New Country House at Yartleton Lane, May Hill, Gloucestershire

David Jones – Town Planner, Evans Jones LLP (Chair)
Stephen Wadsworth – Landscape Architect
Pegasus Landscape Design
Daniel Gore – Architect, Tyack Architects
Geoff Luxton – Architect, Luxton Architects
Anthony Lewis – Architect, Yiangou Architects LLP
Emma Norgate – Town Planning, Forest of Dean District Council (Planning Officer)

  • Presentation
  • Comments
  • Overview

The Architect and Landscape Architect jointly presented the proposal to construct a new country house at Yartleton Lane.  The policy basis upon which the proposal relies is Paragraph 55 of the NPPF.

The proposals have been four years in development and any future application will be supported by Detailed Sustainability appraisal, together with other specialist reports dealing with ecology, landscape, trees, access, ground conditions etc.  Prior to the meeting the proposal plans and supporting information were made available to view via web-link.

The architects explained that they’ve sought to meet the client’s brief in developing a proposal for a dwelling which is truly outstanding and innovative, helping to raise design standards more generally in rural areas, reflecting the highest standards in architecture.

The initial design concept was to form a building which sat comfortably with the landscape.  The architect explained that the concept is based upon a “thumb print” partly embedded into the sloping ground.  Surveys indicate that the underlying strata is that of natural stone and as such the material arising from excavation into the hillside will be used to form a rain screen cladding around parts of the building.  This will be supplemented with timber cladding, again sourced from the wooded areas on site.

“The concept that has been developed is akin to a thumb print pressed gently into the side of the slope of May Hill.  This thumb print creates an elliptical bowl into which the building sits, the oval form of the main building itself also reflecting the dome shaped rock of May Hill”

The habitable accommodation is split into two sections.  Firstly the two storey elliptical element containing the main living rooms, this is attached to a tall single storey bedroom block.  A separate, detached semi-circular structure is proposed to accommodate ancillary storage for the smallholding.  The private garden and car parking would all be contained and screened by the proposed buildings.

It was noted that the plans presented differed from those available upon the website, particularly the south facing elevation of the single storey bedroom block which in its latest iteration indicated a slightly curved length of front elevation.

The landscape architect explained how this site was chosen and how it sat within the landscape.  Photo montages were presented illustrating the proposed dwelling from various vantage points both before and after development and before and after proposed new tree planting.

The comments below should be read in the context of the information that was available to the panel immediately prior to the presentation, namely the plans and reports available upon the web-link as at 26th March 2014.  Some of the plans presented (Elevation Treatment of bedroom block) differed from those views on the web-link. The presenting architects confirmed that the scheme proposals are still being developed and refined following consultation with other stakeholders.

Presentation

The panel considered that the presentation explained both the design and how this met the client’s requirements very well.  The proposals were easily understood and the level of information supplied was commensurate with that which one would expect for a proposal seeking to rely upon Paragraph 55.

Concept

The concept of placing an elliptical structure in a “thumbprint” in the landscape was very strong.
The explanation/discussion over the concept and form of the outlying rectilinear bedroom block was much less compelling.  The design for the bedroom block seems at odds with the over-riding concept.  It also appears unnaturally tall and its lack of articulation on the south elevation has an unsatisfactory relationship with the landscape.  It was noted that earlier design concepts presented in the Design Statement sought to explore more organic forms for the bedroom accommodation.
Panel members considered that the elliptical form could not be clearly “read” other than possibly from directly above the building.  It was thus considered that the conceptual objective of embedding the building into the landscape to create a sense of place has been diluted in the development of the scheme from original concept through to the presentation proposals.

Response to site

Elements of the proposal respond well to the site (see above) and the original design concept appears logical, relating specifically to local site conditions.  The panel agreed that the site has the potential for a “Paragraph 55” dwelling.
The panel thought the distinctive architectural style would be appropriate for the setting.

The local authority if minded to approve will need to ensure that all of the stated objectives including the extraction of stone from excavations on site and the use of site sourced timbers are sufficiently robust to ensure that the assurances given now by the applicant are not subsequently diluted.

The panel expressed confusion as to whether the scheme is being built as a form which can be seen in the landscape or is to be hidden with proposed planting and re-levelling.   For example, it was confirmed on the one hand that the intention wasn’t to “hide” the proposed building; however, photomontages were then presented which indicated the site would be largely hidden by new orchard planting (particularly closer views from Yartleton Lane. This requires further explanation.

The panel saw no advantage in design terms in hiding the building and considered that the architect’s desire to see the building exposed in the landscape has possibly been tempered in response to the public consultation exercise.

Light outbreak from the large areas of glazing was also raised as a potential concern, the architect’s response that this could be dealt with via screening internal was noted, however it was concluded that further work was required to demonstrate that light outbreak would not have an unacceptable visual impact in the landscape.

Furthermore it was noted that birch woodland planting is proposed as new planting to the lower slopes above Yartleton Lane, the use of birch does not appear to fit well with the surrounding woodland.

In consideration of this application the local authority will seek validation from this panel and others to assess whether the proposal meets the requirements set out under paragraph 55 of the framework.

In this specific regard the panel comments as follows:-

1.    Is the proposal truly outstanding or innovative, helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas
The panel considered that although certain elements of the proposal had the potential to be considered truly outstanding e.g. the domed elliptical structure, the landscaped setting, wider smallholding proposals and the sustainability framework, they did not feel the design in its current form could be.

They felt the scheme as presented did not appear to achieve the concept described in the design statement of an “organic arrangement of spaces which flow together”.  The panel felt this was to the detriment of the scheme and particularly disappointing because of the earlier, more “organic” feasibility studies explored in the design statement.
The panel did not think there was any compelling evidence presented of the proposal being truly innovative.

2.    Reflect the highest standards in architecture: 
The panel considered that the proposal is close to achieving this objective but further work is required.  It was felt that the clear design intentions, distinctive architectural style and well-considered sustainability framework reflect the highest standards of architecture; the panel has a fundamental concern over certain elements of the design e.g. the bedroom block.

3.    Significantly enhance its immediate setting:  
The existing landscape setting is attractive but unremarkable and the panel agreed that this particular location has the potential for a “Paragraph 55” dwelling.  It is thus considered that a proposed building meeting all the objectives of Paragraph 55 will enhance the site’s immediate setting.
The proposed use of materials and architectural-style are appropriate for the setting.
The 3D visualisations illustrate a very sensitive landscape approach – naturally wild and mature.  It will be very important that certain elements attractively illustrated in these renders are followed through to create the vision being presented to the planners e.g. treatment of the access drive, planting growing up/down the very high masonry walls etc.   How can this be controlled?

4.    Sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area:  
The panel considered that the design concept, with specific regard to the building’s siting, proposed architectural style and use of locally sourced materials met this objective.

The panel consider that the site is an appropriate location for a modern country dwelling.  The overall scale and massing, together with the use of locally sourced materials, are all considered acceptable design responses.

In conclusion, the panel considered that whilst the proposed is ‘close’ to meeting the objectives set out under paragraph 55, it is not quite at a stage whereby the panel would support the development.  Subject to specific concerns been satisfactorily addressed the panel considered this would be an appropriate form of development in this location.

The Carriage Building, Bruton Way, Gloucester, GL1 1DG • 03333 405 500 (Jeff Roberts) • mail@robertslimbrick.co.uk

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