Providing Outstanding Innovation with Paragraph 79 Houses

We have recently been working on planning applications and designs for Paragraph 79 houses, providing clients with bespoke buildings fit for ‘Grand Designs‘. But what is Paragraph 79 and how can it be used to enable some of the most innovative designs in some of the most incredible parts of the country? 

Paragraph 79 allows the possibility to build an innovative home on a piece of land that would otherwise be unsuitable for development, and in so doing, to commission and own a bespoke piece of architecture.

Paragraph 79 (former paragraph 55) refers to a specific section of the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) relating to building new isolated homes in the open countryside. In July 2018, the government updated the NPPF and the ‘Paragraph 55’ (or ‘Para 55’) policy changed in name to ‘Paragraph 79’, however the content within remains the same. If there was ever a part of a planning policy that could be described as truly ‘interesting’, then Paragraph 79 of the NPPF would certainly be a forerunner.

For a client, this allows the possibility to build an innovative home on a piece of land that would otherwise be unsuitable for development, and in so doing, to commission and own a bespoke piece of architecture.The majority of national planning policy is strongly weighted against development in open countryside. For example, the network of green belts were established to prevent urban sprawl, limiting rural development to agricultural uses. Para 79 is an exemption clause within the NPPF that leaves open a route within planning policy for landowners hoping to build their own home.

An update of ‘Gummers Law’ and the old ‘PPS7’, ‘Para 79’ recognises the long tradition of English countryside homes, but with a new twist of innovation. It declares that local planning authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are ‘special circumstances’ such as the exceptional quality or innovative nature of the proposal.


The most relevant of the circumstances to architectural design is the 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.

We are currently defending against a recommended Refusal of Planning Permission for one such house – the council members and residents have no objection to the fact that the building would indeed be innovative and fit in with the local landscape, however we’re hesitant about the location of the proposed building. 

Paragraph 79 houses have to provide the ‘highest standards in architecture’ and be ‘sensitive to the defining characteristics’; the value attached to the natural landscape means that each proposal must stand up to rigorous testing against each of these phrases. As such, the roadmap for gaining planning permission for such a scheme is often difficult to navigate. 

We are very pleased with our recent successes with Paragraph 79 homes, especially that the local council to the previously mentioned scheme acknowledges that the building is indeed outstanding and innovative. We can help design and plan for such Paragraph 79 homes, as well as offering many other services to clients. Please contact us for more information and to arrange a consultation; you can also find us across social media on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  

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