Neil and Fiona Blackley’s ambitious new home on a sensitive site is the story of a troubled project, hard-won planning battles and, above all, an exceptional design.

The resulting home is a brilliant example of stylish eco design, and is a lesson in designing a house to perfectly suit its location.

The Blackleys’ house made it on to the shortlist of the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2013, and was highly commended in the Residential Design category.

The Project

  • Name: Neil and Fiona Blackley
  • Build cost: £3,597/m²
  • Build time: 2 years 2 months
  • Location: Hampshire

The Site

The couple owned a run down cottage set in four acres, on a sloping site in Hampshire. Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the cottage enjoyed beautiful views over to the Devil’s Punchbowl.

The historic cottage had an interesting history (mentioned in William Cobbett’s Rural Rides), but had undergone a significant modern-style extension in the 1950s, and was unlisted.

The Brief

The Blackleys appointed Bath based architectural practice CaSA to design their home. They requested adequate living space for their family, and also wanted their rebuild to make the most of the stunning views. The home had to be energy efficient and make use of the latest smart technology.

Another important factor, was the inclusion of a therapy suite for their daughter who has Angelman Syndrome. This was built on a lower ground floor level.

The Design

Being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it was essential for the exterior to compliment the home’s surroundings. To do this the house was built into the slope to conceal part of its bulk. They also rebuilt the original cottage complete with knapped flint facade and thatched roof.

Much of the contemporary part of the home sits on the site of the 1950s extension. Part-flint roundhouse, part-angular larch clad structure, the ‘extension’ nestles into the landscape and marries well with the old parts of the building — aided by use of local materials and organic lines.

Therapy Suite

As well as plant rooms for the home’s renewable technology, the ground floor houses a large therapy suite and other facilities for their daughter. This includes an easy-access swimming pool, sensory room, and there is also an additional guest bedroom.


Although the pool has been built with therapy in mind, light and style have not been overlooked


Planning consultant, Martin Leay, helped Fiona and Neil navigate the planning system. Initial talks with the planning department were incredibly frustrating, and their project looked unlikely until changes to Permitted Development were announced in 2008.

In the approved plans the original cottage was to be replaced with a like-for-like structure, and the extension to the 1950s section was covered under Permitted Development rules.

The Build

Neil was a very diligent client, scouring balance sheets and researching the processes. But even the most prepared can be tripped up by the rigmarole of the building industry, so it is not something Neil would want to repeat in a hurry.

A combination of bats, and project consultants and quantity surveyors going bust meant the build ended up being way over the initial budget. This contributed to lengthening the build schedule.

Another factor was the complexity of the site. The ground is a mix of clay and chalk so piled foundations were required. There was also the requirement of major excavations so that they could build into the sloping site.

Smart technology including an automated light system, and plumbing for the various power/heat sources were also built into the design. This created the issue of co-ordinating various work teams to ensure things were properly installed, integrated and hidden.


Large sliding doors provide an uninterrupted view of the landscape


The Blackleys wanted to be sure their home was as sustainable as possible. This meant a fabric first approach from CaSA who designed a highly insulated steel and blockwork structure, with outstanding levels of airtightness. On top of this they specified the following eco-technologies to heat and power their home:

  • Ground source heat pump
  • Air source heat pump
  • Solar photovoltaic panels
  • Thermal solar power
  • Woodburning stoves
  • Passive ventilation system

The home has three plant rooms for the service of all their tech kit. They have installed a back-up generator too.

Although the project was gruelling, the family now have a comfortable, stylish and exceedingly high tech home, perfectly suited to their needs. It has also been designed to enjoy the amazing views to the south which attracted them to the site in the first place.

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