Last week, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was updated. One of our studio’s areas of expertise, Paragraph 79 (now Paragraph 80) was reworded to remove the option for rural homes to be granted permission based on innovation alone.
We’ve built our practice around excellent design in rural locations. A piece of planning policy we know very well mandates that local planning authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are ‘special circumstances’. To meet these ‘special circumstances’ the final bullet point of the policy has, historically, held a requirement for these homes to be ‘outstanding’ or ‘innovative’, but under the most recent revision of national policy (July 2021) the option for innovation has been removed.
As a studio with multiple projects falling under this policy, we’ve discussed it a lot in recent years, particularly in light of the climate emergency, and one critique is that the historic wording of Paragraph 79 left a route through planning for proposals that lacked high design quality. Innovation, and particularly environmental innovation, can of course be positive, but innovation and outstanding design aren’t mutually exclusive.
On balance, we think the new wording of Paragraph 80 is a step in the right direction, but also think ‘outstanding’ needs to be more closely defined, along the lines of ‘environmentally outstanding’ or, ‘outstanding in the context of the climate and ecological emergency’. We believe that exceptional design should mean whole life zero carbon, whilst also being sensitive, contextual, modest and ready for a low carbon lifestyle.