Dream eco-home given green light following legal appeal


A Staffordshire couple have won a long legal battle that will see them build their dream, state-of-the-art country home on land at Sutton, near Newport.  

Boasting significant eco-friendly credentials, it is anticipated that Mark and Mandy Armitage’s home will, once built, be carbon neutral in under five years.

Having originally submitted plans to Stafford Borough Council in May 2015, Mark and Mandy initially received a rejection because isolated homes in open countryside are generally thought to be detrimental to the environment around them.

However, keen to see their vision realised and being aware of a niche aspect of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that can be applied in appeals against planning decisions, they engaged FBC Manby Bowdler to take up the case for them.  

Niall Blackie
, senior partner of FBC Manby Bowdler’s Telford-based Planning team explains:

“Paragraph 55 is an exemption to the general rule of isolated country homes being rejected.  It was included in the forerunner of NPPF almost twenty years ago as a means by which exceptional country homes could be built, so long as they were in the older tradition of country houses but in the new NPPF, the focus is on first-class and high quality design, coupled with demonstrable innovative credentials, which would help to raise all-round rural design standards.

“Since its introduction, fewer than 100 new country homes are thought to have been built as a result of utilising this concept.  This demonstrates just how high the bar has been set and we are delighted to have been successful with this outcome.”'

The remarkable and innovative green credentials of the house, lie in the fact that the total carbon used in all the materials that go into its construction, as well as the anticipated carbon output during its lifetime will be calculated using a complex computer modelling system. The computer model allows a comparison between several thousand potential variable design features to ensure that optimum carbon efficiency is achieved, but depends on the highest quality design input.

 A carefully calculated area of Elephant Grass is then to be planted to draw carbon from the atmosphere so as to achieve the zero-carbon approach. 

During the appeal process, the planning inspector heard submissions from Niall Blackie and evidence from a wide range of experts including Professor Lubo Jankovic of Birmingham City University, a world leader in zero carbon design and the developer of the computer model; Sandy Greenhill architect with Vivid Architects who had designed the exciting house; and from ecology and landscape design specialists to ensure that there was no harm to the area.  

He concluded that the proposal to offset the total amount of construction and lifetime carbon was particularly unusual and commented that this home could be used to inform future zero carbon design more generally. 

“It has always been our dream to build a truly unique home which would not only make its mark architecturally, but which would also boast the very best in eco-friendly credentials.  We were, therefore, disappointed with the initial decision.

Commenting on the decision to appeal the original planning outcome, Mark Armitage said: 

“Not to be felled at the first fence, however, we decided to appeal the decision and believe our team who joined us in this appeal were pivotal to our success.  Sandy Greenhill of Vivid Architects has a proven track record of impressive green and environmental design and a deep commitment to the adoption of sustainable principles as a driver of the overall design.  

“We are looking forward to the continued relationship with Professor Lubo Jankovic and Birmingham City University as the project unfolds, so that our house will help develop knew architectural principles

“Meanwhile, Niall Blackie and Mark Turner and the team at FBC Manby Bowdler not only advised us every step of the way, but worked with us in true partnership.” 

Mark Turner, solicitor with FBC Manby Bowdler concludes: 

“Whilst wins of this sort continue to be rare, it should be remembered that projects of this scale are similarly rare because of the insistence in the policy on innovative concepts so that only those with true drive to succeed can commit to the process.  Mark and Mandy made sure that they worked with a strong team in what they knew would be a lengthy, complex and potentially risky appeal, but their own personal commitment shone through the whole project.”

With plans for the home now approved, Mark and Mandy plan to complete the design and preparatory stages as soon as possible before starting work on site. 

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