Converting a business development into three separate dwellings


Project Background

Having been vacillating for some time this client contacted us because he’d seen our case studies about some of the many complex sites and planning applications we work on.

His site used to be a retail nursery, but the business ceased trading many years ago. Being in open countryside, Green Belt and outside of any settlement boundary, there would need to be sound justification for development of the site.

Planning policy sets out to protect the Green Belt from development. However, in some cases it is possible to demonstrate that development of a given site would improve the amenity of the countryside.

Because of the sensitive nature of the site it would be important to develop a scheme that didn’t only focus on the house designs but also on ecological and landscaping improvements and a site layout that enhances the Green Belt.

The objective is to create a family home for the owner and two smaller houses for sale to help fund the development of the site and make it viable.

The House

One of the key design principles is to create a scheme that emulates a collection of farm buildings around a courtyard. The existing farmhouse on the site will be part of that collection. The different forms of house for each of the plots gives a sense that the cluster of buildings has evolved over time.

Plot 1 is a generous 4-bedroom house with kitchen, living and garden rooms on the ground floor along with a utility room and home office. Upstairs the master bedroom has an ensuite and dressing room, one other bedroom has an ensuite and two further bedrooms share a family bathroom. This house will be for our client.

Plot 2 is very different to plot 1 with two bedrooms on the ground floor, both with ensuites and ideal for lifetime living. The open plan kitchen, living and dining area sits between the two bedrooms. Stairs lead to a first-floor mezzanine guest bedroom.

Plot 3 is another 4-bedroom house, again with open plan kitchen, living and dining space on the ground floor along with an integrated garage. The first floor accommodates a master bedroom with ensuite with a single and two double bedrooms sharing a family bathroom.

The current proposal is that the houses will have a mix of brick and timber cladding under clay tile roofs. However, all these details with be subject to conditions of the planning approval.


Following a reasonably positive Pre-Planning Application we agreed with the client to make an Outline Application for three dwellings on the site. An Outline Application generally carries less cost for the client in the preparation of designs and supporting documentation. In this case it was considered a useful next step to help establish the likelihood of a successful Full Planning Application before more costs were incurred.

The Outline Application led to further conversations with the planning officer and informed the next stage of design of the scheme. However, the planning officer also advised that without more detailed information a determination of the application would be difficult.

Following the planning officer’s advice, we withdrew the Outline Application, and a Full Planning Application has now been submitted.

Whilst this process can appear drawn out it has helped the client make informed decisions about the level of financial investment he has made, as each stage of the process has given him increased confidence in the likelihood of a positive outcome.

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The Complete Oak Home offer something rather different, not oak frame manufacturers but oak frame experts who design & build oak frame homes. 


The one thing that has enabled us to progress is I believe finding a company that is prepared to partner with us from the very beginning and take us through planning, design/costing, tendering and build through to completion (or to any stage along the way). The Complete Oak Home offers us a way of achieving our dream by undertaking those tasks for us. 


We have both had a good look at the designs and we absolutely love them. It hugely exceeds our expectations and for this we are truly thankful of your superbly impressive work! We are so excited to think that this could be ours - you are very talented indeed.


To find out more about our client-led approach to design, have a read of our blog posts on bespoke architecture, designing from a blank canvas and our client lifestyle briefing process.

If you would like to speak to our Project Consultant, Alan Chilton-Bates, and have a FREE phone consultation about your project, please call 01249 479896.