Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework allows isolated new houses in the countryside only under very narrow and strict criteria. So-called Paragraph 55 houses are permitted if they can demonstrate the exceptional quality or innovative nature of their design. In such cases the design should be truly outstanding or innovative, reflect the highest standards in architecture, significantly enhance the immediate setting of the proposed house, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the area.

Architects, their clients and local authorities have worked successfully with the Design South East Panel to consider proposed new Paragraph 55 houses, tapping into the panel’s huge expertise and experience to allow them to fully consider whether the difficult test laid out in Paragraph 55 has been met.

The Forest House is a Paragraph 55 house in rural Hampshire by Glenn Howells Architects. The small 2-bedroom house occupies a woodland site in the South Downs National Park, and is elevated on stilts to allow the forest floor to flow uninterrupted beneath. The Design South East Panel conducted two reviews at the request of the client, who valued the expertise the panel was able to provide in order to persuade the local planning authority that the proposed house met the rigorous criteria of Paragraph 55. The Panel examined the scheme in great detail through two design review meetings – both on site and at the design team’s offices.