Project Address: - Land North of Lower Treneague St Breock Wadebridge Cornwall PL27 7JX.
Following engagement with The Design Review Panel (www.designreviewpanel.co.uk), this exciting project was granted planning permission by Cornwall Council in March 2022 under paragraph 80(e) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The proposals have been produced by Planit consulting (www.planitconsulting.co.uk), Koto Design (www.kotodesign.co.uk), Darren Hawkes Landscapes (www.darrenhawkeslandscapes.co.uk). On behalf of the applicant Charlotte Wheatley.
The proposal is for the construction of a family home for the applicants, which seeks to reflect the highest standards in architecture and innovate use of sustainable building materials. As required by Para 80e of the NPPF, the proposals seek to significantly enhance the immediate setting, which in this instance is garden land. The proposed residential dwelling has strong biophilic principles and has been designed to integrate seamlessly into the topography of the land.
The site lies to the south of the town of Wadebridge approximately five miles to the northwest of Bodmin. The site comprises mature ‘garden’ which originally formed part of the ownership of the residential property ‘Lower Treneague’. A river/ stream flows along the west side of the site which has formed several ponds within the site, accessed by a meandering path.
Having formed part of a private garden for over 40 years the site benefits from a section of mature planting including several ornamental trees and shrubs. The vegetation is generally in good order but has lacked maintenance over the past few years and has become overgrown in places.
The applicant Charlotte Wheatley said:-
“Three years ago, when I told people that I had made the decision to apply for planning under Paragraph 80(e), they all had the same response, including many who worked within planning & design. It’s a mistake, it’s too hard, you’ll never succeed, and someone even went to the trouble to tell me that I was ‘doomed to fail’. This was always inevitably followed by the question, why would I choose to go down this challenging and far too often unsuccessful route? My answer was always the same, that I wanted to be held to the utmost standards, that I wanted to be pushed to produce the best work that I could and to ensure that I and the team would be held accountable at every turn. Paragraph 80(e) leaves no room for frivolous design decisions, it means that every choice is interrogated and challenged and pulled apart until it becomes the best that it can possibly be.
The Design Review Panel was an integral part of that journey, for two reasons. One is obvious and the other is one that I have only come to appreciate recently and upon reflection. The first is that this is a group of professionals who not only are greatly informed in their respective fields, but in Paragraph 80(e) itself and therefore you’re presented with an opportunity to absorb impartial, informed, intelligent and creative responses to your work. It is yet again another opportunity to ensure that you’re being held to the highest of creative standards, from an outside independent source and one that is better informed in the process and expectations than you are. It would be easy to become insular and convince yourself that you’re on the right track within your team if you weren’t forced to step back and look at your project through the eyes of an independent body. That perspective is invaluable when working within a creative field and one that is overlooked and misunderstood when one doesn’t work creatively. The second role that the SWDRP [The Design Review Panel] perhaps unwittingly played for me, which was surprising and has only become obvious with hindsight is this; that during the entire process (my team very much excluded in this next statement) at every single turn, I was greeted with uninformed, negative rhetoric. From people who were meant to be informed in Paragraph 80(e) and those that weren’t, they sadly had the same attitude. They didn’t understand its complexities and even worse, didn’t care to understand. We as a team were constantly met with woeful misunderstanding and an attitude of disinterest at best. I can only speak for myself and not the rest of the team, but this made the process feel strangely isolating and at odds with what Paragraph 80(e) should be about. We were putting in years’ worth of effort into keeping up with the challenging level that Paragraph 80(e) demands only to be met with narrative and feedback which made it obvious that that work wasn’t even being looked at properly, let alone understood. Our interactions with the SWDRP [The Design Review Panel] were the antithesis of that monotonous and deflating experience, which may not be something they are aware of but it was invaluable to me and hopefully to my team. It was a chance to finally feel (even when we weren’t quite operating at the level that they expected) that we weren’t in the process entirely alone. That what we had to say through our work and what we were trying to do, had value, substance and that there were people out there who supported that, understood it and celebrated it. So, as you can imagine after this, I would recommend wholeheartedly (for the obvious and more subtle reasons) that anyone thinking of undertaking the challenges of Paragraph 80(e) should seek the advice of the SWDRP, for as many presentations as it takes. You’ll come away from them with surprising new perspectives and tired in a way that one can only be after an intense intellectual debate. But most importantly having had a creative interaction that re-establishes why you chose to undertake a Paragraph 80(e) project in the midst of a process where it is very easy to forget.”
The project architect, Theodore Dales from Koto Design (www.kotodesign.co.uk), said:-
“During the development of a new dwelling near Wadebridge in Cornwall, we engaged in two design reviews and one desktop review with The Design Review Panel (www.designreviewpanel.co.uk). Their input proved invaluable, offering a refreshing and objective perspective that enriched our design process.
The Design Review Panel’s unbiased feedback greatly influenced our design, encompassing various disciplines such as landscape, ecology, and architecture. Their expertise and understanding played a significant role in refining the dwelling's concept, ensuring it met the criteria of a Paragraph 80 dwelling. Given the subjective nature of the NPPF framework for Paragraph 80 houses, their guidance was particularly valuable in achieving a successful planning outcome. It also allowed us to present an unbiased independent report to the local planning authority in support of the application. The Design Review Panel feedback also crossed consultant boundaries, empowering elements like ecology to lead the scheme and shaping the work of other designers and consultants involved.
In addition to specific areas of expertise, The Design Review Panel’s general design guidance proved instrumental in shaping our project. Several insightful suggestions and recommendations provided a fresh perspective, prompting us to explore new possibilities and refine our design approach. By incorporating their input, we enhanced the overall quality, architectural intent, and integration of landscape, ecology, and architecture within the dwelling and its relationship to the wider landscape. This collaboration underscored the importance of seeking external expertise and engaging in critical design reviews to ensure a well-rounded and successful outcome that harmoniously blends these vital elements.”
The local authority case officer gave weight to the feedback of The Design Review Panel (in accordance with Paragraph 133 of The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and the officers Committee Report states the following: -
“The SWDRP [The Design Review Panel] provides an impartial expert opinion on the architecture merit of this proposal which is both helpful and given significant weight in this assessment. There is no evidence to counter the conclusions of the SWDRP on this matter.
Given the conclusion reach by the SWDP in regard to architecture and the lack of evidence to demonstrate otherwise, it is considered that the proposal meets the first test of paragraph 80 (e) in the NPPF.”
Notwithstanding the above, the Planning Case Officer made a recommendation to refuse the planning application for the following reason:-
“The application site is located within the open countryside, clearly divorced from any settlement. The introduction of a new home, by reason of its design and character, onto an undeveloped sylvan valley will harm the distinctive natural beauty and character of the site and its setting. The identified harm would not contribute to the conservation and enhancement of the Area of Great Landscape Value.”
At the Planning Committee meeting it was acknowledged that The Design Review Panel expertise had included two landscape architects and an ecologist, and that the feedback from the Panel was not limited to the building design. It was noted that the comprehensive multidisciplinary design review panel process had considered landscape setting and ecology at the outset, alongside architecture/building design and energy performance; thus considering the proposals wholistically. The elected members of the Planning Committee therefore gave the Panel’s feedback significant weight (in accordance with para 133 of the NPPF) and approved the application, contrary to the Case Officers recommendation for refusal.
A full recording of the Cornwall Council Planning Committee meeting for this application can be seen below:-
The project Landscape Architect, Darren Hawkes of Darren Hawkes Landscapes (www.darrenhawkeslandscapes.co.uk), said the below:-
“My experience of The Design Review Panel was really enlightening. To spend the time discussing our intentions, having probing questions put to us of the kind we rarely get asked by clients and only sometimes ask of ourselves was really illuminating. Working though such a rigorous process is of huge benefit beyond the immediate project as it reminds us, as designers, why we make the decisions we do and how, through proper collaboration, our ideas can always be improved and refined.
Taking the time to be challenged forces lots of reflection, in our case so much of what we had been asked had indeed been considered, however, we had repeatedly failed to document each step we’d taken and only through going back over that documentation were we able to evidence our best principles and make sure that as a small part of a multi-disciplinary team we integrated our designs and intentions fully with the other consultants. Coming back to the design review panel without work complete and our process fully documented gave us as a practice and the wider design team the confidence to argue our case knowing that we had explored so much.
Often design processes are led by deadlines imposed by the client. The Design Review Panel (www.designreviewpanel.co.uk) gave us other milestones that were about the integrity of the work rather than just meeting timelines and this proved invaluable.”
Please click here to read a full copy of the Planning Committee Report (PA21/10863)
Please use the following link to visit the relevant pages of the Cornwall Council Planning Portal:- https://planning.cornwall.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=R1W2MBFGLAY00