DC Casebook: Housing: New build - Underground home fails exceptions test

An inspector has dismissed plans for an underground house in Essex after ruling that sustainability benefits claimed in support of the scheme would not outweigh harm to the countryside.

The house was to be completely underground with a sunken courtyard onto which various rooms would face. The appellant accepted that the scheme involved the construction of a new dwelling in an isolated location. However, he relied on paragraph 11 of PPS7, which states that very occasionally a dwelling of exceptional quality and innovative design may be permitted provided special justification has been demonstrated. It would require less energy to heat due to the thermal insulation of the ground and recycled materials would be used wherever possible, he claimed.

The inspector noted that these claims were aspirational and found little evidence that they would be realised. Energy-efficient measures such as water recycling were becoming more common in new development, she observed. She concluded that the appellant had failed to demonstrate that the house would be truly outstanding or significantly enhance its immediate setting. She also voiced concern that it would encourage unsustainable travel patterns.

DCS Number 100-058-224

Inspector Susan Heywood; Written representations.

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