Para 80  New Build

On 29th July 2021, a week after the government issued the revised NPPF, Ashford Borough Council granted planning consent for what must be the country’s first new isolated dwelling granted under paragraph 80(e).

This project involves an existing dilapidated timber framed barn which had previously been granted consent to convert to residential but was allowed to elapse.

When seeking to reinstate the consent, the condition of the barn had deteriorated to the extent that it was no longer deemed capable of conversion without wholesale reconstruction & demolition.

Subsequent attempts by others to pursue a new build contemporary replacement of the barn had not been supported by the council.

The client then approached Hawkes Architecture and we set about the design process in our usual rigorous way, developing an architectural narrative which sought to retain the formal relationship the barn had among the buildings within the farmstead cluster. From the public realm the form would appear understated and maintaining appropriate hierarchical relationships between buildings.

From the rear, south, the barn searches for more daylight through a simple sculptural intervention with the barn’s extensive roof form. The roof is cut & peeled back to afford a first floor living area within the roof space a view across the adjoining field and providing the ability to harness valuable passive solar gains from the winter sun.

A small linked annex building provides some additional accommodation to make the barn function as a family home for the clients who have been residing in temporary accommodation on the site in the form of two converted shipping containers.

The Paragraph 80 (Para 80) proposals were presented to and fully endorsed by the Ashford Design Panel.

This project makes for an intriguing paragraph 80 case study in how the circumstances of the planning case seem, at first glance, to be little more than the conversion of another old timber framed barn but, due to the barn’s deteriorated condition, the planning context meant that the only policy mechanism which could support the barn’s replacement in a location which was deemed to be isolated was the NPPF paragraph 80e exception policy.

The final test within paragraph 80e requires proposals to “be sensitive to the defining characteristics in the local area”. In this instance the modest farmstead which the site and barn were located, was a composition of fundamentally three hierarchical ‘tiers’ of buildings. An adjacent, separately owned, brick built farmhouse is the Tier 1 principal building. Our site represented the next, Tier 2 layer and adjacent layer additional outbuildings represent the third, Tier 3 layer of farmstead development.

By consequence of an imperfect planning system, our site was destined to become a fallen pile of timber and the farmstead would have lost a key component of its identity. The degraded quality of the barn’s structure meant that it did not satisfy any policy provisions which seek to reuse redundant agricultural buildings and change their use.

The farmstead’s “isolated” location meant that, in planning policy terms, residential development was generally to be avoided. However the barn’s loss would have been a great shame for this typical modest farmstead cluster, the barn playing such a key role in its identity.

Recognising that paragraph 80e was the only policy principle that could allow a new isolated dwelling here, and in responding to the final test of this policy it felt absolutely appropriate to replace the dilapidated barn with a building which appeared to retain the Tier 2 role. It would have been inappropriate for a new dwelling to demand more attention & challenge the tier 1 role and it would have been inappropriate to explore other tier 3 building typologies, as we had done in previous similar circumstances with our Echo Barn & Halfpenny House paragraph 55 projects.

Consequently the defining character of the site gave us most of the architectural rules of how this new dwelling should be designed.

From the public realm to the north, once built, this building will appear to have been another example of a converted & restored typical Kentish barn. The solidity of the barn’s form is carefully retained from public views on the north side and consequently due to the roadside elevation being north, retaining solidity of the form would assist with reducing heat loss & road noise in the building).

The vast expanse of solid roof area which this barn had, and should have, meant that opportunities to bring daylight into the barn were limited so our solution was to introduce a slice in the south facing roof plane & peel the roof back, which created a lens shaped opening within the roof plane and allowed daylight and passive solar gains into the first floor living accommodation.

The scheme was presented to and, following some minor refinement, fully endorsed by Ashford Borough Council’s Design Review Panel and this in turn gave sufficient confidence to the planning officer that they could approve the scheme under the “exceptional quality” provision at paragraph 80 of the NPPF.

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