Plans showing proposed building in Chester

Weight of history: working with rural estates

Posted on 19/01/22

A huge amount of land across the UK forms part of a rural estate and each one faces its own unique set of challenges. We have worked with many rural estates over the years and although we recognise each estate has different needs and priorities, we also understand the similarities of some of the challenges faced.

Proactively seeking opportunities

Rural estates have to figure out how to ensure the continued viability of the estate for future generations. No two rural estates are the same, but in most instances where an estate is performing well, it is likely to be due to the estate management being proactive in looking at opportunities to secure the land’s financial future. Diversification has an important role to play in this, and it can mean anything from developing glamping sites and holiday lets, through to farm shops, alpaca farms, commercial buildings, small scale retail/mixed use schemes, and even adventure centres.

Sympathetic design and build

However, commercial stability is only one part of the story, and it is also important to maintain the integrity of the estate. New developments or renovations and refurbishments need to be designed and built sympathetically with the surrounding area, toning in with – or complementing – what is already there. While an estate should always evolve over generations and reflect modern innovations where appropriate, it still needs to remain in keeping with the fundamental make-up of the environment.

Sustainable solutions

Sustainability is coming more and more to the fore, particularly with current increases in fuel prices and inflation. NWD Architects can assist estates with improving the efficiency of their existing building stock. We can undertake detailed evaluations and recommend a range of appropriate measures to improve low-performing building stock. This can be done for single buildings, small groups or across the entire estate. We can then assist in devising a strategy to determine the most cost-efficient time to make changes, helping to ease the financial burden and synchronise with other considerations, such as lease break clauses.

Understanding and advising

We enjoy engaging closely with family members or estate managers to understand the unique character and requirements of each estate and use this knowledge as the starting place for developing a design. Using our vast experience, we are able to provide practical advice and recommendations of what is possible and what the best solution is. We are also well placed to advise against projects that have the potential to be detrimental to the estate. In collaboration with Planning consultants we can also carry out land-audits for estates and identify assets and land that may have current or future potential. These can then be incorporated into long term strategic plans and or masterplans that benefit the estate and local development centres.

In practice

According to research carried out by Savills, rural estates still receive most of their income from agriculture and residential assets, with commercial and leisure activities bringing in around 18% of gross income. In fact, in the UK more people visit heritage properties every weekend than attend football matches.

Our work for one rural estate in Cheshire, which has recognised the need to make the most of its buildings, has recently received a commendation at the Cheshire West and Chester Civic Awards for Design and Conservation for work carried out to provide a mixed-use barn conversion. We worked with the estate to develop a design, which converted a series of dilapidated, disused barns into a vibrant mixed-use complex that provides a meeting point for the village, a farm shop, convenience store, outreach post office, two further commercial lettable units and a selection of one and two bedroomed affordable apartments. 

Talk to us to find out how we can work with you to overcome today’s challenges for rural estates.



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