Gardens for new houses in the country (as governed by Paragraph 80)

A new home in the countryside

Building a new home in the countryside will always be beset by planning issues – for which a specialist architect is required to navigate – but it is not an impossibility to realise your dream. 

Within projects of this nature, the design of the gardens and the landscape surrounding the site for a new house (proposed under Paragraph 80) are crucial to the overall success of the scheme.

What is Paragraph 80?

‘Paragraph 80’ (or ‘Para 80’) is a piece of legislation (and a shortened version of the much more wordy ‘criterion (e) of Paragraph 80 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2021)’) which allows for new, isolated homes to be built in the country.

(Paragraph 80 has been though may iterations since it was devised in 1997 and may also be referred to as Paragraph 55 or Paragraph 79).

As would be expected there are some difficult to quantify expectations within the legislation, and these are best demonstrated in the wording of the policy itself.

The design must be:

“of exceptional quality, in that it:

– is truly outstanding, reflecting the highest standards in architecture, and would help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas; and

– would significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.”

The importance of the landscape

There are plenty of other blogs on the internet which deal with ways in which you can achieve a positive outcome from a planning application under Paragraph 80 – and so I won’t repeat them here.

However, it should be clear that a fundamentally important element in the overall scheme will be securing a landscape design, to accompany the plans – a design that can demonstrate a positive impact to the site and the surrounding locale.

The key elements of the overarching Paragraph 80 remain at the core of the process in that the landscape design must be ‘truly outstanding’ and work to ‘significantly enhance its immediate setting’. 

To realise this the design must: 

– be sensitive to the site and ‘to the defining characteristics of the local area’,

– ensure that the landscape is designed and constructed with sustainability in mind, seeking to use local materials wherever possible for example,

– not simply be a re-arrangement of off-the-shelf items from a ‘standard catalogue’ of building a garden,

– ensure that the ‘parti’ – the inspiration behind the design itself – draws on the history of the site and any existing or previous building or usage to create an overarching narrative that will allow the house to sit comfortably in the context of its location (as well as accommodating wherever possible the clients’ hopes and aspirations),

– Consider and seek to resolve the conflicting aims of standing out and blending in; a difficult task and one that will be unique for each and every project.

As can be seen there is no simple answer and no quick fix. Outstanding design, expertise, and a partnership between client, architect, and landscape designer are essential.  The client and the design team must navigate the the complexities of the planning process together and be flexible in their approach as compromises will inevitably be necessary.

A Final Thought

Of course this is not really new, and has been challenging landscape designers to produce their best work for hundreds of years: 

To build, to plant, whatever you intend,

To rear the Column, or the Arch to bend,

To swell the Terras, or to sink the Grot;

In all, let Nature never be forgot.

Consult the Genius of the Place in all,

That tells the Waters or to rise, or fall…

Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending Lines;

Paints as you plant, and as you work, Designs.

[Extract from An Epistle to the Right Honourable Richard, Earl of Burlington, written in 1731, by Alexander Pope]


If you would like to start a conversation please get in touch with Matt Haddon MSGD MBALI on 07595 421910 or at