Extensive negotiation and engagement with the council, a detailed exploration and analysis of 5-year housing land supply, the local self-build register and the definition of ‘isolated’ in planning, has resulted in planning approval for an exciting self-build dwelling and art studio for a live/work development in Uttlesford.
Why a site appraisal is a crucial first stage in planning
The site in question was a former riding school. The overarching aim of our client was to demolish several dilapidated buildings and replace with a self-build dwelling, and to regenerate the disused stable block and replace with an art studio which would also host art classes and facilitate occasional holiday-let stays. Collectively the two buildings would have a live/work relationship.
The site location was complex, located in a ribbon development, rural in context, outside a defined development boundary. Given these complexities, our first stage review which researched the site’s planning history, its context, relevant local and national policies and then weighed these up against the development aspirations of our client was a crucial stage. It not only helped us to flag the potential pitfalls and positives of the site, but it helped our client to weigh up their options and enabled us to consider and identify a robust planning strategy from the outset, which set the foundations for us to steer the project to positive outcome.
Rural settings and isolated houses
The site was part of a small ribbon development outside any urban centres, and so we set about making the case for the sustainable credentials of the scheme within its rural context. This included:
- research to establish why the site, when assessed against the definition of ‘isolated’ in case law, could not be considered as such;
- interrogation of the council’s 5-year housing land supply figures which flagged a significant shortfall;
- evidence that there was no market potential for a stable and riding school at this site;
- identified how the proposed development would represent effective use of a brownfield site for housing;
- research to show the economic and sustainability benefits of the proposed live/work set up, not only in terms of contributing to the rural vitality of the area but also in supporting the services within the surrounding villages;
- a context analysis which successfully evidenced the positive relationship the proposal would have on the built surroundings, in terms of massing, scale and materials used;
- a design analysis which explored how the contemporary design approach to the traditional equestrian vernacular would not harm the rural context or neighbouring amenity.
Having successfully established the principal of development and the benefits of the proposals on the site, we then set about making the case for self-build.
Self-build and the self-build register
The NPPF (2018) highlights that under the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, local authorities are required to keep a register of those seeking to acquire serviced plots in the area for their own self-build and custom house building. Furthermore, Councils are required to grant enough suitable permissions to meet the identified demand. We interrogated Uttlesford’s figures and noted a significant need for self-build housing across the District, but as yet no planned supply for this housing type. The proposed scheme would therefore respond to a very real need.
In order to further assuage any Council concerns about the Self-Build element, following productive engagement with the case officer we suggested using a Unilateral Undertaking to secure the self-build nature of the development both now and in the future.
How we added value
Through a strong planning strategy from the outset and proactive engagement with the case officer, we have secured planning approval for a superb self-build dwelling and art studio, to the betterment of a dilapidated site and the wider area.
Our client had a clear vision for creating their forever home and we are so delighted we have been able to secure them planning permission so that they can start this journey! We were even more delighted with the feedback we received, and we think our client explains how we added value to their project better than we ever could:
We approached Plainview after a previously stressful experience with our local planning department. We needed someone to ‘hold our hands’ and, for my part, to feel like someone cared about our forever home project as much as I did. Plainview did not disappoint! Their professional approach & expert knowledge was combined with a genuine desire for us to succeed. The communication was excellent, and I felt reassured and supported during the whole difficult process. I wish we had known about Plainview sooner, I would not hesitate in recommending Plainview to anyone considering a self-build.
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