Ambitious plans to build Georgian-inspired state-of-the-art grand country house are rejected by Ribble Valley Borough Council

A local couple’s ambitious plans to build a state of the art grand country house have been rejected by Ribble Valley Borough Council.

By Fiona Finch
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 2:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 11:41 pm

Michael and Liz Bell wanted to build a new home called Hodder Grange on a greenfield site to the south of the listed Higher Hodder Bridge on Chipping Road, Chaigley, near Longridge.

The proposed Hodder Valley property was inspired by Georgian architecture, but also would be “a house for the future” due to its advanced and pioneering inbuilt energy efficiency. There were hopes it could in time have become a listed building itself.

But Ribble Valley Council was not impressed. It said the proposal, which had attracted four letters in support and four against, was a “pastiche” of a Georgian country house without “distinction or invention” and lacked the context of a traditional country estate.

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The proposed Hodder Grange development

In a statement accompanying their application the couple detailed how they purchased the field at auction in 2015 as the “perfect addition to the home they had restored, the nearby Manor Farm. They said they wished to create “an exceptional family home” on the new land and added: “We wanted to contribute to the rich history of the area, creating a home for our family and future generations.”

But it was also, they emphasised, designed to be an environmentally sound “ house for the future”. Their statement outlined how the property had drawn on a mutual passion for Georgian architecture in their bid to create “a Georgian family home of manageable proportions” and local fine houses had been used as “precedent studies”.

A detailed 55-page ‘Country House Report’ presented to the council contained photos and drawings of numerous grand Lancashire properties ranging from Read Hall and Browsholme Hall to Standen Hall, Quernmore Park, Newton Hall and Rufford New Hall.

Rejecting the plans the council said the proposal was in direct conflict with its Core Strategy which rules out residential development in open countryside unless certain tests are met.

The application had argued that it fulfilled relevant criteria including being energy efficient to pioneering standards and being of exceptional quality – the latter points relevant in the National Planning Policy Framework allowing development where it would otherwise be rejected.

However the council rejected these claims and said “Notwithstanding the fundamental matters of principle with regard to “isolation” the proposed development is not considered to represent truly outstanding design.”

The council’s Decision Notice said: “The design is a pastiche of Georgian Architecture with no distinction or invention and the inclusion of energy efficient features within a new build properties is not considered to represent outstanding design. The dwelling would lack the context of a traditional country estate which would have evolved through a set of specific economic and social circumstances.”

The council added that it would fundamentally change the local landscape.

The council was also concerned about proposed entrance saying: “The site lies directly adjacent to Grade II listed Higher Hodder Bridge … The formation of ornate entrance gates in the immediate setting will draw the focus away from the bridge and detract from its significance.”

It concluded: “It is considered that the proposal would constitute harm to the wider setting of the nearby listed historic houses, the immediate setting of the bridge and the cultural heritage of the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) which is not outweighed by public benefit.”

There were also concerns over site access and highway safety.

The agent for the application James Ellis, a planning director at Rural Solutions in Skipton, said: “Together with the applicants we are very disappointed with the outcome of the planning application. This zero carbon house house was to be the first Passive House Plus (highly energy efficient build standard) in the North West and the first traditionally designed house built to this standard, anywhere in the world. Over 1.4ha of new woodland planting was proposed, resulting in a 609.2% biodiversity net gain across the site.

“The plans for Hodder Grange were assessed by an independent design review panel from the Royal Institute of British Architects to be of ‘exceptional quality’ and described its sustainability credentials as ‘a significant, exceptional and innovative departure from the norm’.

“It is very surprising and disappointing that planning officers have not seen the merit in delivering an exceptional quality design which would have formed an important precedent in how its possible to build in a sustainable way, whilst also being in keeping with the building traditions of a local area. Had they supported the application, it is felt there is a strong likelihood that Hodder Grange would have become a listed building at some point in the future.”