Rural and low density dwellings

Goal: Maintain a balance of local character and new development

p117. Development in hamlets and within the open countryside is strictly controlled by government policy and local plan policy. This section is intended for rural villages and the countryside.

p118. At this scale, landscape is the dominant feature with the buildings situated within the landscape or open countryside, their siting generally following the landscape for protection from the natural climate or as a by-product of a functional buildings use, i.e., agricultural buildings, estates or country houses.

p119. Buildings in rural and lower density areas within South and Vale should be integrated into their landscape setting and site contexts in a sensitive manner. Buildings should not be located on ridgelines or exposed sites where the buildings will become a dominant visual feature to the detriment of the existing landscape character.

p120. Applicants must demonstrate how the existing landscape and topography of a site has been considered from the outset of the design process as an integral part of any proposal.

p121. Local character plays a critical role in the design process of development in rural and low-density areas. A contextual analysis should identify the local character of the development context in relation to the proposed design. The analysis should identify the scale, form, massing, architectural vernacular and materiality in and around the development’s locality.

p122. All development is expected to respect and incorporate the local character without being, pastiche or an overly simplified expression of the local character.

p123. A sensitive and balanced approach should be taken when incorporating contemporary architectural designs. Applicants should include and integrate architectural features and materials of the local characters vernacular and material.

Figure 55

  Figure 48: Identify local character and features when considering development in rural areas


Inform your design:

Undertake a contextual analysis (character study) of the development context, this should:

  • Identify the character and pattern of development along the street;
  • Identify the prevailing materials and architectural vernacular of the street;
  • Identify the immediate scale and massing of neighbouring buildings;
  • Identify the current curtilage and applicable boundaries treatments;
  • Provide technical surveys where necessary, i.e., Tree survey.

Communicate your design:

Provide clear site sections and or a topographical survey where applicable;

Provide a site plan clearly identifying the existing building and the proposed extension;

Provide clear elevations, all applicable floor plans and a roof plan;

Three dimensional models where applicable;

Provide clear landscape plan demonstrating the retention of exiting features and planting.

Support your design:

National Design Guide (2019)

National Design Code Part 1: The Coding Process (2021)

National Design Code Part 2: Guidance Notes (2021)

Chilterns Buildings Design Guidance

BRE guidance


Understanding rural character setting
Rural dwelling set within the landscape (top); traditional informal farmyard cluster (bottom)
Rural buildings generally conform to simple forms (top); and in a rural context access should be designed and landscaped to be informal and have a minimal impact (bottom)
Examples showing a range of landscape character and setting in rural and lower density areas

    1. In rural lower density areas plot size should reflect the prevailing context. Visual gaps that reflect the general character of the immediate area should be retained between buildings on adjacent plots;
    2. side boundary separation distances should take into consideration the character of the area and be reflective of surrounding plots;
    3. In more rural and lower density locations front driveways are an acceptable solution and should be landscaped and designed in such a manner that they do not dominate the front garden or streetscape.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications