18 Apr 2024

Bespoke Living in Bracon Ash

On the edge of Bracon Ash, a small picturesque rural village, just six miles from the historical cathedral city of Norwich in Norfolk sits Long Four Acres. This award-winning custom-build development project comprises 15 self-build plots. Outline planning permission was granted by Lanpro, with detailed planning and construction drawings for the owner’s self-build plot completed by NP Architects.


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Established in 2017 by Principal Architect and Director Nicholas Phillips, NP Architects has become synonymous with the responsible, collaborative and creative design, underpinned by technical brilliance and practical expertise that the creation of rural dwellings demands. Its contemporary interpretation of the local architecture to provide harmony and innovation alongside the fulfilment of its client’s needs has resulted in this timeless and sophisticated modern home.

Talking of their achievements, Nicholas explains: “We understand that every client’s vision is individualised and we strive to make you a director of your project. It’s our aim to construct buildings with a sense of responsibility; conscientiously thought out and properly researched. We carefully consider the environmental impact of a house, not just in terms of its green credentials but looking at the wider setting and the community in which it sits. We are proud to offer sustainable solutions that are seamlessly integrated into a project while ensuring the economic viability of the structures we design.”

The face of the building adopts a simple yet cubic Georgian form with a symmetrical facade, echoing the Palladian style of some of the great homes that can be found in Norfolk.

With a fresh breath of modernity, the rear opens up with larger panes of glass and sliding openings that connect the interiors to the garden and open countryside beyond.

The architecture translates through the seasons to provide a perfect home all year round. A rear balcony creates a veranda and, along with a metal pergola, provides solar shading to southern glazing in summer months while maximising solar gain in winter. The house is constructed from Imperial Handmade bricks with elements of knapped flintwork, a rock local to the area which has been used for more than 1000 years in construction.

Alongside the spectacle and function of NP Architect’s design, the success of this site lies in its commitment to providing much-needed self-build plots. Despite being outside the development framework and within the countryside, the development was accepted due to the provision of 15 self-build plots, which included one for the owner on the land.

The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 states that local authorities must maintain registers of individuals interested in self-build projects. However, it is not widely known that most councils have severely limited provision of self-build plots, which can be used as leverage against local planning policies to build in countryside locations.

By obtaining permission not only for their self-build plot but also for others, the owners were able to build and fund their own project on a site where planning permission would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

Navigating the planning system and overcoming regulatory challenges are pivotal steps in realising the dream of building a bespoke home in the countryside. Other loopholes in the NPPF providing the possibility of building in an isolated rural location include the essential need for rural workers to reside near their place of work, the optimal use of heritage assets, the reuse of redundant or disused buildings, the subdivision of existing residential structures or the creation of designs of exceptional quality that enhance their immediate surroundings. If your ideal property is currently in the form of an existing farm or commercial building, Class Q under Schedule 2 Part 3, further expands the possibilities for self-builders, allowing for the conversion of such buildings into dwellings.

Embarking on the journey of building one’s dream home or renovating a rural property can be both thrilling and daunting. Among the myriad challenges that self-builders face, navigating the intricacies of the planning system often proves to be one of the most formidable hurdles. However, for those willing to explore alternative routes and leverage certain loopholes within planning policies, the dream of creating a home in otherwise challenging locations can become a reality.

Nick and his team at NP Architects specialise in navigating these intricate planning regulations and can offer invaluable assistance to individuals embarking on self-build or rural property renovation projects. By helping clients understand and leverage policies to their advantage, they empower their ambitious visions while navigating the complexities of the planning process with confidence and ease through strategic planning, meticulous research, and innovative design solutions. With your hand being held by experts, the fears of overspending and the angst in the design conception are quickly diminished, paving the way for what should only be an exciting journey in the creation of your home.

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