The ‘picture postcard’ Village

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

existing village. 

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 village.

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.

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