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.
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.”