Kate and I live in a charming but small (82m²) cottage in a lovely village in Oxfordshire with our two children. We have owned the house for the best part of a decade and when we purchased it, it came with a one acre site complete with a small single-storey, stable style building. Given the tiny capacity of the main house, we soon appropriated this for utility/laundry facilities and, as my practice grew, we used it as an office.

As time went on and our family grew, the space and possibilities offered by the site became all too apparent as a solution to our space problems. We will be building on the site of the stable element of the property, leaving the cottage as an annexe, ancillary to the main home. This can then be used as an office for my practice (Charlie Luxton Design) and a place to put up guests.

The Plot

The one acre site is not directly attached to the cottage, but accessible over the common land in front. It’s a beautiful bit of land, at the bottom of a gentle valley with a stream running through the middle.

It’s broadly triangular, with the flat bit at the front, and this is where we would like to build the new home, replacing the converted stable and storage building and nestling into the slope, which runs up approximately four metres from the foot of the valley at the stream.

It’s not specially designated – this is open countryside – but the site borders a nature reserve and is obviously outside of any prescribed development boundary. As a result, it’s a very sensitive planning situation.

There are issues around:

  • how much of the site can be devoted to residential curtilage (garden) as opposed to being left to nature;
  • how the stream is dealt with;
  • the impact that any new dwelling would have on the local surrounds;
  • the fate of some particularly charming electricity cables that nestle across the foot of the valley;
  • and of course the access issues into the site itself if this is going to be a viable, comfortable home that works for everyone.

The site is currently home to two existing buildings – a converted stable building that was used as a laundry/utility facility ancillary to the existing cottage and is now used as the main office for my studio staff; and a smaller utilitarian storage building. Neither are big enough to be worthy of conversion into a single dwelling.

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