Planning Portal

Design Guide for Rural Northern Ireland

This Guide is for all those who are thinking of building in the countryside. Its purpose is to improve the quality of design and to help to ensure that new buildings fit into the landscape.
To design means to consider every aspect of the building and its site, and in this you should be helped by your designer. This Guide provides:
  • a framework for the development of your design solution;
  • illustrations of important aspects of design;
  • guidance on the best way of presenting your scheme to the Department of the Environment.
The guidance given here concentrates on houses in the countryside, but the same design process can be applied to any building in our landscape.

The Design Brief

In discussing your scheme the first aim is to make a list of instructions, or a Brief, for your designer to follow. This will take time to agree but is an essential start to the design process.

Finding the Right Site

The design process continues with the selection of the site and you are strongly advised to check any site with your designer before making a final decision, as the choice of the right site is a basic requirement for a successful scheme.
When you are considering the site, make sure to discuss with your designer all of the factors, including access or boundary treatment, which are illustrated in this Guide. This may take time, but you will be rewarded by getting the best out of the site. The illustrations show the factors you need to think about and you should work through these carefully until you are satisfied that the site layout will meet your needs and also the Department's requirements.

Scheme Design

When it comes to planning the building you should resist the temptation to use a standard house plan or a design copied from elsewhere. This might seem a simple approach and a way to reduce costs, but bear in mind that such plans are not designed for your particular site and they can often require expensive and time-consuming re-design.
In Northern Ireland we need to improve the quality of development in the countryside. Standard plans are generally not suitable for use in the countryside since they cannot take account of the surroundings and the special character of each site. Using 'cheap' plans has often resulted in a poor design and in buildings which unfortunately look out of place in our landscape. In addition, badly designed buildings can also prove to be an expensive mistake for the owner, with the result that no-one is satisfied. The designer must aim to satisfy your requirements whilst safeguarding the countryside, and this demands skill. Skilled design may take time, but it is a worthwhile investment and is essential for a successful scheme.
The Department is working to improve the quality of rural design and the Guide emphasises that buildings should be designed to fit into, rather than dominate, the landscape.
The Guide will help prospective developers with the process of obtaining planning permission, but schemes which fail to integrate new buildings with the surrounding countryside will not be permitted.
It is important to choose your designer wisely. A designer who is a member of a recognised professional association will work to a Code of Professional Conduct and will produce a professional standard of work.

Presenting your Proposals

The designers job is to turn your instructions into drawings for consideration by the Department and you should instruct your designer to present your scheme in accordance with this Guide.
The Guide aims to provide a straightforward method of working towards a successful scheme, considering each step along the way, so that poor design can be avoided at an early stage in the process. Schemes which are prepared and presented in accordance with this Guide will, as a result, be more likely to avoid delays during the planning application stage.
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