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Frequently Asked Questions


Can I build a new dwelling in the countryside?

As a landowner looking to build a new house in the countryside, the first questions to ask about the viability of such a venture would be:


  • What are the local planning policies and guidelines for building in the countryside? It’s important to know the rules and regulations that apply to the specific location of the land and the type of development proposed.
  • Is the land suitable for development? Factors such as access, topography, and environmental constraints will need to be considered.
  • What are the costs involved in obtaining planning permission and building the new house? This will depend on the complexity of the project, the materials used, and other factors such as the need for infrastructure or services.


HAWKES architecture specialise in answering this question. We are uniquely placed to advise on this type of development. They can advise on the planning policies and guidelines that apply to the specific location, assess the suitability of the land for development, and provide guidance on the costs and potential challenges of the project.


It’s important to consult with the relevant authorities and seek professional advice before proceeding with any development in the countryside. This will help to ensure that the project is viable, sustainable, and meets all the necessary legal and regulatory requirements.


It is possible to build a new dwelling in the countryside, but there are certain regulations that need to be followed. In England, planning permission for new isolated homes in rural areas is covered under Paragraph 84 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out various criteria that would need to be met.


To obtain planning permission for a new dwelling in the countryside, one such circumstance at para 84(e) sets out various tests you will need to satisfy in order to demonstrate that the proposed development is of exceptional quality, is truly outstanding, reflecting the highest standards of architecture, would help to raise the standards of design more generally in rural areas and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and be sensitive to the site’s defining characteristics. Houses which can be shown to satisfy these requirements are commonly referred to as Paragraph 84 houses (the policy has previously resided at Paragraph 80 and before that Paragraphs 79, 55 and prior to the NPPF, PPS 7 paragraph 11).


Rural development, including the construction of new dwellings in the countryside, is subject to specific planning policies and regulations, including those governing green belt development and country house planning. It is essential to carefully review these policies and regulations to ensure compliance and a successful outcome.


To build a house in the countryside, you will need to obtain planning permission from your local planning authority. The process can be complex and time-consuming, but with the right guidance and expertise, it is possible to navigate the planning process successfully. You may also consider building a sustainable, eco-friendly, or self-build rural home, which can offer numerous benefits in terms of energy efficiency, cost savings, and personalization.


In summary, building a new dwelling in the countryside is possible, but it requires careful planning, compliance with regulations, and expertise in rural development, green belt development, country house planning, and sustainable design. If you are considering building a new home in the countryside please get in touch.

Green Belt Policy

Can i build a new house in the Green Belt?

It’s important to note that the government’s planning policy for the Green Belt is that new development should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances as set out in NPPF paragraph 154 (a to g).


Below we’ve provided a link to a short video talking about building a new isolated dwelling in the Green Belt;


Building a new house in the Green Belt is possible, but it will require careful planning and adherence to strict regulations. The Green Belt is a preserved area around cities and towns, meant to protect the surrounding countryside from urban sprawl.


There are some exceptions to what constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt. These are as set out in NPPF paragraph 154:


  • a) buildings for agriculture and forestry;
  • b) the provision of appropriate facilities (in connection with the existing use of land or a change of use) for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation, cemeteries and burial grounds and allotments; as long as the facilities preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including land within it;
  • c) the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building;
  • d) the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces;
  • e) limited infilling in villages;
  • f) limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the development plan (including policies for rural exception sites); and
  • g) limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land, whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would:
    • – not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the existing development; or
    • – not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, where the development would re-use previously developed land and contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need within the area of the local planning authority.

Paragraph 84 Planning

How can I get planning permission for a Grand Designs house?

If you’re looking to build a Grand Designs house in the English countryside, then you’ll need to apply for planning permission. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 84 outlines specific circumstances which allow for building an isolated new dwelling in the countryside.


Firstly, it’s important to note that new building in the open countryside is generally considered inappropriate in policy terms, so you’ll need to show that your proposed development meets an exceptional need or demand. This could include a need for your specific house design, or a demand for additional housing in the area.


To support your application, you’ll need to provide detailed plans and drawings, as well as an explanation of how your proposal complies with local planning policies and fits in with the character of the surrounding area. You’ll also need to consider environmental impacts, such as the impact on wildlife and any potential flooding risks.


In addition, your application will need to demonstrate that your proposed development is sustainable, both socially and environmentally. This means considering factors such as access to public transport and the use of renewable energy sources.


Overall, the key to getting planning permission for a Grand Designs house in the English countryside is to provide a strong case that is supported by detailed and well-researched information. By carefully considering all of the factors outlined in the NPPF paragraph 84, you can increase your chances of success and create your dream home in the countryside. Here’s a short video on the subject.

Paragraph 84 houses were never intended to be golden egg laying flying unicorns

Richard Hawkes


Where is the ideal location to build a house in the countryside?

When considering building a house in the countryside, it is essential to understand the various constraints and designations that affect where you can build. Green Belt areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and other sensitive landscapes often have strict planning regulations that restrict development, so it is important to contact a specialist to assess the viability of a potential building site. We’ve provided a link to a short video about this subject below.


Choosing a location that is not subject to any landscape or environmental designations that would restrict development would generally be easier, but NPPF paragraph 84 can in principle be applied to any land anywhere. This includes areas with high ecological value, flood plains, and protected landscapes. These constraints can limit the size and design of the house, as well as the use of certain building materials and technologies.


Ultimately, finding the ideal location for a countryside house requires careful consideration and expert guidance. HAWKES architecture specialise in providing expert advice on the suitability of a potential site, as well as the necessary permits and regulations for building in the countryside.

Planning Site Appraisal

Can I build on my land?

If you are the owner of a piece of land and you are wondering if you can build on it, the answer is not a simple yes or no. The ability to build on your land depends on several factors, such as the location, zoning regulations, and the type of building you plan to construct.


If you are considering building a new dwelling in the countryside, you may need to follow the guidelines set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 84. This policy permits the construction of new dwellings in the open countryside under certain circumstances, such as if the proposed development is of exceptional quality. We’ve provided a link to a short video about this subject below.


Before you begin any construction project, it is essential to undertake an initial site appraisal. This assessment will help you determine the feasibility of your building project and identify any potential issues that may arise during the construction process. It is also advisable to consult with a professional who has experience in the planning and development industry. HAWKES architecture specialise in the design of paragraph 84 houses and are uniquely placed to advise on the viability of any venture which might require use of this particular aspect of national planning policy.


In summary, whether you can build on your land depends on several factors. If you plan to build a new dwelling in the countryside, you may need to follow NPPF paragraph 84 guidelines. Undertaking an initial site appraisal is an essential first step in any construction project and can help you avoid potential issues down the road.

Planning & Isolation

Does my site have to be isolated?

The ideal location for building a house in the countryside depends on a range of factors, including, among myriad others, the degree to which the site could be considered isolated and whether the policy mechanism of NPPF paragraph 84 would be triggered.


The principle of isolation and how the term “isolated” should be applied in relation to paragraph 84 changed following the Braintree case in 2017.


The Braintree case refers to a planning appeal decision where an inspector rejected an application to build a new dwelling in the countryside because it failed to meet the “principle of isolation” set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).


The NPPF, specifically paragraph 84, requires that new homes in the countryside should be “isolated”. The principle of isolation refers to the requirement that new homes in the countryside should be located away from existing settlements and should not cause harm to the open countryside.


In the Braintree case, the inspector found that the proposed dwelling did not meet the principle of isolation as it would be located too close to an existing settlement. The inspector also found that the design of the proposed dwelling was not of a sufficiently high standard to justify its location in the countryside.


Therefore, the Braintree case illustrates the importance of the principle of isolation when seeking to apply the paragraph 84 policy. Here are some short videos on the subject.

Finance & costs

What are the typical costs involved in building a house in the countryside, including land purchase, obtaining planning permission, materials and labour?

The costs involved in building a house in the countryside can vary greatly depending on a range of factors, such as the location, size, complexity of the design, and quality of materials used. Generally speaking, the most significant expenses will include; land purchase, obtaining planning permission, construction materials and labour costs.


When it comes to land purchase, the cost will depend on the size and location of the plot and its generally accepted development viability. Typically, countryside plots are larger and cheaper than urban plots. However, they may require additional expenses, such as surveying, soil testing, and building permits, that need to be factored in.


Materials costs can be significant, depending on the type of materials used. Some building materials, such as natural stone, are more expensive than others. In addition, the cost of materials can vary depending on the distance from the construction site to the supplier.


Labour costs are also a significant part of the total cost of building a house in the countryside. Skilled labour is essential for the construction of a quality sustainable home, and the cost of skilled labour varies depending on the region.


Overall, building a house in the countryside can range from affordable to very expensive depending on a range of factors. HAWKES architecture have extensive experience delivering some of the most advanced sustainable Passive House designed homes in the country. We are here to ensure that costs are carefully planned and managed throughout the construction process.

Passive House Design

What is Passive House and how can it help me save money and energy?

Passive House is an innovative building design standard that prioritises energy efficiency, sustainability and occupant comfort.


Passive design is based on the principles of using lots of insulation, keeping a building airtight and using MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery) and maximising opportunities to capture passive solar gain to create a comfortable indoor environment with minimal energy consumption.


Passive houses use advanced insulation techniques, airtight construction, and high-performance windows and doors to dramatically reduce energy loss. The houses also use mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery to ensure optimal indoor air quality while retaining heat. The result is a building that requires very little energy for heating and cooling, which can lead to substantial savings on energy bills.


By adopting passive design principles, homeowners and developers can contribute to the UK’s transition to zero carbon by reducing their carbon footprint. Passive houses can achieve up to 90% energy savings compared to conventional buildings, making them an attractive option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact.


Additionally, as the UK aims to become carbon neutral by 2050, buildings are a crucial area for improvement. According to the UK Green Building Council, buildings account for 29% of the country’s total carbon emissions. Therefore, adopting passive design principles is a crucial step towards achieving the UK’s zero-carbon targets.

Land Valuation

How much is my land worth?

The value of land in the countryside can vary significantly depending on several factors, including location, size, topography, and potential for development.


Generally, land with planning permission for a new dwelling will have a higher value than land without planning permission. This is because planning permission provides certainty that a new dwelling can be built on the land, which increases its potential value.


The value of land can be considered as a residual of the maximum post-completion value minus the compound costs of building the scheme. In other words, the value of the land is the amount that a developer would be willing to pay after taking into account the costs of building the new dwelling and the potential profit that could be made.


To secure the best value for the land and make it as attractive as possible to a potential buyer, it is important to reduce the risk associated with delivering the project. This can be done by including a fully costed set of drawings with the land sale or having a builder lined up to deliver the scheme for a well-defined sum. This helps to reduce the risk of unforeseen costs or delays, which can make the project less attractive to potential buyers.

Paragraph 84 planning

Can a paragraph 84 house be built on any land in the open countryside?

NPPF paragraph 84(e) is a policy that permits the construction of new dwellings in the open countryside, provided that certain criteria are met. This policy can theoretically be applied to any land in the open countryside that is deemed to be isolated from a settlement, regardless of any landscape designation.


It is a common misconception that the para 84 policy only applies to non-designated landscapes. However, this is not the case as the policy can be applied in any landscape designation, including Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)s, National Parks, Heritage Coast, the Norfolk Broads and even within Scheduled Ancient Monuments ! But the site must have certain qualities in order for a robust case to be made which is deemed to satisfy the paragraph 84 tests – notably the second bullet point tests; “significantly enhance the immediate setting” and being “sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area”.


Where the landscape is subject to constraint designations like Green Belt or AONB, other policies exist which can make an already difficult process even more precarious.

It’s important to note that not all sites are suitable for a robust paragraph 84 case. For example, if the landscape is considered to be of high value in its contribution to the prevailing landscape character or its condition is of high quality in the contribution it makes to ecology and biodiversity, the site may not require significant enhancement. In this case, the para 84(e) test to “significantly enhance the immediate setting” will not be able to be met, and the scheme will fail.


It is imperative to assess the suitability of the site before pursuing any attempt at getting consent for a paragraph 84 house. If the site is found to have the right ingredients then a robust case can be built upon a solid foundation in policy.

Paragraph 84

Does a paragraph 84 house have to be large?

The Paragraph 84(e) policy allows for the construction of a new isolated house in the countryside if certain criteria can be satisfied. However, the size of the proposed building is not one of those criteria.


Instead, the focus is on the design, materials, and sustainability of the building in relation to the landscape and the environment. This policy aims to encourage innovative and high-quality architecture that enhances the rural setting.


HAWKES architecture’s Scots Pine and Mossie projects demonstrate that size is not a limiting factor in meeting the requirements of Paragraph 84(e). Despite their modest sizes of 215m2 and 205m2 respectively, both buildings have been designed to complement their surroundings, using materials that blend with the landscape and incorporating sustainable features such as passive design principles and advanced low embodied energy construction techniques.

Paragraph 84 planning

Does paragraph 84 only apply to single dwellings?

While the Paragraph 84 policy is often associated with the construction of a single isolated dwelling in the countryside, recent appeal decisions have confirmed that it can also apply to multiple dwellings. There is nothing within the text of NPPF Paragraphs 83 or 84 that stipulates that the policy can only apply to a single dwelling. The criteria set out in Paragraph 84(e) regarding design, materials, and sustainability can, in principle, be applied to more than one residential unit.


We are currently working on a handful of para 84 schemes seeking consent for more than one new isolated dwelling using the Paragraph 84(e) policy. These projects demonstrate that the policy can be used to deliver high-quality, sustainable architecture in a rural setting while still accommodating multiple dwellings.


There are currently so few appeal decisions where this particular topic has been addressed that it’s something that will no doubt be treated with a wide range of responses from local authorities. It’s imperative that a robust case is put together if any such proposal is to stand any chance of success.


It is important to note that any proposal for multiple dwellings under Paragraph 84(e) will still need to meet the same criteria as a single dwelling. The design and materials used must be of exceptional quality, and the buildings must be appropriately located and designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. As with any planning application, the proposal will be assessed on a case-by-case basis against the relevant policies and criteria.

Paragraph 84 planning

Does a paragraph 84 house have to be “eco friendly”?

A Paragraph 84 house of exceptional quality is a type of luxury dwelling built in the countryside, subject to strict planning regulations under the National Planning Policy Framework. Inherent in the very concept of an exceptional quality dwelling is the need to reflect the highest standards of sustainable design.


Paragraph 84 houses must exceed the prevailing standards of energy conservation both in their construction and use. They should at least adhere to, and ideally exceed, the RIBA 2030 challenge targets for energy consumption in use and the embodied energy required during construction. This requires adopting Passive House design principles, which involve using advanced insulation techniques, airtight construction, high-performance windows and doors, and mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery.


However, it’s important to note that adopting Passive House design principles alone does not justify the granting of consent. Being well insulated, airtight, using MVHR, having triple glazing and being equipped with renewable energy generation are baseline requirements for any Paragraph 80 dwelling.


By building a Paragraph 84 house that exceeds the highest standards of sustainable design, you can contribute to the UK’s transition to zero carbon, reduce your carbon footprint, and achieve significant energy savings. Additionally, you can create exceptional quality homes that are comfortable, healthy, and environmentally responsible.

Paragraph 84 planning

How long does it take to get planning consent for a paragraph 84 house?

Taking a Paragraph 84 scheme from inception to obtaining planning permission can be a complex and lengthy process. If our initial site appraisal process concludes positively and we proceed with developing the design of an exceptional para 80 dwelling, we generally advise allowing at least 2 years from beginning to getting a planning decision. It’s never been less than 12 months but it has certainly taken a lot longer!


Often we’re at the mercy of the planning department once a project has been submitted.


It is important to engage with the local authority early on in the process, through pre-application discussions and occasionally seeking input from the parish council and local residents. The NPPF places great importance on engaging with stakeholders throughout the planning process. (NPPF paragraphs 38, 39, 131, 134 and 137)


Obtaining endorsement from an independent design review panel can also be valuable, as it can help to ensure that the proposed development is of a high standard and is sensitive to its rural surroundings. This is encouraged in the NPPF at paragraph 138.

Planning officers may seek opinions from a range of consultees, including local residents, community groups, and relevant authorities such as the Environment Agency or Historic England. This helps to ensure that all relevant factors are considered when assessing the acceptability of the proposals.


As Paragraph 84 schemes are often contrary to local planning policies, they are likely to be referred to the planning committee for a decision. This means that the process can take longer, and there is no guarantee of a positive outcome. However, by engaging with the local authority and seeking input from relevant stakeholders, it is possible to increase the chances of success and create a development that enhances its rural setting while meeting the necessary criteria.

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