A Welsh couple who, without consent from local planning authorities, constructed a turf-roofed, straw-walled eco-dwelling straight out of Middle Earth have lost a demolition appeal. Charlie Hague and Megan Williams now have two months to raze the hobbit-esque abode that took a year to build using natural and locally sourced materials although a retroactive planning application has been submitted, an application that the Pembrokeshire Council will consider “on its own merits.”
It’s a rather unfortunate story that we’ve seen before in the U.K. — homeowners building structures on private property only to be nabbed by local planning authorities because said structures are unauthorized, a direct violation of laws put in place to halt sprawl and preserve the protected countryside. But unlike this guy who attempted to slip under the radar by hiding his clandestine mock-castle house under a wall of hay bales and tarp, Hague and Williams did nothing to obscure their hand-built roundhouse as it naturally blends into its bucolic surroundings with minimal impact on the land.
In their defense Hague and Williams — they’d been living in a “cold and damp” trailer on their Glandwyr property before constructing the $23,000 home (not to be confused with another famous Welsh hobbit house) with the help of family, friends, and residents of the neighboring Lammas ecoVillage following the birth of their son — argued that their home should be allowed to stay given its unobtrusive, low-impact nature.
The Planning Ispectorate wasn’t having it, however. Explained Planning Inspector Iwan Lloyd in his ruling that upheld the council’s enforcement notice originally issued in December of last year: "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.”
Deputy council leader Rob Lewis embraced Lloyd’s decision: "Planning is a rigorous process with clear guidelines and if it is to be enforced fairly must also be upheld by everyone.”
Speaking to WalesOnline, Williams acknowledges that, yes, she and her husband failed to seek out the compulsory permits to build the home but they really had no other option:
I come from Newport in Pembrokeshire, where many of the homes are owned by wealthy developers from outside the area as second, third or even fourth homes. Charlie and I would struggle to get anywhere near the property ladder — even in some of the supposed affordable homes being created in Pembrokeshire. We were living in a mobile home here previously, and it really wasn’t warm or comfortable.
The house, which blends into the surrounding area, is really much less intrusive than any mobile home. I know it’s not a possibility for everyone, and our situation here is unique – but if young people are to live and work in the area they need somewhere to live.
This is a toughie — beth yw cywilydd as the neighbors might say —and you can't help feel for Williams and her husband. It’s a beautiful, economical little home built with love, care, and respect for its surroundings. But it’s also a home that flouts established rules, rules that Hague and Williams were well-aware existed before they set out to build it.
You can show your support by signing a petition to help save the offending home from demolition and view numerous over at Natural Homes.