Words – Will Foster

Originally posted in the Finacial Times.


We have rather a large garden and were wondering what the potential is to develop it with a small bungalow for our retirement home?

Jacob Rothchild commissioned the architectural practice Skene Catling de la Peña to design a house within his estate in Buckinghamshire, which wont the RIBA House of the Year in 2015. The Flint House proved to be a brilliant example of the new-build home within the countryside, celebrating its location and inspirational design.

Very few of us, however, own an estate. A large garden does have possibilities, providing you with an excellent opportunity to design a home tailored to your needs, arising from the particular time of your life.

Have no doubt that it is a very sensitive form of development. You would be wise, therefore, to engage an experienced architect or planning consultant to get initial feedback on the development potential.

A good architect will conduct in-depth research into the area to develop clear design vision, which will eventually be shared with your neighbours and the wider community as part of the planning process.

From my own experience, a successful design needs to show a high degree of integrity and sensitivity to the concerns of your neighbours while still complying with the local authority’s planning policies. Key concerns will be the amenities of surrounding properties in respect to the loss of daylight, overshadowing, or overlooking, ie. loss of privacy.

Having lived at your property, you will have a good grasp of the state of the garden and the surrounding landscape, and such knowledge will work to your advantage, for you will need to demonstrate how your design will improve the setting and the biodiversity of the location.

Your garden needs to be of sufficient scale to accommodate a bungalow while also retaining sufficient garden area for your current house. Importantly final design will need to have access from the road.

Between yourself and your architect, your garden may reveal a capacity for your dream retirement home. Key to success will be conducting the right preparatory work and exploring the potential appropriate to context.