April 27th, 2020

Proposals for a single dwelling located on an 11acre plot of land to the south of Riding Mill, have led to over 90 people taking part in an online community consultation*.

Fold House, a climate positive home, has been designed around a combination of innovative technologies which could lead to a change in the way that new homes are built in the future, once data from its energy efficient design has been shared and reviewed.

Its location, as a proposed single dwelling set in green belt confers on it the description of being a ‘Paragraph 79’ house within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

This is a designation given to isolated homes in the countryside and as such, designs require very special circumstances for them to gain approval by the planning authorities.

The utmost care and attention to detail together with a commitment to adhering to planning policy has already seen the plans reviewed by the North East Design Review Panel, an independent, multidisciplinary panel of experts who provide impartial and constructive feedback on design proposals for architects, clients and local authorities before a formal planning application is submitted. 

In the case of Fold House, the design quality and sustainability of the proposals have been assessed twice and given an exemplary rating – feedback which has given architect, Neil Turner of Howarth Litchfield, and his clients, Tom and Faye Sweeney from Stocksfield, the confidence to take the proposals through to a full planning application.

Mr Turner is no stranger to the area, living in his own award-winning home in Riding Mill. He was delighted to be approached by Tom, a mechanical and electrical engineer (M&E) specialising in sustainable design to design a revolutionary, environmentally sustainable home for him and his family,

The proposal builds upon the ecology of the site with increased use of the reed beds and natural hedges found there, while the immediate environment has been carefully designed to preserve and enhance the wildlife and natural contours of the land.

“The brief was to create a fabulous, new environmentally friendly house – a beautiful piece of architecture and highly sustainable in its energy consumption”, explained Mr Turner. “It is rare to come across such visionary clients. As a highly experienced M&E consultant himself, Tom wishes to use existing and leading-edge technologies to achieve this.

“The design will make use of high levels of insulation to reduce energy demand and generate heat and electricity on site for its own use. In fact, it will use an earth battery system of storing heat in the ground during the summer months for re-use in the winter and thanks to other energy saving design features such as photovoltaic panels, solar thermal panels and a wind turbine, it will use less energy than it generates.

A key point of Paragraph 79 houses is that they must be remote. In this case, Fold House, sits discreetly at the high point of the site, about 570m from the village of Riding Mill.

Mr Turner continued:  “Great efforts have been made to ensure the position of Fold House is natural within the landscape, evoking the shape and layouts of a Northumbrian farmstead, interrupted into a modern form with a series of metal barns sitting upon natural stone walls.

“The home wraps around a courtyard for the garaging and outbuildings to create a private garden and entrance whilst shielding the outside fields. It uses the heat of the sun to heat the internal walls,

“You could say it is a modern home for the 21st century but rooted within the context of its surroundings.”

Commenting on the project, the local family added:  “We would like to thank all those who have taken the time to provide feedback on the designs. Gaining planning permission for developing in the green belt is very complicated and there are only four special circumstances where it can be granted. In this case, we are seeking approval under the heading of ‘a dwelling of exceptional quality or innovative in its nature of design’.

“Thanks to the combined expertise of the design team, as well as a great deal of involvement with the Design Review Panel, we feel confident the design sets a new benchmark for Northumberland with our innovative Active Home philosophy.

“Additionally, we will be sharing the energy performance data with three universities and after analysis, if the results are favourable, this design approach could be rolled out across new homes built in the future.”

Fold House is a standalone development. It does not increase the likelihood of any further development on fields nearby, which will continue to be protected by Green Belt legislation.

There is currently no decision as to when the full planning application will be lodged.

*An alternative approach to holding a public exhibition had to be found due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposals have therefore been reviewed virtually through a planning portal hosted by the planning consultants, Cundall, for a two-week period commencing 4 April.