“Hobbit House” Under Demolition Threat

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A British couple who built a Hobbit-style house from local materials have lost an appeal against demolition by the local authority. They were told the home caused “harm to the character and appearance of the countryside.”

Charlie Hague and Megan Williams built the home after living in a caravan for four years before Williams became pregnant and they decided they needed a house. They believed they would not receive planning permission for the property and decided to go ahead regardless, which has led to their current problems.

Hague, a sculptor, built the single-storey home for around $23,000 using local natural materials. The walls are made of straw bales with a lime plaster, the roof is grass and the internal structure is local wood. They took construction advice from a nearby “ecoVillage” where the properties were built with permission. The house is built on land owned by Hague’s father.

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The local authority, Pembrokeshire Council, began taking action earlier this year, citing rules that ban building dwellings in open countryside without permission. The council issued a demolition notice, which a government agency, the Planning Inspectorate, has now upheld. It ruled that:

There is a lack of proper justification for the benefits of the low-impact development in this case for this matter to be given sufficient weight and to outweigh the policies which seek to control development in the countryside

The couple have now received a formal demand that the property be demolished within two months, else the council will enforce the demolition. As a last-ditch effort, the couple have applied for the rare step of the council granting planning permission retrospectively.

A petition calling on the council to do just that had, at the time of writing, attracted just over 15,000 signatures. In the petition, Williams argues that “In building the house we have not caused any negative effects on the surrounding area or its population; we have simply created shelter as is our human right.”





23 Responses to “Hobbit House” Under Demolition Threat

  1. Sorry .. whilst a “lovely project” .. UK planning / building regulations are pretty clear and straight forward, they ignored them and as such have no leg to stand on ..

    Every one else who does a garage, home extension, summer house, conservatory etc on their house follow these regs which generally are there to protect the neighbours from having their resale value / house value impacted.. so why does this allow them to ignore clearly understood regs ?

    • Exactly. If it were some tar paper shack (on Montego Bay) we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But because the project is inspired by a beloved story the outrage at clearly outlined rules is justified.

  2. At the same time should it be within the councils right to make them homeless, is this home really an obstruction or causing some sort of harm to the countryside when it’s made from.so many natural resources and on his own land no less. They might have not gone through the right channels to build the home though it shouldn’t give anyone the right to automatically demolish it which I’m sure would cause more harm to the countryside.

    • They aren’t automatically destroying it. They’re following due process as the builders should have done, the article mentions that they have just lost an appeal which means an appeal was considered. The builders knew this would happen BEFORE they built the house. While it is a shame that such a lovely house may very well end up being destroyed, it’s not the councils fault for enforcing the rules, but the builders for breaking them in the first place. It doesn’t matter if they own the land or not. There are strict regulations as to what land may or may not be used for.

      As to being rendered homeless, they are being given sufficient time to find somewhere to live and can apply for registered social housing through a homelessness service on account of the fact their homelessness is involuntary and unavoidable. They won’t end up on the streets.

  3. If you are able to and focussed on building such a house, you’re probably not busy with regulation. Maybe they should have Googled first. But you have probably spent a ton of money once in your life first and thought about details later.
    People are also not allowed to live on the street. But instead of throwing them in jail, we try to help them.

  4. Slightly concerned about the fire hazards of electricty running through walls made of straw… also, what would stop said straw from turning to mulsh? Or the grass roof causing a water problem as it doesn’t have the same drainage that grass on the ground has.

  5. Listen to you people, like it isnt hard enough to find / fund a home as it is without countless BS rules and regulations. Its there land they should be able to build what they want on it.

    Stop the world i want off.

    • Listen to you FDM!

      Planning regulations are there to keep the greenbelt GREEN, and open land, not for randoms to buy & build what they want.

      Eco, or not, this house has broken planning regulations, which the builders knew about before they built.

      I quote the article
      “They believed they would not receive planning permission for the property and decided to go ahead regardless”

      So, they knew the law, but decided they were above it, and took a gamble.

      Tell you what, I’ll build a house in your garden, see how you feel about losing your green space.

      • Regardless of the rules they have broke, this home isn’t really causing any issues so i hope they get to keep it since it’s by now technically part of the countryside since it has a grass roof and so close to the woods, demolishing it could potentially cause a massive disturbance in the local wildlife. Now the structure has been built i think the council need there permission to change the layout of the land they own, so it’s a bit of a stalemate in my opinion.

      • No offense Mike, but your last sarcastic quip isn’t relevant, as you would be ‘building on someone else’s land’ and they built the house on his fathers dad. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

    • ill get off with you. I never understood these stupid regulations, no matter where they are. Sure, if they dont OWN the land they should follow the rules of the land owner, but its family land, and the regulations are just ridiculous!

  6. Possibly one of the most beautiful houses I’ve seen. This does nothing but add to the local scenery and people will want to take pics of it when rambling and everything! It’s such a shame that the council are more concerned with laws which say you can’t build in the countryside. If it’s someone’s estate I don’t really think it should count as the countryside at all, it’s on someone else’s private land and it’s lovely, a true masterpiece! I think the house is more of a priceless artwork than a building violation. Such a pity.

  7. No offense Mike, but your last sarcastic quip isn’t relevant, as you would be ‘building on someone else’s land’ and they built the house on his fathers dad. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

  8. One reason why I love living in America: If it were built here without permits, the owners would pay a fine and then be left alone…

    • I doubt that’s true. I’m a general contractor in the US, WI specifically. I believe they would demolish just to make an example….much like they are here. I would just take longer to do it here seemingly. They would hang me up for doing it too. Strip my cred,ect. Would never be able to pull a permit. And so the cycle would continue, lol.

      You just don’t do this. Although the haphazard building technique does intrigue me…..I’ve counted many building violations. And one bad storm and this thing is toast. I can elaborate if anyone cares.

      • I could the see them not backing down just to make an example for everyone to remember to go through due process. As for paying a fine and moving on I agree with M.Attacker, even here in Canada we have buildings torn down for permit, placement and code violations. Typical municipalities here state that only one residence is allowed per property; there are probably several other reasons but one I believe is to avoid issues where the land owner wants to sell but there are basically tenants on the land and cannot be forced off. Yes this is his father’s land but that’s still no guarantee they’ll be on speaking terms in 2 years. If you don’t like the rules and can’t live by them find a different place to live.

  9. It’s a beautiful home with a beautiful family :)
    That being said, regardless of country, rules such as building/construction regs are there for a reason. Sort of WISH they had something like that here in America due to the vast amounts of eyesores and housing developments that go up all the time. Used to be a beautiful park area down the street.. demolished because some company wanted to throw up a bunch of cookie cutter houses.
    Would they have had to wait a while to build their home? Maybe. Possibly found a different spot? Could very well be. Or they could have been surprised and may have been granted that permission. Who knows.
    For the baby’s sake I do hope that they are able to stay, but on the flip side, they should have been a little more responsible.

  10. @Peter:

    That is not at all accurate. It depends a LOT on jurisdiction.

    These people just forged ahead and did this, but on the other hand their neighbors and the town council should have had ample opportunities to tell them to knock it the hell off even as they started. There’s a reason you have to post permits when you’re working on a house.

    I suppose it’s theoretically possible that they did it on the sly without telling anyone. In which case they really should have known better. They probably claimed it was a shed or a garage if anyone asked, which would add lying to their neighbors to the list of stupidities.

    What’s missed here is that we are all part of a society, and laws are there to help (hopefully, nothing human is perfect) us move along without causing too much harm to ourselves or others. Say these people have made something that isn’t an eyesore, and more or less functions as a home for day to day activities.

    Is it up to fire code? If it burns down these people are not only SOL (no way that’s insured) but the township has to pay the costs of the fire department bailing them out. If they suffer horrific burns in the fire the community has to cover that cost too. If they end up homeless the community has to endure the cost of seeing them homeless, or shelter them somehow.

    Laws exist for a reason. Mostly so that we can’t harm others when we’re being selfish, short-sighted, or mean-spirited. Is it perfect? Gods no, but no system with humans in it is. Trust me, the anarchy of Libertarianism would be worse. Go read the Poisoner’s Handbook and get a good look at life is like without the ‘mommy state’ of food, drug, and workplace regulation if you think otherwise.

    These people had $23000 in cash to build this place, so they had the lucre for a down payment on a properly constructed home. They just thought their hipster dream cabin was worth ignoring the law for, and yes, hipster is a meaningful term here. Hipster = mooching off your Dad (his land) so you can live your otherwise unsustainable hippie sculptor lifestyle.

  11. A brief history about why we need Building Control

    The Great Fire of London in 1666 was the single most significant event, which has shaped legislation of today. The rapid growth of the fire through timber buildings built next to each other highlighted the need to consider the possible spread of fire between properties when the rebuilding work was done. So the first building construction legislation was therefore born in 1667 requiring buildings to have some form of fire resistance.

    Two hundred years on, the Industrial Revolution had meant poor living and working conditions in ever expanding, densely populated urban areas. Outbreaks of Cholera and other serious diseases, through poor sanitation, damp conditions and lack of ventilation forced the Government to take action.

    Building Control took on the greater role of Health and Safety through the first Public Health Act in 1875. This Act had two major revisions in 1936 and 1961, leading to the first set of national building standards, The Building Regulations 1965.

  12. A thread elsewhere on the internet discussed this and a few knowledgeable people chimed in with problems with the house that could be spotted just from the pictures:

    1) It’s too close to the water. While it’s possible they are pumping the sewage uphill to an acceptable disposal location it’s not likely.

    2) The railings are built wrong. Code dictates the maximum space between supports for a good reason. Theirs are too far apart–and soon that baby of theirs will be a toddler that might fall through.

    3) That tree it’s built around will rot and eventually fall over. It’s a liability, not a support.

    Since they clearly busted code in #2 it’s obvious they weren’t paying attention to the building code. There’s probably a lot more wrong that we can’t see.

  13. It’s beautiful! Definitely not detracting from the countryside, but adding to it.

    Previous posters are assuming they have/want electricity at all.

    There are ‘treehouses’ worldwide that are up to code…

    How about someone help them bring it up to code instead of tearing it down?

  14. I can’t help, this story reminds me of the beginning of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, in one way or another. Let’s see what happens, when the Vogons come…