New House, Bracknell

The house illustrated is one of our significant successes in turning a refusal into a permission. The land this house occupies has many planning challenges, it is in a flood zone and supports a rich ecology. Following an earlier refusal of proposals submitted by another practice the comments from the Council were such that they felt, given the nature and constraints of the site it would not be possible to achieve a permission of any kind. We turned this into a permission for a handsome and contemporary new home.

The key to achieving a permission following the unsuccessful planning history on this site was to study carefully and understand the details of what was important about the site and why it was considered so valuable. The site is a very picturesque one that is tucked between two waterways, one of which incorporated a fish ladder. The site therefore is something of an ecological sanctuary in an otherwise built up, urban environment. So preserving the ecological value of the site was of critical importance. As well as issues of biological diversity another significant challenge was the location of the site in a flood zone raising serious questions about how rainwater drainage could be disposed of without contributing further to flood risk in the area.

In formulating our proposals we worked closely with ecologists, the environment agency and arboricultural specialists to ensure that the final proposals not only preserved the status of the ecology but would allow it to become more rich over time. The first step would be to eradicate a significant infestation of Japanese knotweed which threatened to overwhelm the whole site. The decaying edge of the river bank was to be bolstered up and renewed with the use of Hazel faggots – a soft rather than an engineering method of preventing water erosion which supports the growth of indigenous marginal plants and related wildlife. A fenced off ecological buffer zone was also identified where indigenous flora and fauna could thrive and which would be protected by law.

The proposed building was situated either just outside or over the actual boundary of the flood zone and a sustainable drainage system designed to collect the rainwater, attenuate the flow and then release it into the waterway in a natural fashion and at rate that is harmless to the river wildlife.

The form of the building, whilst contemporary in style, responds sensitively to its context in its terms of its size, height and position on the site, the views across the site and its relationship to neighbouring historic buildings.

The resulting proposal was one that the Council, as well as the Environment Agency, was happy to accept.