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Paragraph 79

Everything you should know about Paragraph 79 | The Q & A

October 16, 2020

Andrew Sadler

Sustainability and building compliance expert. Specialising in low energy design, SAP, SBEM, BREEAM, and air testing for the construction industry,

Andrew Sadler

Paragraph 79 is the criteria and circumstances outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework that allow new, isolated homes to be built in the countryside. Here we answer all your questions about this intricate policy.

One of the most common questions we are asked here at Buildpass is how a home can tick and pass Paragraph 79 criterion.

Which is no surprise, really. Creating your own beautiful, innovative home in the middle of nowhere is a dream for so many (including us!). The problem is, there are a fair few hoops to jump through before you get to that point.

We’ve spoken before about Paragraph 79; what it is and who it applies to. But, at your request, we wanted to take things a step further with a handy Q & A. We hope it gives you a deeper insight into the world of Paragraph 79 so that you can be in the best possible position to make your ideal home a reality!

Q: What is Paragraph 79?

Paragraph 79 (previously Paragraph 55) is a clause in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that enables isolated homes to be built in the countryside IF they are of exceptional quality and design.

Q: What do they mean by ‘exceptional design’?

The homes should be innovative in their structure and design; they need to be of the highest architectural standard. They should also help to raise the standards of design overall in rural areas, enhance the immediate setting (and slot seamlessly into it) while being sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local space.

Q: What common factors stop a home from getting Paragraph 79 approval?

The main thing that stops a home from gaining Paragraph 79 approval is when the design focuses purely inwards, ignoring the surrounding landscape. This is a big hurdle, as the design MUST improve or work perfectly with the local environment. For this reason, many of the successful bids have enlisted a landscape architect to support them with the design.

Q: Can any type of building development apply for Paragraph 79 approval?

No – you must be a dwelling of exceptional quality and innovative design, an agricultural worker’s dwelling or through the reuse of a farm building or heritage asset (listed building).

Q: Should I consult with the local community?

YES! This can help strengthen your chances of success. You should open up a dialogue with the local community and planning authority prior to putting any designs forward; the more people you can get on side, the better.

Q: Will the process cost me a lot of money?

It can, and early articles on Paragraph 55 (before it moved into Paragraph 79) would warn people that they should be ready to invest a substantial amount of money if they wanted a chance of gaining planning permission. This can often still be the case, however if you employ the right support network and contractors you can actually end up with a much lower figure (and a better chance of passing).

Q: What are my chances of success?

We’re afraid this is an impossible one to answer – there is no blueprint for passing Paragraph 79 as each building and its location is truly unique. The process is not for the faint hearted as permissions will frequently not be granted. You must be prepared to work extensively with your design and support team, the planning authorities and all of your wider stakeholders. 

Q: What is your one piece of advice for Paragraph 79 homes?

Be flexible – the chances are, even if your permissions are granted, you will not be looking at the exact same build that you designed in the first place. You should be ready to accommodate local and planning concerns and be realistic about what is possible.

Q: Can Buildpass help me with the Paragraph 79 process?

Yes! Buildpass can offer support right across the sustainability and energy landscape to provide a home that is well designed, environmentally friendly, warm and efficient to run. We provide input on building methods for low embodied carbon design, ecological enhancing and Passivhaus standard building fabric performance. 

We are here to help you decide on the most suitable and cutting edge on site energy generation for an ultra low energy home.

Although the journey to pass Paragraph 79 can be a challenging one, the end result can be life-changing, while improving architectural standards for generations to come. To find out more about how we can help you on this path, contact a member of the Buildpass team.

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