The Lighthouse, near Frome, Somerset

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Design review helped to win approval for this new dwelling in the countryside. The support of the South West Design Review Panel (SWDRP) emboldened the planning authority to grant consent under a special exemption to justify a new dwelling.

The Site and Scheme Outline - The new dwelling will be on a virgin site in the boundary woodland of Marston Park, a listed historic park. A short distance away is a listed farmhouse, now a guesthouse. This will be enlarged and the current manager’s house there is to be converted to guest rooms, hence the need for a replacement dwelling. 

The wider scheme involved a new, well-screened car park, a re-routed drive, new gardens and courtyard, habitat enhancements, land drainage improvements and associated landscaping works. The setting of the guesthouse and its relationship to the Park will be improved. The new house will form part of the Lighthouse Estate of guesthouse and related facilities, but being in open countryside could be justified in planning terms only as an exemption to normal policy. (paragraph 55 of the national planning policy framework).

The Review Process - The scheme was brought to the Panel at the suggestion of the local authority who wanted an expert opinion on whether the design was of sufficient merit to justify an exemption. The review, preceded by a site visit and involving a multi-disciplinary panel of three, had two stages. James U’Dell, the relevant Case Officer at Mendip District Council, attended the first meeting. The client and design team modified their proposals following the Panel’s advice about allowing the landscape to sweep up to the new house, the clarity of the house design, and portraying the wide range of benefits the scheme as a whole would bring.

‘The clear guidance provided by the SWDRP enabled us to ascertain whether the scheme was truly innovative or exceptional in order to comply with Paragraph 55. It was clear from their support that there were exceptional circumstances for the creation of this isolated dwelling in a location where development is strictly controlled.’
James U’Dell - Senior Planner Mendip District Council

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