An appeal has been allowed for a mirror-clad home next door to a RIBA award-winning project in Warwickshire.

The proposal was submitted under Paragraph 79 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which states under point (e):

“the design is of exceptional quality, in that it:

– is truly outstanding or innovative, reflecting the highest standards in architecture, and would help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas; and

– would significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.”

The proposal is also located next the ‘Ghost House’ which was a RIBA prize winner in 2019 for the West Midlands area.

A formal pre-application was undertaken with the Local Authority during which it was confirmed that the council “did not have any in-house design review capability“. The appellant consulted West Midlands design review board MADE, which supported the appellant’s “pursuit of architecture of the highest quality“. It called the design “not only sensitive but completely responsive to the unique characteristics of the site” commenting on its “delightful sculptural quality“. It recommended various amendments to the application which the appellant subsequently incorporated prior to the appeal.

Despite this the council still refused planning permission. It stated that the proposal was not eligible to be considered under NPPF Paragraph 79 because Moreton Paddox was a “small scale settlement” and not an open countryside location. It also argued that the scheme was “not of exceptional design quality” nor “innovative“.

The appointed Planning Inspector, Brendan Lyons, agreed that in respect of the Court of Appeal’s ‘Braintree judgement’, the site could not be considered part of the open countryside. However, he added, “irrespective of the site’s status, design quality is an important consideration of the appeal“, noting that MADE had “confidently supported [the scheme]” as meeting the requirements of NPPF Paragraph 79.

The council accepted that the proposal would be “high quality, intelligent and responsive“, but considered that it would not be “truly outstanding and innovative“, placing emphasis on the word ‘truly’ as “an indicator of a particularly high bar in terms of quality“. However, Lyons noted, the word ‘truly’ does not appear in the relevant NPPF paragraph, nor in the council’s own adopted policies.

The council’s evidence for concluding that the design was not innovative or outstanding was “not borne out“, he ruled, and there was no evidence that the scheme’s proximity to the existing Ghost House would impact the design quality of either project. Concluding that there were “specific considerations” that outweighed the project’s conflict with the council’s spatial policy, he allowed the appeal.

19 December 2019