Can you build in the countryside?
More specifically, can you get planning permission for an isolated house in the open countryside?
The short answer is yes. If you know all the rules and play the planning game correctly, you can get planning permission for a house on agricultural or pasture land, even in the greenbelt.
There is no doubt, though, that England does have tough restrictions on constructing new buildings. Even more so for the open countryside. And our major cities are surrounded by "greenbelts" of protected land.
So you might think there would be fewer new homes approved on virgin land, or greenfield sites, especially in the greenbelt, compared to already used, or brownfield land.
You might think that, and for years it was true but, for the first time in a decade, in 2017/18 councils approved more new homes for England's greenbelt greenfields than they did for brownfield sites. The figures were 2,117 greenfield homes approved, compared to 1,860 on brownfields.
So, although building new individual homes in the open countryside is difficult, it is clearly possible. Paragraph 79 of the government's National Planning Policy Framework states that local councils should avoid allowing new "isolated homes in the countryside" unless one or more conditions are met. One of the key conditions is if "the design is of exceptional quality". It would need to be "truly outstanding or innovative", and reflect "the highest standards in architecture" and "significantly enhance its immediate setting".
These are exacting requirements, but not impossible. In fact, pictured below are some examples of "Paragraph 79" homes that have won planning permission for sites in the open countryside.
If you want to build a new home in the open countryside yourself, you should first get some independent advice, preferably from a firm of planning permission advisors. They will be able to say if planning permission is possible on the site in question, and if so, how. This should be done before the often costly process of getting architectural designs made-up.
If your planning advisor says that permission is possible, then you should use an architect who has experience of designing successful "Paragraph 79" homes in the countryside.
As well as designing the building, your architect may be able to help you negotiate your way through the planning approval process, or you may want you to use a separate town planner.
This choice will depend on the workload and expertise of your architect, but the important thing, before you reach this stage, is to get your independent planning permission advisor to asses the site, to help you make the right "go or no-go" decision in the first place. You can then be confident that you won't be wasting your money on unnecessary fees and be assured that your project is more likely to become a reality.
By Simon Anderson, consultant at independent planning permission advisors, Planix.UK.