission on this particular site would be an uphill battle, but having established the principle of development in the green belt, we are encouraged that we are at least half way up that hill. We intend to re-apply for planning permission and we believe that we can:

(1) Revise the proposals to minimise the impact on the heritage assets; and

(2) Develop a stronger case in relation to the Right to Build by referencing a number of other appeal decisions and planning policy developments that we are now aware of.

Stay tuned for updates. 


Passivhaus seminars at Futurebuild 07 - 09 March 2023

We have registered to attend Futurebuild 2023 and we invite you to join us there. For those who are unaware, Futurebuild (formerly known as EcoBuild) is an annual trade show and conference event focused on sustainable construction and innovation. This years event will focus on "looking forward, changing, and taking action", in particular with regards the push towards net zero. The event will take place over 3 days from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 9th March at ExCel, London. Registration is free. 

Looking through the seminar programme, we would highlight a couple talks curated by the Passivhaus Trust. On the Tuesday there is a session on "Passivhaus and the cost of living crisis" which will explore the energy and cost-saving benefits of building and retrofitting using the low energy building standard and methodology. On the Thursday there is a session on "How to build a net zero Passivhaus" during which the Passivhaus Trust will launch updated good practice guidance on how to design and build to the energy efficiency and comfort building standard. 


Passivhaus Infosheet

A Passivhaus is a house (or any building) that is designed, constructed, and certified according to the Passivhaus Building Standard, the gold standard for ultra-low energy buildings. The basic principle of a Passivhaus is to keep heat in the building so that you don’t need to use a lot of energy to keep it warm. In fact, the goal is to reduce heat losses to such an extent that the building’s space heating demand can be met mostly by ‘Passive’ heat sources such as the sun, people and appliances. To learn more, download our Passivhaus Infosheet which describes the key principles, features, advantages, and benefits. 


Why we always carry out a Clarity Review before starting on design

Our Clarity Review pre-design service is a low-commitment consultation we offer all prospective clients before we provide a proposal for our full architectural service and before we start work on design. The service typically includes: a workshop, a site visit, and a desktop study concluding in a detailed brief and feasibility report and a video call to discuss the contents of that report. 

For us as architects, our Clarity Review is an absolutely crucial first stage of our process, as it enables us to really get to know our clients, and their requirements and aspirations, before we start designing their homes. To use a medical analogy, it enables us properly diagnose the problem so that we can confidently prescribe a solution. 

For our clients, the service is designed to help you define your destination and map out your journey, including estimated timescales and costs, so that you can embark on your self build journey with clarity and confidence.


About the author

Oliver Murray is a Cambridge-based Architect and Self Build Coach who specialises in High-Performance Self-Build Homes and provides Self Build Coaching alongside his architectural services to help his clients progress through their self build journeys with clarity and confidence. If you are interested in working with us, you can book a Getting Started Consultation by clicking on the photo below. This is a 45 minute online video call during which you will have a chance to speak directly with Oliver about your self build aspirations and how you can get started.

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Supporting custom and self build