The ‘Paragraph 79” projects have become somewhat of a Holy Grail for those individuals determined to go out on a limb and create a unique bespoke dwelling for themselves. Likewise for architects the challenge of obtaining approval from a local authority for one of these schemes is not only a test of ones design ability but also of mastering the sustainable technology available in both construction and renewable energy generation.
The criteria for approval effectively leaves the decision to the local planning authority. The decision they have to make is essentially: does the project demonstrate that it has met the criteria of being innovative or reaching the highest standards of architecture? Is it sensitive to the defining character of the surrounding area and does it significantly enhance its immediate setting?
The ‘exceptional’ criteria is the essence of the directive which would allow the building to be constructed outside the settlement boundary. In considering these applications, Council’s are understandably often concerned that they are setting a precedent for building outside their established settlement areas or indeed accepting something that is not absolutely of the highest standard as implied by the Planning Policy. With the current environmental challenges that we are facing, we would like to see the government putting more emphasis on supporting these often experimental schemes. This particularly in the light of the vast numbers of houses approved and constructed by the volume house builders that studiously meet (but rarely exceed) the lower environmental standards set out under the current building regulations.
Paragraph 79 schemes need to be supported and properly evaluated. The criteria listed in Paragraph 79 of the National Planning Policy Framework currently leaves too wide a scope for Planning Authorities to be able to be properly subjective in their decision-making, hence forcing them to lean towards greater caution rather than releasing them to enabling the experimental and the truly inventive or outstanding projects come to light, projects which could, in the long term, inform and direct the progression of all future architecture.
See here for Paragraph 79 criteria in the National Planning Policy Framework document.
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