Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Video 2 360 degree view of the site

In Video 2 the camera is positioned approximatley in the centre of the proposed Riseley Eco House and pans 360 degrees around the site. It starts at the gateway that will become the entrance to the Riseley Eco House driveway, then pans along the tree line towards 156 High St . There is a drop of 1.6 metres to Riseley High Street beyond the trees. The pan continues and goes full circle picking out 144A High St. and back to the gateway. The video was taken in August 2009.

Riseley Eco House - The Movie

Julie Laslett, film maker and Managing Director of the company Dramatic Media, is making a documentary video about the Riseley Eco House. We have started by building up a library of clips of the site as it is now and we will post some of these clips on this web site.

Video 1 View from High Street

Video 1 is the view of the proposed Riseley Eco House site when travelling along the Riseley High Street from South to North. In the summer months, when the trees are in leaf, there is no view of the " open space" and there will be a very limited view of the Riseley Eco House. The site begins at the gateway and has houses either side of it. The intent is to retain the hedge and tree line essentially unaltered except that we will add more trees and hedging to further increase the screening. The video was taken in August 2009.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Site Plan

Site Plan

Proposed SPA Boundary Change

We are requesting that only a small portion of the site shaded pink, near the High Street, is included in the Riseley Settlement Policy Area SPA . This will ensure that there is no further development on the site in the area shaded yellow which will remain as an open space.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Riseley Eco House Model

Riseley Eco House Model
The Riseley Eco House Model, on the left is the garage, in the middle is the living space and on the right are the bedrooms. The whitish surfaces are lime render, the garage door is locally sourced timber. The darkish wall by the front door is vertical green walling as will be the bedroom wall. The roof is clearly a living green roof.

Bedford Development Framework – Allocations and Designations Plan, May 2009

22nd May 2009

Martin Tidy

Bedford Borough Council

Planning and Housing Services

Town Hall

St Paul's Square


MK40 1SJ

Dear Mr Tidy

Bedford Development Framework – Allocations and Designations Plan, Invitation to submit potential sites for inclusion in the Plan

- Land Adjacent to 156 High Street, Riseley

Following my recent letter dated 6th April, I now write with regard to the matter of demonstrating need in accordance with Policy CP14 in the Council's adopted Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan.

However, to do this, I believe it is necessary to run through the background to my clients proposal in order to establish the context in which the arguments set out in the letter can be understood. This will greatly assist you in your understanding of why my clients are seeking an amendment to the Settlement Policy Area and a change in the allocation of the land.

The site, land adjacent to 156 High Street Riseley, is currently allocated as Important Open Space and lies outside the defined Settlement Policy Area. It is unclear what the reasons were for identifying the land as an Important Open Space as it does not perform any useful function, is barely visible from public vantage points, apart from glimpses through the hedge along the footpath along its southern boundary. The land is in private ownership and therefore does not contribute to any recreational / community benefit. We believe there are convincing reasons why this land should be re-designated from Important Open Space and for part of the land to be included within the Settlement Policy Area, to allow the development of a single dwelling.

The previous submission made by Philips Planning Services (PPS) on behalf of my clients, highlighted that the reason for submitting the representation was to secure the construction of a single, low impact eco-home. This remains the key objective however, what was less clear in that submission was the extent of the boundary change being sought. The previous submission via a red line plan, indicated that the whole site should be included within the SPA and reallocated as a housing site. It is very important to make clear that the proposal is only for a single dwelling which would sit at towards the frontage of the site, close to the High Street and therefore the majority of the site would remain open and although part would become domestic garden, the rest could lie outside a redefined SPA boundary. It is the intention that this would be a low maintenance garden with a very natural appearance minimising any potential impact on the surrounding area.

As such the Council should view this representation within that context, i.e. only part of the site is being proposed for any form of physical development and even then, the proposal is for a low impact dwelling. The attached plan shows the area of land which will be developed and extent of "garden" and therefore the land which could remain outside a redrafted SPA boundary.

As explained in the previous submission, the land forms a small gap in an otherwise built up frontage, with development in depth on three sides. The south eastern boundary is strongly defined by hedgerows and trees, thus minimising any impact on the open countryside beyond. In fact the topography of the site and design of the proposed dwelling means that the dwelling would be barely visible from the road. The site sits 1.6m higher than the High Street and the proposed dwelling would be for a single storey property that will be dug into the ground as well, thus reducing its overall impact. As a result the general perception of the site for most passers by would be of no change.

Given its location i.e. sandwiched between existing development, it is our view the wider site will come under increasing pressure for larger scale development over the longer term, most likely for market led housing. And at 0.5 ha, it could potentially accommodate up to 15 units or more (assuming a minimum density of 30 dwelling per hectare). In our view development on this scale would have a significant impact on the village. Where as a single low impact dwelling (as proposed) would a) prevent the wider site being developed and b) ensure the maintenance of a more natural landscaped character for the majority of the site.

This proposal provides an exciting opportunity to develop one of the first "market" led eco homes in Bedfordshire (as far as we are aware). The proposed dwelling extols many sustainable features and the current design approach is to achieve a zero carbon property. There are two objectives, firstly to minimise the impact on the environment and secondly to provide a home for my clients that would significantly reduce the ongoing running costs of a property allowing them to retire to a smaller and cost efficient property but still within the village.

My clients have lived in Riseley for nearly 40 years and are conscious of the needs of the village and the need to protect it from unchecked development. They also are aware of the need to be sensitive to neighbours and other residents of the village. As a result they have spoken to friends, neighbours and other residents in the village about their proposals for the land. To date they have received many positive comments about their proposal. Certainly it is not the usual proposal (i.e. a large 5 bed executive house) that generates negative comments and objections. People are genuinely interested in an eco house and think that it is a good idea. Whilst it is acknowledged that public support is not a planning argument, it does demonstrate that local people do not view the land as a particularly important open space and therefore indicates that they are comfortable with the development of this land for a single eco home.

It should be noted that precedent has been set for the reallocation of land from important open space, when it is judged not to hold any special merit. The Inspector who conducted the Public Inquiry into the adopted Local Plan, dealt with an objection by Charles Wells Ltd relating to land adjacent to the Old White Horse Public House, Riseley. This land was also designated as Important Open Space and lay outside the SPA. Charles Wells Ltd sought the removal of this designation and for the SPA to be redrawn to include their land in order to accommodate a scheme for 28 dwellings. The inspector accepted the arguments put forward by Charles Wells Ltd, that the land did not deserve special status as important open space and consequently recommended the Important Open Space designation be deleted from the plan. The Inspector specifically stated:

"4.2.326 However, although the land is pleasant and rural, it is little more than that. The location is semi rural, not a green vista set in the midst of the village. The effective depth of view into the site extends little further than the screen of trees along the brook, although this is less true when this screening vegetation is leafless. I agree with the objector's contention that it neither alters nor affects the overall character or pattern of the settlement. I consider that it does not deserve special status as an Important Open Space, in terms of the qualifying attributes set out in paragraphs 5.48 – 5.52 of the Deposit Plan."

Although the Charles Wells proposal sought the reallocation of the land and extension of the SPA to allow a much larger development scheme, the key attributes that applied to that site are similar to and are evident in relation to my clients land, if not more so. My clients land is pleasant and semi rural, but is not of special merit. It is not possible to see into the site from the road given the height difference and existing trees and hedgerows screening the frontage. The site is also surrounded by built development on three of its boundaries and finally the land is in private ownership and therefore it performs no useful function in open space terms. As a result and in accordance with the reasoning given by the Inspector into the land adjacent to the Old White Horse PH, my clients land should have the allocation of Important Open Space removed and the SPA redrawn to include their site.

Furthermore, it is clear reading the Inspectors report that the village of Riseley is described as a linear village, with only pockets of incursions in the countryside and this is a strong characteristic of the village. Therefore larger development proposals should be limited, given they would have the potential to adversely affect the historic pattern and character of the village. My client's proposals would ensure that a) future larger scale development proposals are prevented from coming forward on this site and b) would respect the natural built line of the village, whilst allowing for the organic growth of the village.

The previous Inspector concluded that Riseley was not suited to accommodate large scale development proposals and was more suited to small scale proposals, specifically stating "Riseley would be more suited to accommodate development in the form of infill and small sites, …" . It is clear that some form of development in the village is welcomed and should be accommodated to maintain viability. It follows therefore that if development is to come forward in a small scale manner, i.e. infill or small sites, which respect the character of the village (which is accepted as being linear in nature) there are only a handful of possible sites that could deliver such development, my clients land being one of them. This leads me on the question of need and the primary purpose of this letter.


In accordance with Policy CP14 of the Core Strategy, it is necessary to prove there is a need for development in rural areas.

Policy CP14 Location of development in the Rural Policy Area states:

"In circumstances where there is a proven need for development to be located in the Rural Policy Area, most new development will be focused in or around the edge of key service centres where employment, housing (including affordable housing), services and other facilities can be provided close together.

In rural settlements defined by a Settlement Policy Area boundary which are not designated as Key Service Centres, such development will be restricted to that which is required to meet local business and community needs and to maintain the vitality of those communities."

Obviously Riseley falls to be considered as a rural settlement. It is defined by a SPA boundary and for the reasons stated above, this representation seeks to include the land within the SPA. As you will be aware a note produced by the Council, provides advice to applicants in the interpretation of CP14 and how the policy will be applied in the determination of applications. We have reviewed this advice and consider that in terms of need, my clients' proposal sits comfortably with the Council's criteria for establishing need and justifying development in rural settlements.

The advice note states that in interpreting "proven need" regard should be taken of three things: advice in PPS7 in relation to maintaining the vitality of settlements; the fact that there will always be a need for incremental development within settlements; and the fact that need will have to be interpreted differently owing to the type of use proposed and location of development, i.e. the need for large scale development on the edge of a large town will be easier to demonstrate need than say a large scale development on the edge of a village (our example).

My clients' proposal does sit outside the SPA, but in reality it falls within the general built form of the village. It forms a very logical infill plot on which a property can be developed in such a manner that would respect the linear character of the village, without having a detrimental impact on the visual character of the village or impacting on the neighbouring properties. Furthermore the nature of the site ensures that there would be no unacceptable physical incursion into the open countryside as the boundaries of the site are strongly defined. A single dwelling therefore that lies within the historic building line, accords with the advice contained within PPS7 and the objectives of Policy CP14.

Under Section 2 of the Councils advice note, sub section A it states:

"In order to meet the PPS7 requirement for vital settlements it is implicit that within SPAs some incremental growth may be acceptable to maintain vitality. This means that appropriate development proposed within SPAs consistent with saved policies H24 and E17 should proceed".

We would argue that there are very good reasons for extending the SPA boundary to include my clients land (see enclosed plan for the extent of change being sought) and in changing the designation, this would allow for the development of a single dwelling in a manner that would complement the organic or incremental growth of the village, thus maintaining and ensuring the future vitality of the village. Furthermore it should be noted that my clients, who have lived in the village for some 40 years wish to live in the proposed property, thus remaining in the village. Therefore this is not a typical market led development proposal, it is for existing residents who wish to continue living in the village during their retirement. The effect of this if allowed to go forward, would be to release my clients' current home for sale. We are not naïve to think that their current home will automatically be purchased by another family in the village, however, it does create the opportunity for a family who have outgrown their existing home and are looking to stay in the village but unable too, as larger houses rarely come on to the market. Thus this could potentially free up cheaper, more affordable properties further down the chain.

It is also worth mentioning that the proposal for a zero carbon home would also accord to a degree, with paragraph 11 of PPS7 which states:

"Very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission. Such a design should be truly outstanding and ground-breaking, for example, in use of materials, methods of construction or its contribution to protecting and enhancing the environment, so helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas. The value of such a building will be found in its reflection of the highest standards in contemporary architecture, … and its sensitivity to the defining characteristics of the local area."

It is recognised that this paragraph is primarily directed towards proposals for houses that are proposed in isolated settings far from any built up areas. Obviously in the case of the current objection site, it lies within the built fabric of a village. However, the general thrust of the guidance is that if the design is innovative, in terms design or is ground breaking in terms of its use of materials, construction methods and so on, this can provide special justification for granting planning permission. The proposed dwelling is for a zero carbon home, which is of high quality design and would use the latest technologies to ensure that it achieves its zero carbon footprint. This should be recognised in the context of paragraph 11 of PPS7 and coupled with the other reasons we feel a single dwelling on this land would be acceptable.

In addition to the advice in PPS7, the guidance contained in PPS3 Housing should also be taken into account. Overall PPS3 seeks to deliver housing development that is located in sustainable locations primarily in urban areas. However it does recognise that development is required in rural areas too. Paragraph 37 sets out a list of criteria for selecting suitable broad locations for new housing on the regional scale, one of factors is:

"The need to create and maintain sustainable, mixed and inclusive communities in all areas, both urban and rural."

On a local level, the 7th bullet point of paragraph 38 also refers to:

"The need to provide housing in rural areas, not only in market towns and local service centres but also in villages in order to enhance or maintain their sustainability. …"


In summary, this is a fantastic opportunity to promote a CSH Level 6 home in north Bedfordshire, which will also contribute to the incremental growth of the village. When considering this proposal, both this letter and the previous submission made by PPS, should be read together in support of my clients proposal.

To clarify, my clients are seeking:

  • Removal of the Important Open Space designation;
  • Extension of the SPA boundary to include some of their land (see attached plan for details); and
  • Allocation of the plot of land for a single low impact, eco home.

The site sits 1.6m above Riseley High St, in an elevated position, behind an established hedge and tree line. It is therefore barely visible from the road in winter and not at all in summer. The land is in private ownership and performs no useful purpose in open space terms, both in physical or visual terms. The proposal for a single dwelling that sits within the historic building line of the village, would respect the linear nature of the village and have limited impact. Development of the single dwelling would accord with the aims and objectives of national and local planning policy by maintaining the vitality of the village through appropriate incremental development. As an added benefit it would prevent the site coming forward for a much larger market led scheme, which is likely to be more traditional in appearance and would have far more impact on the village.

My client would welcome the opportunity to come and meet with you to discuss their proposal and how it accords with policy. If you feel a meeting would be beneficial please call me. In the meantime, should you have any questions in relation to this submission, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours faithfully

Friday, 14 August 2009

Photovoltaic (PV) Roof Panels

Photo courtesy of Becosolar Ltd

Photovoltaics (PV) has an important part to play in micro renewable energy generation. The roof on the side of the Riseley Eco House which is not visible from Riseley High Street, provides an ideal site for the solar PV modules.

Buildings use almost half of the UK’s generated electricity and account for 30% of CO2 emissions. PV is the most useful form of micro renewable energy to counter CO2 because the conventionally generated electricity which it replaces has a relatively high carbon density of 0.43kg/CO2/kWh.

Systems typically range from 2 kWp to 5 kWp and can be installed on almost any building. Beco supply a range of products from leading manufacturers.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sheep Wool Insulation

Photo courtesy of Black Mountain Insulation Ltd

Black Mountain Insulation's wool insulation is made
from virgin UK hill farmed wool and is
designed to be used in new and existing buildings. It’s ideal for lofts, rafter,
internal wall and inter-floor use.

Sheep wool insulation provides a high performance and truly sustainable
solution to both consumption of energy
and the effects of climate change. Wool
is not only a better insulator but it
actually generates heat when it absorbs moisture.

Black Mountain is the first company
in the UK and Ireland with a dedicated
factory making sheep wool insulation.

Green roof

Green roof sample courtesy of Wallbarn Ltd

A sample of a sedum green roof on test in Riseley, kindly supplied by Wallbarn Ltd. The sedums are growing in a crushed recycled brick growing medium, on top of a piece of fleece. The "egg box" drainage bottom layer, visible in the bottom left of the photo, retains a small amount of rain water in the dimples.
Sedum is the large stonecrop genus of the Crassulaceae, representing about 400 species of leaf succulents, found throughout the northern hemisphere, varying from annual and creeping herbs to shrubs. The plants have water-storing leaves.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Plans - Floor plan


Floor Plan v1

Plans - Elevations

Top is the front elevation, facing the High Street
Middle is the back elevation facing away from the High Street
Bottom is a cross section with the High Street on the left, showing how the house will be set into the ground by 900mm.

Plans - Section through bedroom

A view through the bedroom section of the Riseley Eco House showing how the roof line has been designed to let the winter sun into the rooms to warm them but keep the higher in the sky, summer sun, out

Plans - Site Plan

Location Plan

Sample of Living Wall

This is a vertical green wall module supplied by Wallbarn Ltd and planted up by Sue Davies. It is currently fixed to the wall of our existing house so that we can see how it gets on.
The vertical green wall module has been planted randomly with a variety of plants which grow readily in the Riseley garden. Many are weeds which I have found in the vegetable garden. I have also tried peas and would like to try strawberries – particularly the small alpine variety. To date growing well are: Alchemilla Mollis, Chickweed, Ivy, Wood Violet, Cat Mint, Tansy, Hellebore, Sedum, Ground Ivy, Fern, Red Plantain, Forget-me-not, Bugle, Black Medick, grass and ornamental grass. Some, such as the chickweed have grown from the compost which I put in the pockets in the module. Watering is tricky – too much flow and the compost washes out of the pockets– too little and the pockets at the bottom are dry. We will keep experimenting and keep you posted.

View from High St

This is the view of the front of The Riseley Eco House. It will be completely hidden behind the hedge and treeline in Summer and only just visible in the winter. The existing hedge and treeline will remain essentially unchanged.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Bedford Development Framework August 09

We gather that the Council have confirmed that they are still reviewing all of the additional submissions that were submitted and that the next round of consultation which was due to take place in November this year has been pushed back to early 2010. The change to a Unitary Authority is being cited as the reason for the additional delays.

Other Eco Items being considered for the Riseley Eco House:

Grey water harvesting

Grey water is the output from baths, showers, washing machines etc and this can be stored and used to flush toilets.

Ground source heat pump

Ground source heat pumps can be noisy so need to sited away from the living area in the garage for example and although very efficient they do require considerable electric power to drive them. The ground source heat pump would drive wet under floor heating.

Wind turbines

Positioned as we are in a valley and because of the negative impact on the visual appearance of the site we do not propose to install any wind turbines.


The 300mm of insulation could be based on recycled newspaper, sheep’s wool, or rock wool.

Straw bale construction

We are looking into the possibility of using straw bales as components in the construction of the garage walls.

Wood gasification boiler

A microprocessor controlled boiler that burns ordinary logs

Wood biomass boiler

A microprocessor controlled boiler that uses wood pellets.

Design Aspects of the Riseley Eco House


The Riseley Eco House would use insulation at a thickness of 300mm.

Airtight construction

The Riseley Eco House would be built to an air tightness of 3 air changes per hour at 50 pascals test pressure. Using a high performance vapour permeable breather membrane the timber frame is encapsulated to quickly achieve an airtight and water tight envelope on the building.

Thermal mass

In winter any warmth generated within the house from cooking, people or passive solar gain can be used to warm the floors and walls creating a heat store ensuring a naturally comfortable internal environment. In summer night time cooling of the storage capacity of the thermal mass can be used to keep the building comfortably cool. As climate changes deliver warmer summers, this becomes an increasingly important consideration. The residual heat load is so small that a small amount of renewable wood burnt in a wood burning stove should be all that is needed to provide domestic hot water in winter.

Low water usage fittings

A significant saving in water would be made by fitting water saving taps and shower fittings. High quality fittings save water by aerating the water flow. This makes it appear that there is a large volume of water coming out of the tap as well as making the water feel 'soft', but in actual fact the volume of water is very low. High quality low water shower heads work on a similar principle.

Green roof

The Riseley Eco House would have a north facing green roof, sloping up from the High Street. The growing surfaces on the roof provide habitat for insects, in turn benefiting the local ecosystem and offsetting the habitat loss of the building’s foot print and helping it “disappear”. The green roof also helps reduce surface water runoff.


The Riseley Eco House would be orientated North-South. South facing homes have lower winter fuel consumption than ones facing East West. High performance full height windows South facing would ensure that large areas of glazing could be used to give excellent daylight and good solar gain (with roof overhang shading to prevent summer overheating). With the southerly aspect incorporating a “sunspace” the glazing could achieve a net gain in energy over the year, whereas North facing glazing a net loss. Over heating would be overcome by the roof overhang solar shading in conjunction with ventilation

Photovoltaic panels

Photovoltaic panels convert the sun's energy into electricity and any surplus can be sold to the national grid. With 21 Photovoltaic PV panels the Riseley Eco House would meet its consumer energy load, generating enough electricity for all lighting and appliance use within the house. This is the mandatory energy use requirements for meeting CFSH level 6. The PV panels would be on the lower south facing roof and would not be visible from the High Street.

Low energy lighting

A mixture of compact fluorescent and LED light fittings would be specified in the Riseley Eco House.

Rainwater harvesting

A rain water harvesting tank would be sunk under the garden. The tank stores rain water fed directly from the roof to be used in non potable applications such as toilet flushing and garden irrigation.

Solar hot water

Solar thermal panels on the south facing lower roof (not visible from the High Street) would use the sun's energy to heat water. In mid winter top up hot water could be supplied from the wood burner. A 700 litre dual coil hot water tank could store enough hot water for the whole family all day and make the most of the solar thermal panels.


The proposed Riseley Eco House would be built on land we own between 144a and 156 High Street, Riseley, Bedfordshire.

The house would be single storey, timber framed, with a green roof sloping up from the High St, built to comply with the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 and the requirements of the National Strategy for Lifetime Homes.

The ground rises 1.6 metres above the High Street and the proposal is to set the house 900mm into the ground. The majority, if not all, of the material excavated during construction would be used to landscape the site. We are looking into the possibility of using local clay (of which there is an abundance on site) to make cob (clay, sand and straw mixtures) which would be used in the construction of the house. All the vertical walls facing the High Street would be clad with living plants to become “green walls.”

The existing field gateway, adjacent to 144A High Street, would be retained and would become the entrance to the Riseley Eco House. The existing hedge, tree line and ditch along the Riseley High Street would be retained essentially unaltered.

The Site

The site is currently a paddock with a bank and mature tree planting along its northern boundary where it fronts on to the High Street. In the current Local Plan, it is identified as forming part of the Riseley Conservation Area and an area of Important Open Space.

Our proposal is to construct a single low impact eco-home on the site, which would secure additional landscape and biodiversity improvements to the site, enhancing its value as a landscape, ecological and conservation asset and protecting the whole of the site from further housing development.