Lots of people like the idea of building a house in the back of their garden. Because it can make them money, or because they would like somewhere for family members to live without having to buy a whole new property, or maybe because they love the location but want a smaller house.
Councils’ attitudes towards people doing this vary massively: some councils encourage it, others are firmly against it, and some sit in between. In most cases, neighbours will object to the idea on principle, so you need to be able to both reassure them when you can and demonstrate to the local authority that they are taking an unjustified position when you can’t.
In this case, we were taken on after a previous attempt to get permission on the site had stalled. The task was to come up with a design that made the most of a very small space and respected both the neighbours’ and the future occupants’ right to light and privacy.
There was also a twist: while a common problem with garden developments is a lack of access, here we were replacing a garage so there was an existing entrance from the road… but the council didn’t think it was safe for cars to go in and out of.
Changing times can change the prospects of some sites. Here, the push away from car journeys in The London Plan 2021 meant we could propose a car-free development. That did two important things: it took away the highway safety headache while freeing up more room for indoor and outdoor space in the new house.
We knew that the council had a positive attitude towards contemporary design. This is often crucial for projects on difficult sites: attempts to replicate the regular shapes of Victorian or 1930s housing are often impossible in confined spaces. But with the freedom to design for the space available, thousands and thousands more homes become possible.
Here that meant we could create an unusual basement, ground-floor and first-floor two-bedroom home. A basement courtyard lets light in and provides outdoor space and the play of levels makes a tiny plot seem so much bigger. As the house rises above ground, it’s designed not to be a bulky or heavy presence in the area. Some windows are angled to avoid overlooking and clever use is made of skylights.
The result is a distinctive addition to the street, one that makes a virtue of its unusual plot and place, rather than trying to pretend that it has always been there. When councils are open to that approach, we should always celebrate it.
We specialise in crafting creative design and planning strategies to unlock the hidden potential of developments, secure planning permission and deliver imaginative projects on tricky sitesWrite us a message