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Devon gem ushers its legacy into the present

Devon gem ushers its legacy into the present

Georgian country houseJust a ten-minute drive from Honiton, Deer Park Country House sits atop a gentle hill overlooking the Otter Valley in rural East Devon, the heart of the South West.

The 80-acre estate was built in 1721 by the wealthy Fry Family. Its symmetrical design and bright, spacious interior are emblematic of the Georgian period, earning it Grade-II listed status in 1955. The country house operated as a hotel between 1947 and 2018, hosting a number of esteemed guests.

“It was a Georgian manor house built to party and entertain,” said Mark Godfrey, Managing Director and Partner of Deer Park.Georgian properties

Godfrey spearheaded the country house’s transformation into a luxury wedding venue that offers guests an exclusive, private getaway. Ensconced at the foot of the Blackdown Hills, its discreet location and lush surroundings have made Deer Park a popular destination for couples tying the knot. Its idyllic charm and remarkable hospitality even earned it a 2023 Condé Nast Johansens Award for Excellence. The Johansens team were particularly enchanted by Deer Park’s “luxurious” and “romantic” accommodation, naming it as the best venue for weddings, parties and celebrations.

Deer Park is also an East Devon Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) ambassador, winning its Acland Award in 2014. The award celebrates individuals and enterprises that positively impact the East Devon landscape.

“Our commitment to our little piece of Devon as trusted custodians is a big part of our values,” said Godfrey.

In addition to its mission of providing guests with an exclusive, luxury experience, Deer Park is committed to environmental sustainability in East Devon. Stags recently secured planning permission for the installation of a number of solar panels in the grounds of  the country house.

East Devon District Council assessed the proposal against its adopted Local Plan, which seeks to encourage development while preserving the region’s rich natural landscape and legacy of heritage assets. The plan sets out a series of policies; those relevant to securing permission for Deer Park are Strategies 3 and 39, as well as Policy EN9.

Strategy 3, titled “Sustainable Development,” requires any new development to conserve and enhance the environment, meaning any harm to biodiversity must be minimised and the quality and character of the landscape must be enhanced. Furthermore, the policy stipulates that new development needs to keep fossil fuel use to a minimum, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Strategy 39 states that renewable and low-carbon energy projects will be supported by the Council, so long as it can be demonstrated that steps will be taken to reduce and mitigate any unavoidable harm to “ensure an acceptable balance between harm and benefit.” For instance, although the installation of the solar panels at Deer Park requires the loss of a number of young apple trees, a feasibility report concludes that the panels will see the estate reduce its energy consumption by up to 20 percent. Additionally, under Policy EN9, the Council are required to assess whether there would be any harm to Deer Park or its setting as a Grade II listed heritage asset. In this particular case, the Council were able to rule out such harm due to the sensitive​​​​​​​ siting of the solar panels a good distance away from the Listed Building, separated by historic hedge banks and mature intervening vegetation.  

With the addition of the solar panels, Deer Park can continue offering guests a luxury experience without compromising its commitment to sustainability.

If you are considering new projects in East Devon, reach out to Stags’ Planning and Design team. Our experts have comprehensive knowledge of sustainability and preservation policies throughout the South West and can offer valuable insight on any new development you are seeking to undertake.