I.1.i Local Character

3.16 The Lake District has a strong and varied sense of place, derived from many factors including its natural beauty, historic character, and cultural associations. These combine together to create memorable places where people want to live, work and visit. On a local level, understanding the physical, cultural and spiritual factors that shape place identity is a critical first step in the design of developments that preserve and enhance local character and make a positive contribution to placemaking.

3.17 Local character is derived from the interaction of many factors — built form, landscape, public spaces, history, nature, and cultural associations, as well as less tangible aspects like a sense of community.

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3.18 The applicant must demonstrate and clearly articulate how the proposed development respects or enhances local character and distinctiveness. This must be informed by an understanding of the site context, including any historic character assessment required to support the application.

  • An example of a farm where the farmhouse is limewashed whereas the farm buildings are left as bare stone

  • The classic hierarchy of materials: a limewashed and render farmhouse, a bare stone barn and the hardest to course stones used for the boundary wall.

Settlement Pattern and Layout

3.19 Development should respond to and complement existing patterns of settlement type and layout (see Supporting Information for information on Lake District settlement forms). In most cases these elements have developed over centuries and are an important part of the historic character of a place. The reasons for any deviation away from the existing historic pattern should be explained, together with active measures towards good placemaking.

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I.2.i Design of Building

Building type, form and detailing

3.20 The type, form and composition of new buildings must be rooted in local character. Where development sits within the historic core of a settlement, design must reflect the local vernacular tradition (where buildings were designed to meet functional needs). This varies across the Lake District in response to changes in the underlying geology, that influences not only the choice of local building material, but also built forms and methods of construction.

3.21 Information on common vernacular forms, and their distribution across the Lake District, can be found in the Supporting Information. Each settlement has a distinct architectural tradition depending on several factors, but common characteristics are:

  • Buildings sit low in the landscape. Generally, they are one or two storeys high in a rural setting, extending to three storeys in towns.
  • Constructed of local building material, which means that buildings harmonise with the surrounding landscape
  • Slatestone is dominant across much of the Lake District and is associated with the characteristic ‘drystone’ appearance of many local buildings.
  • Slatestone is frequently left exposed. Rough-cast render (often painted white, cream or grey) is also common, especially in areas of Carboniferous limestone.
  • Traditional slate roofs are ubiquitous across the Lake District and are a significant part of the character of the region. These tend to be low pitched with either equal or asymmetric eaves. The latter is often associated with a cat-slide roof over an ‘outshut’ (or lean-to). Traditionally, the slates become smaller closer to the ridge, laid in diminishing courses.
  • Window locations are dictated by internal layout and not necessarily symmetrical. Windows are generally small with deep reveals and stone mullions. Sash windows are common in properties from the late-18th century onwards.
  • Dormers are rare, except in towns.
  • Chimneys are a prominent feature. Gable end-stacks are characteristic of early buildings.
  • Water-tabling – a line of projecting slates to deflect water – is a typical Lake District feature.
  • Door designs vary considerably but generally feature a prominent lintel and stone jambs. Porches or a door canopy are common, intended to offer protection to visitors from the elements.
  • Buildings are orientated to reflect the constraints of the landscape and direction of prevailing weather patterns. This varies considerably from valley to valley.

3.22 Although these features are common there are many variations according to location and the applicant must demonstrate that their designs respond appropriately to the specific traditions of the area. This is not intended to stifle contemporary design or encourage pastiche, but simply show how a design has been inspired by local character.

3.23 In areas where there is a wider variety of architectural styles, particularly those areas of 19th and early 20th century expansion around the edges of towns, design cues should still be taken from the prevailing architectural forms of the area, although there is potentially far more flexibility in design. However, detailing should be consistent with architectural style, and mixing features within a building should be avoided. In all cases, design must be informed by analysis of context and local character.

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  • In the 18th century, polite architecture without render covering the stone would have been unthinkable. Hawkshead.

  • An uncommon example of a converted barn with limewash over the stonework. The shapes of the different materials can still be seen through the coating.

Extensions: Key Principles: Form and Shape

3.24 The form (shape) of a new extension must be similar to or otherwise respect the form of the existing house.

3.25 It is not necessary for an extension to exactly match the plan form, gable proportion and shape of the existing house, but in most cases, at least one of these should be observed to achieve visual harmony between the extension and the existing building. With any extension or alteration, it is important that the original house and its extent can still be ‘read’ and any extensions are legible. This is usually achieved by making extensions subservient (e.g. lower in height or smaller in plan) than the existing house.

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1. The principle of form applies to:

  • plan form (the outline of the building on the ground): the ratio of the length of the eaves wall to the width of the gable wall.
  • the proportion of gable walls: the ratio of how tall a gable wall is to how wide it is.
  • the shape of extensions: does the general shape of the extension match or respect the shape of the existing house?

3.26 These examples provide different scenarios of achieving the principles of form:

2. The ratio of the length of the eaves wall to the width of the gable wall is the starting point for understanding the proportion of the plan form of the existing house.

3. The extension has the same ratio in plan form as the existing house and has the same or a similar gable proportion and shape.

4. The proportions in plan form of this narrow extension are very different in plan form to the existing house, but the size and set back of the extension mean it is subservient to the main house. The gable shape and proportion of the extension would match or be similar to that of the existing house, so there would be harmony between the existing and new.

5. The flat roofed extension is a noticeably different shape to the existing house. The plan form of the extension has a squarer proportion to the existing house. However, the width and height of the front elevation of the extension are in proportion with the width and height of the front elevation of the house. There is a visual relationship between the two. This is helped by the extension being set back and subservient in size to the existing house. Flat roofed extensions can be appropriate where it is important to keep the overall height and mass of an extension to a minimum.

6. The extension matches the general proportion of the existing house in plan form and the proportions of its front elevation. The shape of the gable however, is slightly different because the roof pitches are shallower. Given the difference in height between the two, the shallower roof pitch of the extension does not look out of place.

7. The extension matches the general proportion of the existing house’s plan form and the proportions of its front elevation. The main difference is it has a symmetrical gable whereas the main house has an asymmetrical gable due to the longer roof pitch at the back. The matching proportions and subservience of the extension mean the different gable shape does not look out of place.

8. Extensions added on to existing extensions are rarely successful additions because they can look overly fussy and change the overall character of the house. Similarly, extensions that wrap around corner or are built out to the furthest extremities of the house’s plan will generally look out of place next to the original house.

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Rear Extensions

3.34 Rear extensions must show subservience to the existing house in terms of their height, footprint, location. The must respond positively to the proportions and form of the existing house.

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Rear extensions to houses:

  1. The proportion of the gable of the single storey extension matches the proportion of the gable of the existing house. It is also set slightly back from the gable wall.
  2. This two-storey extension has a similar shape, but differently proportioned gable compared to the existing house. It achieves subservience by having slightly lower ridge and eaves heights and being set back from the gable wall.
  3. This catslide-roofed extension matches the slop of the existing roof and, like the existing house, is wider than it is deep. The result is visual harmony even though the two are differently shaped.
  4. This lean-to extension has a slightly shallower roof pitch to the existing house, but it is noticeably wider than it is deep, like the existing house, The extension is also set back from the gable. The factors that result in subservience make the shallower roof less noticeable.

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Side Extensions

3.35 The Lake District has a strong tradition of houses with asymmetrical gables, where one side of the roof extends much lower than the other. It was the simplest and most economical way of providing more floorspace on the ground floor. This tradition is still relevant today, as we look to have more living space, open plan kitchens, WCs and utility rooms on the ground floor.

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Side extensions:

1. The traditional proportion of an asymmetrical gable in the Lake District is to divide the gable into thirds: the first third is the distance measured horizontally between the front elevation and the ridge of the roof. The second third is the mirror image of the first third, which results in a symmetrical gable shape. The final third is the horizontal width of the lower part of the roof. This way the width of the lower part of the roof is always half the width of the gable of the main roof of the house.

2. In this example the extension is lower and has a smaller footprint, but the proportions of the gable are the same as the existing house.

3.36 Like the rest of the country, standard symmetrical gables, where the eaves height on the front and rear elevation are the same, are also common. For extensions to houses with symmetrical gables the following applies:

3.The starting point should be the vertical proportions of the gable shape and the ratio of the length of the eaves wall to the depth of the gable wall. These set the overall proportions of the existing house.

4. The extension matches the proportion and shape of the gable of the existing house and therefore complements the design of the existing house.

5. This two storey extension achieves the same balance of the gable proportions but maintains subservience to the existing house by being slightly lower and slight set back.

6. This flat roofed extension is of a noticeably different shape, but it is strongly subservient to the existing house due to its lower height and smaller mass. The setback also reinforces the subservience of the extension to the existing house. The plan and vertical proportions of the extension respect those of the existing house.

7. This two storey extension is large, but does not visually compete or dominate the existing house because it is lower in height, slightly set back and respects the proportions of the existing house.

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Sunrooms and link extensions

  1. Link extensions can be a way of joining two buildings together. It is important for the link to have a much small footprint and height than the buildings that it connects.
  2. Sunrooms or conservatories should have simple built forms that reflect the forms and roof pitches of the existing house.
  3. The vertical proportions of the glazing, floor-to-eaves glazing and use of simple forms makes sunrooms and conservatories look more minimal and simpler, and therefore more subservient to the house.

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3.37 Sheltering front doors from the wind and rain has been a longstanding tradition in the Lake District. The design of new porches should respect the character of the dwelling that it is attached to and the wider street.

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  1. A simple gabled porch looks traditional and complements the shape and form of the house.
  2. Porches that are fussy in their appearance due to a complex footprint or roof shape can often look out of place against a house that has an otherwise simple footprint and form.
  3. The lean-to porch is another traditional option and lends itself to the door being on the side or front.
  4. Hipped roof porches can look out of place in a townscape where most buildings are gabled, but the hipped roof is a good way of making the porch more subservient to the house.
  5. In semi-detached houses and terraces the location, size, shape and proportions of new porches must relate to the wider group. It is usually important to maintain symmetry or a regular rhythm of identical or highly similar porches.
  6. Larger porches can double as useful storage for bins or bikes or EV chargers or garden tools. If designed in this way, porches can reduce the amount of clutter around the outside of the house.

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Roof Pitches

3.27 The pitch or angle of a roof has a large impact on how a building looks and fits in with its surroundings. The roof pitches of new development must respond positively to its townscape context, for example, by matching neighbouring buildings.

3.28 Where slates are used roof pitches must not be lower than 22.5º. If the slates are laid shallower than this, rain will run off more slowly and can find its way under and between slates.

3.29 The roof pitches of extensions, particularly catslide roofs that are often found in the Lake District, should match or be similar to the roof pitch of the main roof of the house.

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  1. Roof pitches should generally not exceed 50º.Steeper roof pitches are rare and tend to be limited to Victorian buildings and chalet-style dwellings.
  2. The typical roof pitch used in traditional buildings in the Lake District is 37º to 40º, and will therefore be appropriate in most circumstances.
  3. Roof pitches should not be shallower than 27º. Shallow roof pitches are rare in the Lake District, and shallow roofs are therefore unlikely to reflect or contribute to local character
  4. The roof pitch of the catslide roof can either continue the slope of the main roof or be slightly shallower (e.g. by 5º) to slow runoff and increase headroom under the catslide roof.
  5. Lean-to extensions should generally have the same or a similar roof pitch to the main roof of the house.

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Window Proportions

3.30 The ratio of the height to width of a window sets the shape and proportion of window openings. New development such as extensions must incorporate window proportions that show a positive response to their context, by reflecting the proportions of the existing building.

3.32 The number of windows and the spacing of windows on an elevation has a big impact on how a building looks. Most houses in the Lake District have a rhythm of evenly spaced window openings that give elevations a pleasing and balanced appearance.

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  1. The proportion of an existing window opening is taller than it is wide, giving the window opening a vertical emphasis. In most cases, traditional window openings are noticeably taller than they are wide as this works best with sliding sash windows or windows hinged on the side that swing open.
  2. This proposed new window opening is smaller than the existing window, but it has the same proportion (i.e., ratio of height to width) as the existing window, and so provides a positive response.
  3. The proposed new window has a proportion that is noticeably squashed and squat compared to the existing window. This is not a positive response to the existing window proportion.
  4. The right-hand part of the elevation looks noticeably ‘busier’ than the rest of the house due to the number of small windows squashed into this part of the building. It detracts from the character of the whole elevation.
  5. All parts of the building have a similar layout of windows giving a harmonious appearance.
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Building Materials

3.38 One of the most important ways of establishing a sense of place in the built environment is through the use of materials, most importantly through roof and wall materials. These should be complemented with an approach to windows, doors, landscaping and boundaries which reflect the quality and character of the landscape and the importance of the built environment.

3.39 Unlike other areas of the country where building materials are often imported or manufactured, the appearance of buildings in the Lake District is a direct product of the geology beneath them.

3.40 Whether it is distinctively pink Eskdale granite or the greens and greys of Honister stone in the centre of Keswick, when planning a design for an extension or new building in the Lake District, looking at the roofs and walls of neighbouring buildings will inform the most appropriate approach.

  • Cobbles harmonise visually with quarried stone.

  • Cobbles lend a rural character to paved areas.

  • River cobbles are a colourful and attractive alternative to paving stones in hard landscaping. Hawkshead.

3.41 The colour and textures of new development must harmonise with local character and landscape, although this does not prevent the use of both to add focus and interest to the streetscape where justified.

  • Render finishes were reserved for the higher status buildings, such as this farmhouse, while barns and outbuildings were usually left as bare stone. Borrowdale.

  • Farm buildings often have a ‘rougher’ appearance than houses due to the bare stone. Here the external staircase is barely visible against the stonework. Hawkshead

  • Here the farmhouse has a smooth render with lines struck into it to give the appearance of regular stone blocks. The adjacent barn has been left as bare sandstone (stained by a broken downpipe).

Walling Materials

3.42 The walls of a building can often be as important to local distinctiveness, character and sense of place as its roof, especially within a dense town context or a tightly knit farm group when seen from road level. Wall finishes are functional, decorative and often both. Wall finishes are functional, decorative and often both.

3.43 Local walling materials vary more obviously across the Lake District than roofing slate. Stone is less easy to transport and therefore historically, the easiest stone to build a house from was the closest available. Walls were often built upon boulders or bedrock, with stone quarried from the nearest rock face or gathered from the land or nearby streams.

3.44 The most common stone used in the core of the Lake District is slate stone, the by-product of the roofing slates quarried across the area. Limestone, granite and red sandstone are found towards the different peripheries of the Lake District, away from the slate-rich mountains.

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  • A material found much more widely elsewhere in the north of England; sandstone is generally only found in the fringes of the Lake District as a walling material.

  • A slightly different limestone with red and purple colouration is found along the north-eastern fringe of the Lake District.

  • South Cumbrian limestone can be more easily shaped into regular blocks that the slate stone of the central Lake District. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

3.45 Where possible, stone used for the walls of buildings should match the type, appearance and method of laying that is most
prevalent in the area.

  • The distinctive green-grey-brown local stone is used for walling across much of the Lake District. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd.

  • The local green slate is traditionally laid in diminishing courses. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • Lake District green slate was used in the mid-20th century to give modern buildings like this former bank a distinctive local character.

  • Locally quarried green stone walling combined with red sandstone that may well have been quarried at or near St Bees, Cumbria.

4.46 Roughcast render or ‘wet-dash’, or modern products which replicate its appearance, is the other most common walling finish. Roughcast render is used throughout the Lake District and its use as a wall finish is likely to be appropriate on a range of buildings, particularly where it is not possible to obtain stone to match nearby buildings. Although ‘dry-stone’ construction is often perceived as a quintessential feature of the Lake District it is in some areas a late 19th and 20th-century decorative design choice. As always, cues should be taken from the surrounding area.

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  • Another lime-based material, roughcast render, was used to cover stone and give a neater looking elevation.

  • It is called ‘roughcast’ because pebbles are mixed in with the lime to give a larger surface area for water to evaporate from in wet conditions.

  • Roughcast render is found across the Lake District. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd.

  • The combination of roughcast render, local slate and local stone boundary walls gives buildings a distinctly local character. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd.

  • Roughcast render is usually covered by a number of coats of limewash. Here is its bare appearance.

  • Local stone was often traditionally covered with layers of limewash, as this decaying historic example shows.

  • Limewash was often brightly or strongly coloured as in this recently restored example.

  • If left to weather, the local stone beneath the render becomes exposed.

3.47 Agricultural buildings, with the exception of farmhouses, were generally not traditionally rendered in the Lake District. This made a clear distinction between domestic and functional space. Unless evidence can be demonstrated on the building itself or through research, former agricultural buildings must not be rendered.

3.48 The acceptability of alternative materials will depend on the sensitivity of the site and nature of the design. It will be necessary to demonstrate that the use of materials other than local stone and roughcast render is appropriate.

3.49 Metal wall cladding (including zinc, copper, lead, stainless steel and aluminium) and timber wall cladding or composite cladding products which mimic the appearance of timber are only likely to be acceptable where used sparingly as part of a cohesive design solution and where the context of the site and character of the landscape means that its use would not compromise sense of place.

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  • Local blue grey slate stone is a by-product of the local roof slate industry and is used for walling. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • The local blue grey slate stone has a distinctive appearance and is still quarried in Cumbria..

Adapted from R.W. Brunskill: Vernacular Architecture of the Lake Counties (1974)

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Roofing Materials

3.50 Most locally distinctive of all are the local slate roofs of the Lake District that can be seen covering the majority of buildings in the area and which make a significant contribution to sense of place, particularly when seen from above.

  • The colour palette of the Lake District is relatively muted and largely determined by the predominant use of local slate. Although this can vary considerably in colour from black to purple, green to orange, depending on the rock’s source. The iridescent quality of the material is particularly evident when wet, as it often is.

3.51 Roofing material used in both new build and conversions must be locally sourced green or blue-grey slate. Laid in a traditional pattern of diminishing courses (where larger slates at the eaves gradually recede to the smallest slates at the ridge) and random widths, local slate has a thick gauge, rough-hewed surface and distinctive patina which all contribute to an appearance that is as locally distinctive when first laid as it is decades later.

Other types of roofing material, even alternative forms of slate, weather very differently and do not harmonise with the landscape in the same way. Exceptions: Welsh slate may be used where it is locally prevalent (e.g., in railway towns). Artificial, e.g., plastic, roofing materials are not acceptable.

The colour and textures of new development must harmonise with local character and landscape, although this does not prevent the use of both to add focus and interest to the streetscape where justified.

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  • Blue grey slate is one of the local naturally occurring building materials of the Lake District. Ravenglass. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • Local blue grey slate is traditionally laid in courses that increase in size towards the eaves. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • Local blue grey slate is a locally distinctive building material that is still quarried in Cumbria. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • The difference between local blue grey slate (left) and imported Spanish (right) slate is visible. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • Hawkshead has a highly harmonious appearance due to the consistent use of local blue grey slate roofing. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

3.52 The use of local green slate or blue grey slate will be informed by the immediate context of the site. Often, either option will be acceptable. To reinforce the importance of local character slate roofs should normally be laid in the traditional manner of diminishing courses and random widths.

3.53 Other types of roofing material, even alternative forms of slate, weather very differently and do not harmonise with the landscape in the same way.

3.54 Alternative roof coverings to local slate will only be considered in the following circumstances:

  • Where a roof is not prominent in public views and the building has limited historical or architectural value.
  • Where the immediate context of the roof demonstrates other roof coverings of such variety that the use of local slate would not reinforce the importance of local character and sense of place.
  • Where the alternative roof covering is a component part of an overall cohesive and well justified design scheme, having regard to its context.
  • In parts of Keswick and Windermere and the surrounding areas where there is historical precedent for the use of Welsh slate and where its use would reinforce the importance of local character and sense of place.

3.55 Imported slate is not an appropriate alternative to local slate. Imported slate is likely to retain a smooth and uniform colour and texture which means it does not weather in the same way as local slates and as they are normally made to standard sizes and to a thinner gauge, they cannot replicate the variety found in a local slate roof and cannot replicate its appearance.

3.56 Even where planning permission is not required for replacement or repair of an existing roof, we strongly discourage the use of imported slate for the above reasons and because the incremental effect of changes which do not require planning permission is the erosion of local distinctiveness, character and sense of place.

3.57 If there are valid reasons to consider roof coverings other than local slate, alternative locally produced roofing materials are likely to be more appropriate than imported slate, when considered in terms of its appearance, longevity, value for money and carbon footprint.

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  • Local to the Lake District, this green-grey slate has a distinctive colour, and is laid in diminishing courses. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • The local green slate is traditionally laid in diminishing courses. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd

  • The roof in front has replacement Brazilian slates while the one in the background is local green slate. The difference in coursing and texture is clear. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd.

  • In some parts of the Lake District, as here in Hawkshead, slate is hung on walls for protection from prevailing winds.

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Boundary Walls and Paving

3.58 Local stone should also be used for primary boundary walls, especially in rural areas. The type and nature of traditional boundary divisions should be identified as part of the historic character and landscape assessments. Drystone or quarried stone should be used in preference to sawn stone for boundary walls.

3.59 Hard landscaping should be kept to a minimum and must take cues from the surrounding area, subject to associated constraints such as drainage and durability. The choice of surface must harmonise with local character particularly in terms of colour.

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  • Here the boundary wall incorporates boulders of the local blue-grey stone, giving a particularly rural character.

  • Grey limestone is a material quarried around the southern fringes of the Lake District and used for walls and buildings. Image: Burlington Slate Ltd.

Extensions to traditional buildings

3.60 In the case of an extension or conversion to a historic farmstead, or non-designated building in a conservation area or listed building, the applicant must demonstrate that the proposal respects the character and appearance of the building and does not substantially harm its significance or setting. Impact on surrounding heritage assets will also need to be considered (see C.2.ii Heritage Assets).

3.61 In cases where the structural condition of a building is in question, a full structural survey by a qualified architect or structural engineer will be required prior to application.

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H.2.i Lighting, Aspect and Privacy

3.62 Extensions should be laid out so that reasonable levels of daylight are maintained to existing windows, gardens and spaces. New housing and extensions should follow the 45º rules:

  • New development should not break through a 45º line drawn vertically from the top of the boundary of a direct neighbour. If the development breaks this line, it is likely to result in an unacceptable level of shadow.
  • New development, including extensions to dwellings, should not break through a 45º line drawn from the centre of a next-door window. If the development breaks this line, there is likely to be an unacceptable loss of daylight and amenity for the neighbouring building.

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Light, aspect and privacy:

  1. There is overshadowing on the neighbouring property because the 45 degree line cuts across the neighbouring elevation.
  2. There is no overshadowing on the neighbouring property.
  3. Overshadowing on the neighbouring property because the 45 degree line cuts across the neighbouring elevation.
  4. Combined extensions can avoid neighbour impacts.
  5. Single storey extensions for either a terrace or semi-detached house: 3m maximum rear extension.
  6. Single storey extensions: there should be a 2m distance from the neighbouring fence and 3m maximum for a rear extension.
  7. Two storey extension: there should be a 2m distance from the neighbouring fence and 3m maximum for a rear extension.

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Light, aspect and privacy:

  1. As a guide: for each metre of height difference between the two buildings, there should be an extra metre added to the horizontal distance between the extension and the neighbouring house.
  2. The recommended distance plus ‘X’.
  3. The extension is overlooking on the neighbouring property.
  4. The extension is overbearing on the neighbouring property.

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