Charlie is a young man with a young family. Like many people, he couldn't afford to buy a house in Britain. For 4 years, his partner Megan and him lived in a damp caravan but with a baby on the way, he decided to take his life into his own hands and build what is one of the finest, most beautiful examples of a low impact roundhouse with a reciprocal green roof in Britain. This is not just a home, it is a piece of art. Every line is lovingly sculpted from local materials. The house is breathtaking.
Charlie was in many ways lucky. His family had a large enough plot to allow space for his home and he lives near Lammas Ecovillage where there are plenty of people with natural building experience who have been taught by Tony Wrench, the originator of the low impact roundhouse design concept. Tony's vision, articulated in an article in Permaculture 27 back in in 2001, was that to begin to move to towards a low impact, genuinely sustainable society, we have to grow more of our own food and fuel and this means less office work, less consumerism and the opening up of access to the land for everyone, not just farmers and land holders. It also means low cost self-build rather than high embodied energy homes built by contractors out of concrete and steel.
The problem was Charlie built the house for £15,000 but without permission. Charlie and Megan applied for retrospective planning permission from Pembrokeshire County Council but they decided that this wonderful, unobtrusive, sustainable home should be demolished and that Charlie, Meg and their child should go back to their cold and damp caravan.
On 1st August 2013 Pembrokeshire County Council's issued an enforcement saying the property must be demolished within 2 months because, "benefits of the development did not outweigh the harm to the character and appearance of the countryside."
Clearly this is untrue.
Now Pembrokeshire planning committee will meet on Tuesday 24th of June to discuss Charlie and Megan's retrospective planning permission. The agenda for the meeting is now available. The agenda includes a recommendation document that says:
"It is recommended that the application be REFUSED... The dwelling will be dismantled and removed. This would not be a difficult task since it has been built predominantly from natural materials."
As Oliver Swann from naturalhomes.org observes, "This makes you wonder if Charlie might have had a better chance of keeping his home if he had built it from steel and concrete! Remember, this is a recommendation. Let's hope when the planning committee sit together on the 24th that they have compassion for Charlie, the environment and the many others that want to live sustainably on the land."
What you can do
Pembrokeshire Council's Facebook Page continues to be inundated with messages of support for Charlie's retrospective planning application. Maybe it's not too late to save Charlie's home?
* Tell Pembrokeshire County Council's Facebook page that you support low impact development and specifically retrospective planning for Charlie and Meg's home.
* If you live near Charlie (Glandwr, Pembrokeshire) and are outraged by the prospect of his home being demolished, then the BBC would like to hear from you.
* Please pass your contact details and comment to [email protected] and they will forward these to the BBC news desk.
Isn't it time we protested against our planning system that favours big industrial developments and luxury homes built by contractors from high carbon materials but doesn't allow local people to build their own off-grid low impact homes from natural, renewable locally sourced material?
A note on planning
The Welsh government has guidelines for development of settlements in the open countryside called 'One Planet Developments'. This is the Technical Advice Note 6 (PDF 6Mb) Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities, otherwise known as TAN6 with Tony Wrench's roundhouse on the cover which was itself once under demolition threat but was eventually granted planning permission in September 2008.
Our thanks to Natural Homes for the references in this article.
Watch Tony Wrench, the pioneer of low impact roundhouse buildings, with reciprocal frame roofs, build a roundhouse den.