Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that local planning authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are special circumstances. These circumstances include the exceptional quality or innovative nature of the design of the dwelling. This is national policy; it’s in the name.
Interesting, then, to see that an inspector has allowed an isolated dwelling in Essex after finding that its design was locally innovative (DCS Number 400-016-678). He recorded that the council had not directed him to any similar projects locally where the simple method of straw bale construction had been employed as part of an overall design philosophy of a relatively cheap and accessible low impact building. Accordingly, he found that the overall project was locally innovative and had the potential to raise the environmental standards and diversity of design in the vicinity. He also remarked that it had the potential to raise standards of design locally as a template, particularly for self-builders. He concluded that the project overall would amount to an isolated home where a special circumstance had been demonstrated.
There is, of course, nothing in Paragraph 55 which tells us the level against which the exceptional quality or innovative nature of the design should be tested. In particular, it doesn’t tell us that the test is set at national level, as the outcome in (DCS Number 400-016-678) confirms. This sets the bar lower than some of us might have assumed.
The following DCP section is relevant: 9.2352