'Grand Designs experiment' plans for narrow North Berwick home approved

A very narrow seaside town house branded a “Grand Design experiment” by a councillor got the go ahead after the architect appealed to Scottish Ministers.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 4:59 pm
The property has been compared to the width of a shipping container.

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East Lothian Council previously refused planning permission for the three-storey family home in North Berwick, which was compared to the width of a shipping container.

It will be around 3.6 metres wide and 29 metres long.

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Plans for the new development.

But while local councillors were concerned by its lack of garden space the Scottish Government Reporter ruled it was close enough to the beach not to need one.

And while some neighbours objected to the new home overlooking their properties, the Reporter felt in a built up town centre area it was not over intrusive.

Architect Robin Sutherland’s vision of a family home in the town centre proposed building on a site just over four metres wide.

But his planning application for the High Street was refused by the council’s planning committee by just one vote.

Mr Sutherland came up with the Passivhaus build for his family after they bought the property and turned the front into a refurbished new shop with offices for the architect upstairs.

But while his design was described by one politician as “extraordinary”, his vision for his new home clashed with neighbours, the community council and ward councillors, who claimed it went against the area’s conservation status.

Councillor Jane Henderson, ward member, told the council’s planning committee earlier this year that the width of the home would be “not much wider than a shipping container”.

She said: “I am not convinced this is the best place for a Grand Designs experiment”, adding: “Just because theoretically it can be done does not make it right.”

Grand Designs is a popular and long-running home improvements TV show where unique and daringly designed homes are built.

In an appeal to Scottish Ministers to overturn the council decision, agents for Mr Sutherland argued that the character of the town’s conservation area is “variety.”

They pointed out: “An imposing four storey social housing block of flats from the 2000s is the closest building to the east, beyond an adjacent service yard.

“A four-storey social housing block of flats dating from the 1960s is a near neighbour to the west.”

Neighbours overlooking the proposed house had objections about the impact of the three-storey home on their privacy, in particular a proposed roof terrace.

Addressing their concerns during the decision last month, the Reporter set a condition for the roof terrace proposed to have a balustrade added on to provide privacy. The Reporter noted that there was a “fairly high” density of buildings in the area which were of varied heights.

And in response to concerns about a lack of garden space the Reporter said: “Given the proximity of the beaches and other open spaces within the town centre, I would not expect to see significant open space provision within the site and it would appear that many of the surrounding properties do not have private gardens.

“I therefore consider that the size and proportions of the proposed building would not be out of character in this area and would not constitute overdevelopment of the site.”

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