We are delighted to report on a recently approved National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 79 (e ) house in Oxfordshire. The client and design team engaged with The Design Review Panel on three occasions: November 2019, February 2020 and April 2020. The first review session incorporated a site visit.
Cherwell District Council issued a planning approval decision notice (20/01933/F) on the 19th May 2021.
The planning officers committee report states:
"Having regard to the conclusions of The Design Review Panel, it is considered that
the design of the dwelling is of exceptional quality, truly outstanding and innovative
and would raise standards of design architecturally and that the proposal’s design
would draw on and reflect the defining characteristics of the site. The outstanding
quality of the design would significantly enhance the setting in both the short and
long term and the multi-generational living concept is considered to be innovative
which would contribute to flexible and adaptable ways of living in the future. It is
therefore considered that the proposals comply with paragraph 79 of the NPPF and
that the principle of development is acceptable."
A copy of the Officers Committee Report can be seen by clicking here ...
A copy of the decision notice can be seen by clicking here ...
The proposal is for a house that is suitable for multi-generational living to accommodate three generations of the same family, whilst being adaptable to changing needs and circumstances in the future.
The client’s sincere and enthusiastic early engagement with the design review panel process was welcomed by The Design Review Panel. The Panel also welcomed the multidisciplinary landscape led approach undertaken, the design team included Hughes Planning (www.hughesplanning.co.uk), Seymour-Smith Architects (www.seymoursmith.co.uk) and SEED Landscape Architecture (www.seedlandscape.com).
Rob Hughes of Hughes Planning said:
“Oxpens” is our 18th Para 79 house to be approved and lies within the County of Oxfordshire. Designed by Seymour-Smith Architects in collaboration with SEED Landscape Architecture, the fundamental objective of the proposal was to deliver a house of exceptional quality, reflecting the highest standards in architecture whilst being sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area, and making a significant enhancement to its immediate setting. The scheme was approved under paragraph 79e) of the NPPF 2019.
We extend our thanks to the Planning Officers at Cherwell District Council who approached this exceptional scheme in a positive manner, and to the Planning Committee who granted approval.
The quality of the scheme was informed and ultimately endorsed by “The Design Review Panel” who advised on various iterations of the design and landscape, and we also extend our thanks to the Panel Members.”
Chartered Landscape Architect Jack Marshall from SEED Landscape Design Ltd said:
“The site is located west of Wigginton in Oxfordshire. It is set within a grazed, rural landscape with a small tributary to the River Swere running through it. The site is a beautiful one, but an ill-conceived ash plantation and pond have damaged the hydrological balance and lessened its ecological potential.
There are two distinct characters within the site. The Ash plantation and pond to the north and the damp meadow to the south. We initially explored how the house could be integrated into the damp meadow, but superior views from the north, coupled with the ecological sensitivity of the meadow itself led to us to focus on the ash plantation and pond.
At the first meeting the Client produced a book called ‘Portrait of A River, The River Swere in Oxfordshire’ by Walter L. Meagher & Peter Sheasby, within was a narrative of the river and landscape that she had brought her family up in, and which she would like to recreate at the site.
This is our first project with Seymour-Smith Architects, and it was a truly collaborative process. Our proposals set out to repair a damage landscape into which we will help to integrate a new family home for our client and two generations of her family.
The house occupies the northeast corner of the site to make the most of its context while having minimal impact on its surroundings. The southwest aspects overlook the lake, while the northeast aspect overlooks a woodland courtyard. The building has been orientated so that the gable ends make the most of the views to the field and hedgerow oak trees.
Informed by our responses to site, the landscape proposals are based on 3 key landscape concepts:
The character of the existing mixed native woodland in the southeast corner will be bought further into the site. It will gradually replace the monoculture of the ash plantation (which has ash dieback) and will wrap around the building helping to anchor it within its landscape context. The 3m wide access drive winds through this woodland and opens into the woodland courtyard.
The existing water body on the site will be reshaped and its edges re-profiled, increasing biodiversity and creating a naturalistic setting for the house to look out over.
Key views out will be opened up. Focused views of the oaks will be created to the east and west, helping link the building to its surrounding landscape. A section of the southern boundary hedge will be laid facilitating views out over the hedge and under the canopy of the hedgerow trees.”
Chartered Architect Helen Seymour-Smith of Seymour-Smith Architects said:
“Oxpens is our 5th project to have had planning consent granted under NPPF paragraph 79 (e ), maintaining our 100% success record.
The brief was for a flexible, multi-generational house, to allow three households of one family to live independently but together – three self-contained yet linked living environments. It was important for each to have its own entrance, living space etc, and its own outside space – but also that this wasn’t three houses, but rather, one house that could be lived in in different ways.
This is to be a home for a family enjoying each other’s time and company, providing care solutions for young and old alike, and also enabling timeless layers of support to emerge between generations.
The house will be nestled in among the trees, adjacent to, and partly dramatically projecting out over the water, which will be re-shaped and much enhanced. The water will also provide heat for the house, via a water source heat pump.
The starting point for the design is of a cabin in the woods – playful, magical and lightly touching the ground. Key themes deriving from the site are of reflections and contrasts. The three volumes of the house pick up on these themes, with the two wings being reflections of each other, taking their cue from the form of a treehouse or cabin, raised up on stilts, and with one projecting out over the lake. The central section is flat-roofed in contrast, and together with a series of linking covered walkways, serves to anchor the building to the site and tie the composition together.
The barn-like forms are each raised up at one end to allow bedrooms to be added in the eaves, and to produce dramatic internal volumes that focus the eye towards the key views.
The house will be built from CLT (cross-laminated timber – essentially thick plywood), which will form both the structure and the internal finish. The whole house in fact will be made of wood – a renewable resource which locks in carbon and speaks of the woodland setting.
The external timber cladding will express the multi-generational concept which forms such an important part of this project. The use of timber for almost all aspects of the building leads to the consideration of the lifecycle of a tree and how this is so clearly manifested in its cross-section with the layered rings representing each year of growth. The central heartwood, the innermost layer, is a rich deep colour. The most prolific sapwood which wraps around it is lighter in colour / less saturated. Finally, the bark, which is the outer / covering layer is typically very dark and heavily textured. The same concept can be applied to the facade, with distinct layers, each peeling back to reveal a different layer beneath.
The house’s energy requirements will be very small, as a result of its design, orientated to maximise solar gain, employing high levels of thermal bridge free insulation, airtight construction, the use of MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery), high performance triple glazing, and the use of exposed thermal mass internally (to regulate the internal temperature).
The little energy that is required will be supplied via a large array of PV-T panels (which generate hot water as well as electricity) and the use of the lake for a water source heat pump. These will be combined with a multi-source heat pump and a Source Energy Thermal Battery – combining existing technologies in a new way to improve their efficiency. The result will be a house which produces more clean carbon-free energy per year than it will consume.”
“The design is a well-developed proposal of the highest architectural standards, representing a truly innovative design, which promotes high levels of sustainability. The proposals have demonstrated that they would significantly enhance the immediate setting and are sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.”
Images and quotes provided by:
Helen Seymour-Smith of Seymour-Smith Architects (www.seymoursmith.co.uk),
Jack Marshall from SEED Landscape Design Ltd and SEED Landscape Architecture (www.seedlandscape.com), and
Rob Hughes from Hughes Planning (www.hughesplanning.co.uk)