Paragraph 55 House – Let me explain how it is possible to get permission in the countryside


Paragraph 55 House – Have you heard about this clause? Are you trying to gain planning permission outside the building boundary? Therefore, let me explain to you exactly how the planning clause within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) works? And could applying for a paragraph 55 house be a possibility to help you gain planning on a plot outside the building boundary? 

Because every city, town and village has a building envelope/boundary and everything inside that boundary is within the building envelope or probably likey for approval (depending on the circumstances) Maybe, imagine, for example, that you drew a circle round a village, for this example and everything within that circle is within village envelope or boundary, so therefore planning is usually granted. Anything outside of that area is classed as countryside and therefore against planning policy. It’s not necessarily a circle, but hopefully you understand my example. 

A Paragraph 55 House is defined as

Local Planning Authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are exceptional circumstances such as: 

The exceptional quality or innovative nature of the design of the dwelling. 

Such a design should:

Be truly outstanding or innovative, helping to raise the standards of design more generally in rural areas;

Reflect the highest standards in architecture;

Significantly enhance its immediate setting; and

Be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.

Paragraph 55 of the NPPF was updated in July 2018 to Paragraph 79. It now states…. 

Planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:

e) the design is of exceptional quality, in that it:

  • is truly outstanding or innovative, reflecting the highest standards in architecture, and would help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas; and
  • would significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.

Therefore the wording is almost the same, except they have removed the word “special” and because “special” can be defined in many different ways, by different people. Maybe it is possible to get planning for a Paragraph 55 House in the countryside? 

It is as we did it! 


This is our house design that gaining us planning permission outside the building boundary….

Our planning permission was granted in 2013. We had hurdles we had to overcome to get planning and our first design was refused for not being exceptional enough. We came back with an amazing new architect, Ian Hunter of Hunter Architects who understands all the planning policies. Our house was an infill plot, which did help matters, but it was still outside the building boundary and therefore against policy. 

We have been told that planning for a paragraph 55 house would cost us up to £200,000.00 and take around 18 months. Ian’s fees were more in the region of a brand new car and took 5 months from the first phone call to planning being granted. 

Paragraph 55 house – Simple steps – Our Guide

Find a great architect who understands planning policy, not just draws house designs

  • Speak with your local councillor as he or she has the power to request that your design is discussed at a planning committee. 


  • Work together to create a unique design. Obviously, it has to be something amazing. Eco/ sustainable houses are a huge plus point. I was told, that the councils love green roofs. Being a self-builder also helps, rather than a developer. Increasing the wildlife is also a plus point. 


  • Speak with your local parish councillors and explain your ideas and why you want planning. Remember these are people with thoughts and feelings. I think that if you are coming from a genuine point of view, this will be apparent. 


  • Speak to neighbours and people within your village so that they can submit positive comments on your planning application once it is live on the portal. As many positive comments as possible will all help. 


  • Have CGI’s (computer generated images) made up of your design? Our house on a PDF plan does not look impressive at all. The CGI helps the committee members to see the plan better as they are not usually architecturally trained. 


  • Assuming that you are going to a planning committee meeting. You can submit additional information to them prior to the hearing. I made up a PDF leaflet of our paragraph 55 house design and why planning should be granted. It is not allowed if you approach a few committee members with information, but if you request that all members have the same information, that is allowed. So I sent it a week before to our planning department and asked them to pass it on to the all the planning committee members. 


  • You get 3 minutes to speak at the planning committee meeting. Use this time wisely. It is the only time that you get to speak (and I was shaking) Explain your design and basically every reason why you should be given planning permission that you can think of. Because you couldn’t afford a house like this normally, does not work. Do they care if you can afford it or not? They are looking from the point of view of… How can you justify a dwelling outside the building boundary (and in the open countryside) when it is against policy?

In contrast, planning is a funny thing that divides people. Maybe we were lucky that we had a lot of support regarding our planning application. Furthermore, remember that you are dealing with real people throughout. Above all, speak to them like real people and if you are coming from a genuine stance, seems like that shines through. Your voice can only be heard through an architect, so choosing the correct one makes a huge difference. 

You do not have to get the parish council to like your plan or get neighbours to like it also. It all helps your case. The less negative points there are to your proposal, the fewer arguments the council have against your proposal. It is already against policy if you are outside the building boundary, which is a huge hurdle in itself. My point of view is not to give the council more ammo against you. 

Check your application regulary

It is the best practice to regularly check your planning application. Any comments raised can be addressed immediately. Our first application was refused for a few reasons. One of these being that we did not state that we would protect the trees at the front of the property. These had Tree Preservation Order on them (TPO’s) Naively, we submitted a 21 page, £500 arboricultural tree report, which gave every detail of the tree’s and how to care for them. Separately, we did not state, that it was our intentions to follow the report…. so therefore, the council rejected our proposal on the grounds that the development would result in loss or deterioration in the quality of natural features including trees. 

Lesson learnt the hard way and we submitted the exact same the report second time around and stated that we would follow the guidelines and it was not an issue. 

Do not make any assumptions. From that experience, I literally leave no stone unturned and I direct all my information as if I am talking to a child or a person that knows nothing about the planning process. Therefore, there can be no grey areas, although with the right architect, who should also be a planning consultant, this is their job and I can not fault Ian Hunter, as he left no stone unturned and he has now gained planning permission for a few Paragraph 55 houses. 

The Home Building and Renovation website has a good article on Paragraph 55 Homes

Thank You for reading.... we are 

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