Grand designing your way to rural living

By Sally Ormiston | 11.04.24

Many aspire to living a rural life, but what does it take to achieve this dream? Our Head of Consulting looks at the opportunities for self-build and country homes in Yorkshire.

A home in the countryside is the dream of many, with more open space and a slower pace of life among the aspirations of those longing to live in the countryside. It's a dream, however, that can be tough to realise.

"With almost 40 percent of Yorkshire designated as either a National Park or National Landscape where restrictions are even greater, it’s not hard to see how demand outstrips supply."

Affordability is a major problem in rural housing. North Yorkshire, for example, is one of the least affordable areas for housing outside the South of England. In some areas of the region, residents would need to pay up to 10 times their annual salary to afford a home and rental properties are scarce due to second homes and holiday lets. This leaves many priced out of rural living.

Aside affordability, planning is the other main issue that affects the supply of rural homes, and an urban centric planning policy and stricter development controls means that far fewer homes are built in rural areas.

‘Build it yourself’ as a route to rural living

For those with the vision, determination, and resources however, ‘self-build’ may be a viable route to that rural living dream. Self-build refers to building your own home, to your own design specification. This includes new build homes, as well as conversion of existing buildings. The latter having become somewhat easier in rural areas with ‘permitted development’ rights allowing the conversion of former agricultural buildings into rural dwellings in certain circumstances.

At one end of the spectrum, self-build can be an affordable way to a country home with savvy schemes, often on infill sites – pockets of undeveloped land within settlements, typically saving 20 to 40 percent compared to investing in a comparable new home.

One example of an innovative self-build project we’re currently working on with an all women team in South Norfolk is described in more detail here.

Creating a new individual country home

At the other end are ‘grand design’ country homes – usually on a larger scale and situated in open countryside. Whilst often more desirable, homes on such sites are far harder to achieve with planning policy restricting such development in all but exceptional circumstances. There is however a means to achieve this through the so called ‘country house clause’ introduced to national planning policy in 1995.

Initially introduced to enable the continuation of the traditional English country house, by allowing new ‘stately homes’ to be built in countryside, ‘Paragraph 84e’ of the National Planning Policy Framework presents the opportunity to build on isolated sites that sit away from existing settlements. To be considered suitable, proposed homes must demonstrate exceptional quality with the bar for architectural and landscape merit being set extremely high. Replacing an existing country home is also a possibility, but again the design merit is key.

Read about some of the individual country home projects we’ve worked on here.

Outstanding architectural and landscape design

Such homes do not necessarily need to be grand in scale but do need to demonstrate the highest standards in architecture, be sensitive to local character and landscape and significantly enhance their immediate setting. Whilst becoming trickier to achieve, around 20 such country homes have been approved in Yorkshire with several more proposed so if a home with true architectural merit is something that appeals, it may well be the route to building the country life.

Get in touch

If you have a vision for a new distinctive home in the countryside, we can help you to make this a reality. Contact the team by emailing for an initial chat.

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