A strikingly contemporary new country mansion in Surrey’s greenbelt has been granted planning approval under the coveted – and recently updated – “country house clause”.
Also known as “Gummer’s Law” after John Gummer MP (now Lord Deben), who introduced it in 1997, the clause allows one-off new-build homes to be built in otherwise off-limits rural locations, so long as they can demonstrate they are “of exceptional quality”, and “truly outstanding, reflecting the highest standards in architecture.”
The latest version of the National Planning Policy Framework, published in July 2021, shifted the clause from Paragraph 79 to Paragraph 80. The gist of the clause remains unchanged, although the word “innovative” has been removed – presumably in accordance with government’s wider push towards more traditionally “beautiful” architecture.
The updated rule allows grand designers “to continue the tradition of the English Country House and landscape”, says London and Cornwall-based architecture practice Eldridge – which has form in remarkable one-off projects (including the Stirling Prize shortlisted The Lawns house in Highgate; House of the Year runner-up House in Highgate Cemetery, and the Manser Medal-winning House in Coombe Park).
The firm’s latest Country House Clause win – the first as Para 80 – has been two years in the making, including a review with the regional design review panel.
Brooklands Farm is located on the edge of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on a former pasture fringed by ancient woodland, agricultural fields and a shallow brook.
The 1,150 square metre home will be zero carbon in use, and involves “significant landscape enhancements” including a hectare of new broadleaf woodland to screen the building, a large pond connected to an existing brook, and a wildflower meadow facing west towards the Surrey Hills.
Eldridge worked with landscape designer Tom Stuart Smith to “strengthen the underlying characteristics of woodland, field and water, forming a tripartite landscape arrangement with the house at its heart”.
Using a palette of limestone and timber, the house is arranged into the landscape following west-east contours to focus southerly views over the new pond. Principal living areas – including kitchen, dining, master bedroom and study – occupy a two-storey wing to the south-east, while guest accommodation and entertaining spaces are in the north wing.
A swimming pool is in its own wing, running between newly-planted oak trees, whilst an outdoor dining terrace sits in a small copse that “mediates the transition from wild meadow to lawn and pond on the eastern side.”
The building will be kitted out with a range of renewables systems, including a seasonal thermal store utilising ground source boreholes, solar thermal heating for the pool, and a 16kW photovoltaic array for electricity generation.
Works are expect to start on site in early 2022.
- Architect – Eldridge London
- Landscape – Tom Stuart Smith
- Building Services / Sustainability – IntegrationUK
- Structure – Entuitive
- Planning Consultant – Planit Consulting