The practice

Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd is a landscape design practice with an international reputation for making gardens that combine naturalism and modernity. The practice was established in 1998. Work since has ranged from large gardens and parks open to the public, to smaller private gardens. Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd has also designed a number of gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show. Eight of these have been awarded gold medals, and three have won ‘Best in Show’. Most projects are located in the Uk and Europe, with a few undertaken further afield. Despite the scale and complexity of our work we remain a medium-sized practice. Fourteen landscape architects and designers at our office in London a well as three overseas consultants working under the direction of Tom Stuart-Smith, who is closely involved with each project.

Our philosophy

We seek to create landscapes that offer a rich and multi-layered experience - places with an emotional depth that derives from the ideas behind their design. Juxtaposition and contrast is a theme that runs through much of our work: between simplicity and complexity; the modern and the romantic; between subtle intervention and decisive statement. Our work has a richness of form and texture which belies the economy of means by which this is achieved.

We look to forge connections between people and place. We bring an analytical design approach together with a detailed understanding of the nature of a place, and the wishes of our clients.

We follow an ethic of sustainability and seek to increase the ecological diversity and richness of any landscape in which we work. We use local materials wherever we can and select plants fitted to their surroundings, which will endure over time.

We are particularly interested in planting schemes inspired by plant communities as they occur in natural and semi-natural landscapes.

As important as these principles is the idea of the garden as a place that quietly articulates emotions and ideas. The designer's role is to set the scene without imposing a story. A garden should not bind its inhabitants to a narrow vision. Rather we want to make it a place of imaginative possibility.

The Orchard Project

Tom is proposing to move his design studio from London to Serge Hill (Hertfordshire), into a new, highly sustainable studio and mixed-use building of which will house the landscape design studio of Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd as well as offer community gardening, intermittent public events, talks and exhibitions related to practical gardening and garden design.

The building would be at the heart of a new garden, which would be curated in part by employees and would also be a garden where local charities and people could get involved and learn about horticulture. We have already made excellent contact with several local mental health charities and specifically plan to team up with the Sunnyside Rural Trust to work in the garden and produce plants for sale.

The idea for this draws on the work of Tom’s wife Dr Sue Stuart-Smith. Until recently, she worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist based in the Community Mental Health Team in St Albans and is currently writing a book on gardening and wellbeing called 'The Well Gardened Mind'.

It is envisaged that the public and local community aspects of the project will be registered as not for profit since its main aim is to put local people more in touch with the soil as well as with each other. We think this is a really exciting project and something you might support.

Tom and Sue have lived at The Barn, Serge Hill since 1987, Tom was born at Serge Hill where his family has lived since 1924. He has created a world-renowned garden at The Barn and has been actively improving the landscape in and around Serge Hill for many years. As a result, the new studio & mixed-use building for The Orchard Studio has been very carefully considered and designed by Ben Stuart-Smith in close partnership with Tom. Once the new surrounding garden is established, we envisage it being open to the public regularly.

The challenge of the proposal is that it is within the green belt, this means that planning permission for new buildings is only given in very special circumstances. We believe this to be one, and hope you do to.

If you want to hear more about the project and some of the ways in which you can be involved, please send an email to: orchard@tomstuartsmith.co.uk

To view the planning application in progress, please follow this link to the St Albans City & District Council Planning Applications Website and use the reference number 5/2018/2402.

If you feel this proposal sounds as though it should get permission we would be extremely grateful if you could please write a short letter of support to: planning@stalbans.gov.uk and/or provide any feedback comments directly on the council's website.

In the letter of support, please remember to include:

· application number: 5/2018/2402,

· the premises:The Orchard Studio, Featherbed Lane, WD5 0RZ,

· and your name & postal address.

We hope you feel able to write in support of The Orchard Studio and the unique opportunities this place will offer the public and local community.

Thank you!