5 Grand Designs built under Paragraph 80

Striking examples of how progressive planning legislation can lead to better homes

By Paisley Tedder | 8 November 2021

Paragraph 80 – formerly known as Paragraph 79 and 55 – is a planning policy that ensures homes built in sensitive areas of open countryside are of exceptional quality.

Part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Paragraph 80 is a response to the reality that, despite the drive to improve design quality, much of the UK’s new housing stock is not only ordinary and homogenous, it also falls short on energy efficiency.

This section of the NPPF sets the bar high for architects, demanding designs of the highest quality, and it has lead to some impressively innovation low-carbon homes – many of which have featured on Grand Designs.

1. The Passivhaus

Featuring on Grand Designs in 2010, Helen and Chris Seymour-Smith’s Passivhaus in the Cotswolds impressed viewers with its pioneering eco-credentials. It was the very first Passivhaus to be certified in England and was known by the couple as Underhill. Not only was it Seymour-Smith Architects‘ first project to have been granted planning permission under Paragraph 80, at the time of the build it was one of only 20 projects across the UK permitted under the special provision.

The then-derelict 300-year-old stone structure sits atop a hill in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Add in the fact that there was a housing moratorium in the area at the time, obtaining planning permission looked unlikely. But thanks to Paragraph 80, this eco-build got the go ahead and remains a Grand Designs favourite.

Watch the episode: Cotswolds, 2010
The Grand Designs Passivhaus transformed this old barn in the Cotswolds

The Seymour-Smiths’ Cotswolds build was the UK’s first Passivhaus. Photo: Chris Tubbs

2. The Eco Arch

Back in 2006, Richard and Sophie Hawkes’ Eco Arch in the Kent countryside benefitted from Paragraph 80. With its unique timbrel arch roof and multitude of cutting-edge eco technologies, it is a building that challenges our preconceptions about how a home should look and demonstrates just how sustainable new builds can be.

The gravity-defying project aired on Grand Designs in 2009, with Kevin McCloud calling it ‘heroic’. Richard, who has always been passionate about sustainability, went on to start his own architecture practice specialising in Paragraph 80 builds. Check out some of his impressive projects – many of which have also featured on TV – at hawkesarchitecture.co.uk.

Watch the episode, Weald of Kent Revisit

Kevin McCloud called this innovative build ‘heroic’. Photo: Jefferson Smith