PRP brings innovation, creativity and sympathy to Norfolk architecture
PUBLISHED: 17:32 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:47 18 October 2018
A unique building in green belt Norfolk countryside is testament to the skills of a long-established architectural practice now celebrating its first year in modern new premises.
Not everyone would be delighted at the prospect of a high end new home in the middle of well-established pasture, popular with grazing horses – least of all a local authority under pressure to maximise brownfield regeneration ahead of dropping digger buckets into the green belt.
Only the most innovative, creative and sympathetic designs can invoke the so-called “paragraph 79 (previously 55)” of the National Planning Policy Framework, which allows new homes to be built in the countryside, including in the green belt.
And this is precisely what Paul Robinson Partnership, a long-established diverse and skilled team made up of architects, architectural technologists building conservation team interior designers and support staff, achieved in a first within the Great Yarmouth Borough Council district.
The house, a one-off project for a residential client on grazing land at Browston, east of Gorleston, has been designed to form an intrinsic part of the landscape, explains PRP partner Andrew Smith.
“The part-sunken form and encapsulating green roofs were devised to help reduce its visual impact on the surroundings,” he adds. “The soil excavated as part of the construction will be retained on site and re-used to construct the rammed earth walls and green roof forming the envelope of the new house.
“This is in an area that would not normally allow building. But, with paragraph 79, if you can demonstrate outstanding architectural merit and sustainability, you may be allowed to build. This is the first time it’s been approved in the Borough,” adds Simon Nicholas, also a partner at the practice.
The project demonstrates the in-house skills of the partnership which has been in business for almost 45 years, mainly in Great Yarmouth and, for the last year, at bespoke business offices on a former farm-based site at Little Plumstead on the eastern outskirts of Norwich.
A team of 16, including three partners, two qualified architects and a third in training, operates across East Anglia and beyond in a wide range of sectors including commercial property (often managed by partner Bruce Hart), holiday parks and hotels, industrial, education, bars and restaurants, healthcare, retail and residential.
The core business – “and this has helped us through two recessions while I’ve been with the partnership,” says Simon – is in the tourism and leisure sector.
PRP has contracts with Bourne Leisure, (which incorporates Haven Holidays), Blue Sky Leisure and Parkdean . The company has also been closely involved in the recent £10m redevelopment at Seacroft Holiday Village, Hemsby, for Norfolk leisure company Richardson’s Leisure, and major expansion for the Somerleyton Estate.
“The public today is very discerning about what it wants and expects on holiday, and we have been working on lodges, swimming pools and bars as well as facility complexes and landscaping,” says Simon.
At the same time, some of the PRP team is attached full-time to another prestigious client, Volvo Truck and Bus responsible for all UK building work including showrooms.
With the current value of projects around the country increasing, the partners feel confident they have made the right move closer to the heart of Norwich and Norfolk, while retaining close and well-established connections in the former Great Yarmouth base. In fact, they are currently working on a new hospice at the town’s nearby Beacon Park – a 10-bed unit which will be the area’s only end of life centre.
Looking to the future, Andrew sees several new housing developments arriving across Norfolk, including the upmarket homes in which they specialise, an upturn in trends since the 2008 recession.
“We see areas which are not normally earmarked for development coming on to the market, driven by housing need,” says Andrew. “For example, interesting agricultural conversions are turning up – I’m not talking about barns, there aren’t many of those left, but cowsheds and former steel structure storage units as well, all for residential use, and this often drives the need for our building conservation consultancy too”.
It is a measure of PRP’s in-house skills and growth plans for the future that the team is attracting contracts in such diverse areas – from swimming pools to converted animal housing, from offices to industrial units, and retail to healthcare.
“We are the lead consultant in these works,” says Andrew. “We do it all!”
The Paul Robinson Partnership is celebrating its first year in new premises at the Octagon Business Park, Little Plumstead, east of Norwich, after more than 40 years in Great Yarmouth.
“We very much enjoyed our time in Great Yarmouth and we still have strong connectivity with the town as far as the origins of PRP are concerned and many valued clients,” says partner Andrew Smith.
“However, we felt it was important to reflect the wider geography of our client base – we work all over the country – at the same time as unifying our architects’ office in Norwich with the rest of the team.”
The airy and contemporary building, surrounded by farmland, reflects the creative and innovative skills of the 16-strong PRP team which includes architects, architectural technologists, a building conservation team, energy assessors, interior designers and support staff.