Flushing out the phosphate problem or just a pipe dream?



For some time now planning applications for new residential development across most of Somerset (and in parts of Dorset) within the river catchment of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site have been held up following the Court of Justice’s judgment in the so-called ‘Dutch N’ case[1] relating to a ruling on the interpretation of the Habitats Directive.

This issue is not new to planning or unique to Somerset or Dorset.  Numerous other protected habitats have been affected by excessive nutrients and it is widely accepted that it is incumbent upon the relevant Local Authorities to devise a strategic solution to a complicated problem.  Inevitability this a very time-consuming process.

Rather than simply waiting for a strategic solution, BoonBrown has, in conjunction with Registered Provider Stonewater, been working on a range of on and off-site solutions. Several of these have been presented to Natural England and have been well received.  As such we are now close to unlocking a number of residential development sites.

One such scheme is on a town-centre, brownfield site, and utilises elements of Stonewater’s existing housing stock retrofitted with water savings devices.  This innovative and cost-effective mitigation solution has the added benefit of reducing water consumption for existing tenants who choose to have the devices fitted. This in turn means there is less water going through the water treatment works thus less phosphates going into the river catchment.  In this way credits can be generated to unlock stalled developments that lie within the same sub-catchment area as the existing stock, whilst at the same time protecting agricultural land from unnecessary fallowing.

We anticipate a decision regarding this innovative mitigation strategy shortly, whereupon Stonewater, in partnership with BoonBrown, will roll out the solution to unlock several other planning applications for much needed housing developments currently delayed by phosphates.

If you have any questions please contact Clive Brown, Matt Frost or Andrew Tregay at BoonBrown.

[1] Joined cases C-293/17 and C-194/17 Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment UA and Others v College van gedeputeerde staten van Limburg and others



Andrew Tregay

Associate Planning Consultant

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Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

Energy saving through Retrofit



Over the last few years there seems to have been an increased awareness of climate change and the environment, this together with the Government’s 2050 Net Zero CO2 emissions target has led our industry to consider new ways to make buildings more efficient, less reliant on fossil fuels, and promote renewable technologies. The current energy crisis due to soaring fuel costs is also making us more mindful about where our energy is coming from and the need to be less wasteful with it.

Can green buildings work for us to solve this issue?

Incorporating technologies into new build has become common place for most sectors, with the most efficient method of creating new ‘green buildings’ being to utilise the three steps below.

Keep the cold out

Using modern methods of construction focusing on a highly insulated and airtight envelope ensures that heat is retained and prevented from escaping, therefore minimising the need for additional space heating.

Recycling waste heat

Waste heat recovery systems, including Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) and waste-water heat recovery technologies ensure that waste heat is recycled, providing warmth to fresh air reducing the energy demand for heating.

Renewable technology

Finally using renewable technologies such as Solar Panels, Solar Thermal and Heat Pumps can generate energy, store it and even sell it back to the grid in some cases.

The upfront costs of building this way can be greater than traditional constructions, however the technology used can create savings over time which outweigh the initial outlay. The technologies are continually reducing in cost as they become ever more mainstream.

So new buildings can benefit from this type of approach but what about existing buildings?

Existing commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings can benefit substantially from the same ethos employed above and also carry the benefit of utilising their existing building structure, retaining all the embodied carbon and the savings that come with it.

This type of upgrade to an existing building is referred to as a Retrofit and a key part of the design is to employ a whole building approach. This is a holistic assessment of the entire building fabric in conjunction with a specialist Energy Consultant who will thermally model the building to identity and highlight the key areas to be targeted.

Replacing existing heating systems with renewables, swapping old lighting to LED fittings, improving the thermal performance of the external envelope, and introducing solar technologies will all contribute toward targeting  Net Zero Carbon.

There are differing levels of Retrofit from a light touch to much deeper approach and each offers vary degrees of benefit Vs cost. It is worth noting that some existing buildings will not be suitable for Retrofit due to their age or construction, so not every project is suitable. The detail of the design and installation is key to ensure they work in harmony together, and it’s critical that  projects are both  designed and installed by professionals.

Putting theory into practice – Beaucroft College Wimborne

BoonBrown have been working recently with a team of consultants on a Retrofit project for a Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) facility in Wimborne, Dorset on behalf of Dorset Council. The project will be one of the first in Dorset to benefit from SALIX funding which is a government backed scheme to provide public sector projects with funding to reduce carbon emissions, lower bills and improve energy efficiency.

The site is the former Wimborne First School which consists of a group of buildings with notable architectural merit, unfortunately the buildings have been vacant for several years. Parts of the school are over 100 years old and have been subject to several adaptions over its life. The buildings have a number of the original features which are considered important to the setting of Wimborne and need to be retained.

A thorough assessment and survey of the existing building was undertaken to understand the existing structure, materials, and fittings. We worked with an Energy Consultant to identify the most cost effective and beneficial Retrofit adaptions for the building, which included the three steps we outlined above.

Keeping the cold out

The Retrofit follows a whole building design strategy with a fabric first approach which aims to exceed the current building regulation standards. This consists of thermally upgrading the accessible external fabric of the buildings, increasing air tightness, and replacing the existing single glazed doors and  windows with double glazed units.

Recycling waste heat

New heat recovery units (MVHR) within the classrooms will increase the amount of fresh warm air in the buildings, improve internal comfort levels while providing excellent ventilation.

Renewable technologies

The existing heating system is a very inefficient gas boiler which is not fit for modern purposes. This is to be replaced with an extremely efficient air source heat pump and solar voltaic panels placed on each of the south facing roofs which will reduce energy bills and help further reduce C02 emissions.

It has been calculated that retrofitting the existing buildings to current building regulation standards will reduce C02 emissions by approximately 77%.

As with the new build route, the key to making this type of refurbishment work is ensuring the details of each inclusion and system is designed and installed correctly so everything works harmoniously. Crucial to this is that the works on site are carried out by skilled contractors and that the technical detailing is followed to ensure the benefits of the Retrofit method are realised.

Sarah Small

Passivhaus Designer

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Sarah is an Architect with BoonBrown specialising in low energy design.  Sarah has recently completed her own self build home to Passivhaus standards and is passionate about sustainable design.

The Big 'E' and Permitted Development Opportunities



Welcome to Class E

We have been living with the revised Use Classes Order for over a year now, giving some time to reflect on its implications and the new opportunities it has created. The Governments drive to reduce perceived bureaucracy and to broaden the scope of flexible land uses may not have been popular in some circles, but it has certainly shaken the system up and provided commercial landlords opportunities to diversify their potential occupant pool without the need to engage with the planning system.

Firstly, the new E Use Class brings together quite a diverse range of uses from the now revoked A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and parts of D2 Use Classes. Therefore, uses such as office, retail, some leisure, café and nurseries are all in the same use classes rather than being spread across several, leading to interesting interactions and potentially opportunities for more flexible use of floorspace. As the use of a building can move freely within its current use class (without requiring express planning permission) it should, in theory, be easier to change the occupier and open a more diverse range of potential tenants for owners without having to engage formally with the planning system.

This change is significant, and it is well worth owners of commercial, recreation or retail buildings taking another look at the potential opportunities to expand their potential pool of tenants.

As one door closes another opens…

Obviously, the changes to the Use Classes Order left many of the ‘legacy’ Permitted Development Rights allowing a change of use to residential, in limbo. The transition period is now behind us and elements of Part 3 of Schedule 2 (changes of use) such as Class O have fallen away or been altered.

Yet new opportunities have arisen… enter Class MA (part 3 of Schedule 2) boldly striding in to fill the void left by the loss of Class O and friends. Class MA allows commercial, business and service uses (Use Class E) to convert to new dwelling houses. As you might expect this comes with a number of stipulations, limitations and conditions as well as the requirement for a prior approval application. Many of the conditions will be familiar to those acquainted with the former Class O or Class P however many of the issues caused by the, arguably, limited prior approval requirements under Class O (and others) have been tightened up. Those wishing to utilise their Class MA permitted development rights must now also give consideration to natural light and impacts on conservation areas, thus requiring a more comprehensive submission especially as Class MA has not been popular with many in local government.

Overall, some doors to residential conversions have been closed however a big one has opened up and it is certainly worth seeing what lies beyond.

In Summary

Recent changes to planning Use Classes have made quite considerable changes to how different uses are grouped, with the new Class E being particularly diverse.

Class MA allows for the diverse range of uses under Class E to be converted to residential subject to a prior approval application.

Andrew Tregay

Associate Planning Consultant

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Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

BoonBrown appointed on Abri's Planning Consultants Framework



BoonBrown is delighted to be awarded first place on Abri’s Planning Consultant Framework, announced recently.

Formed in November 2019 by a merger between Radian Group and Yarlington Housing Group, Abri is a not-for-profit organisation, providing more than 35,000 homes in the south and south west of England.  Abri is committed to investing in local communities to make them stronger and more vibrant, whilst helping provide homes to those who really need them.

Commenting on the appointment, Matt Frost, Town Planning Director at BoonBrown, said: “ This is great news for BoonBrown – we look forward to strengthening our existing relationships with Abri to assist in their aim to provide homes and to build communities across the South of England.”

Northstowe shortlisted for Housing Design Awards



We are delighted and very proud to announce that our scheme The Fenways, Phase 2B Northstowe has been shortlisted for the very prestigious Housing Design Awards hosted by Design For Homes!!!

A fantastic achievement for BoonBrown and the project team including Keepmoat Homesarc Landscape Design & Planning Ltd and Luken Beck.

Our parcel is part of a large new town masterplan in Cambridgeshire, with our reserved matters application approved last year.
Working with our valued client Keepmoat Homes, we are excited to enter the delivery phase for the 300 homes, commercial units and public realm.

This key view is taken across the Greenway to the mixed use commercial and apartment building on the corner. The design re-elevates a regency style approach to development with a more contemporary architectural form.

Dorset Museum awarded Bronze for 'Large Visitor Attraction of the Year'



We are delighted to announce that one of our technical projects, The Dorset Museum, has won bronze in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category for the South West Tourism Awards!

Congratulations to the Dorset Museum, the design team and contractors Acheson Construction Limited !

BoonBrown appointed on Dorset Centre of Excellence



We are excited to announce that we have been appointed as Project Architect, Landscape Architect and Principal Designer for The Dorset Centre of Excellence!

We are proud to be leading the design team and observe the transformation as the beautiful building and grounds are sympathetically refurbished.

We have been appointed as the architects for Phase 2 of the development of the Dorset Centre of Excellence, on the former St Mary’s School site in Shaftesbury.

We have already been working in partnership with Dorset Council UK to design the landscaping for the site, which includes Dorset’s new school for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), Coombe House School.

Phase 2 will see the further development of The Dorset Centre of Excellence, a centre of learning for professionals working with children and young people and a community resource.

It will offer training and courses, making use of the state-of-the-art facilities, including provision for arts, culture, music and sport.

St Frideswide Farm gets the go ahead



Our proposals for 134 homes at St Frideswide Farm, being developed by Croudace Homes Limited, has received a unanimous resolution to approve from Oxford City Council.

It includes a variety of typologies from apartments to houses and self-build plots, set within generous landscaped public open space, with community pavilion and play areas.

Cycling is promoted alongside integrated private parking. Additionally, sustainable measures include renewable energy from photovoltaic panels and a sculpted water attenuation basin.

Full planning application submitted for a new 24,000m² factory for Numatic International



We are really pleased to announce that BoonBrown has submitted a full planning application for a new factory in Chard, Somerset for Numatic International!

This development will streamline the production process of the popular Henry model vacuum cleaner, from raw materials to finished product, all in one facility to meet increased demand.

The building is a considerable size and provides 24,000m² of new floor space. It has been designed to accommodate several interlinked functions and makes use of sustainable technologies including PV panels, brown roofs and landscape mitigation measures.

Watch this space as we update you with the progress of our application!

BoonBrown Brixton office goes live



After many months of planning and anticipation, we have finally moved into our new London office in the newly renovated Tunstall Hall building, located at Bernay’s Grove, Brixton.

“We have taken the step to relocate our London Studio to Brixton and are really pleased to move into our new purpose-built studio! We are delighted to be a part of the Brixton community and are excited for opportunities to embed ourselves within local culture and activity. Our new studio provides the practice with opportunities to expand and this commitment was the next logical step for BoonBrown’s business growth strategy.”

Abigail Baggley, Director of Architecture at BoonBrown.