Finchingfield in Essex has been called the most beautiful village in England.
A “picture-postcard” village and one of the most photographed, with a duck
pond and village green surrounded by Georgian and medieval cottages; St
John the Baptist Church on the hill; an eighteenth-century windmill; three
public houses; Post Office; tea rooms; a hall; a primary school; and a
doctor’s surgery. It often appears in television programmes, films, and
commercials, as well as on chocolate boxes, biscuit tins, and other products.
Finchingfield has a designated Conservation Area in which some buildings
date back to the14th century. The Conservation area comprises much of the
historic core of the village and contains a number of Grade 11 listed
So it was a challenge, an honour and a great responsibility to design a
scheme of 50 new dwellings, landscape, open space and associated
infrastructure at the edge of this very special village. Working with Phase 2
Planning, James Blake Associates, and Intermodal, we created a well
considered landscape-led proposal which successfully achieved outline
planning permission in December (on appeal) and maintained our track
record of 100 % planning success.
The sloping site lies to the south of Finchingfield and the development will
form a new gateway to the village and form an interface between open
countryside and the existing settlement.
The illustrative layout shows dispersed housing at the edges and a
traditional streetscape in the centre with buildings directly fronting the
street. There is open space and a pond at the entrance to the site and
informal green swathes (characteristic of the edge of village landscape
found in this part of Essex) around which the new housing is arranged.
There is a network of footpaths connecting the new development to the
The indicative street scenes show traditional architecture reflecting some of
the characteristics of buildings found in the village, such as 50 degree roof
pitches, uneven and undulating ridges, and projecting jetties and gables.
Windows are sash or casement and materials include pastel coloured
render and plain tiled roofs. Black painted weatherboarding is proposed on
garages and cart lodges. The key buildings are shown as typically orange-
red brick with tiled or slate roofs to reflect the 18th century buildings in
The most up to date guidance on the design of a development is contained
within the recent National Planning Policy Framework July 2018. In this,
paragraph 124 confirms that the Government considers the creation of
high-quality buildings and places to be fundamental to what the planning
and development process should achieve, with paragraph 125 stating that
plans should at the most appropriate level, set out a clear design vision and
expectations so that applicants have as much certainty as possible about
what is likely to be acceptable.
Paragraph 127 identifies that planning policies and decisions should ensure
that development, among other things:
- optimises the potential of the site to accommodate and sustain an appropriate amount and mix of development (including green and other public space) and support local facilities and transport networks;
- are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping; and
- are sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation or change (such as increased densities).
The design team certainly delivered all of the above and with the assistance
of Tom Cosgrove QC, the Planning Inspector agreed.