Reprinted from Newsletter 129, dated 2009 August

A tale of two houses: planning refusals followed eventually by accolades

John Brunsdon

In this year’s Built in Quality awards, Michael Eavis won the accolade for the best single new house. The Eavis design, next to the Tithe Barn in Pilton, was built in a “traditional style” with oak timbers to echo the important listed barn (recently re-roofed).

Problems arose when he departed from his permission brief and incorporated new features “as his ideas evolved”. He was then required to apply for retrospective planning permission, and the matter came before the planning board. The planning officer, backed by English Heritage, recommended refusal, largely on the grounds of the introduction of “nonvernacular alien features”.

While deploring the retrospective aspect, I considered the house as then built to be “worthy of permission”; I pointed out that two of our fine historic buildings of merit such as St John’s church tower, which is in the Gloucestershire tradition, and the Abbot’s Kitchen, which is French in style, incorporate alien features and are admired.

Permission was granted and, as stated, Mr Eavis has now received an award!

A “highly commended” went to Rodney Gifford. He had long dreamed of a retirement home in the garden of Little Orchard, his 1930s house at the end of Ashwell Lane. Unfortunately he allowed his outline planning permission to lapse and had to reapply. This time it was recommended for refusal on highway grounds: increased traffic flow at the dangerous A361 junction.

It was, however, pointed out that several bed-and-breakfast outlets already operated in Ashwell Lane, and as a percentage of overall vehicle movements the extra was insignificant. Permission was granted, and the new house now incorporates “highly commended” retirement features. (Incidentally, the builder’s name is Brunsdon—one of the clan, no doubt, but not a close relative!)

The annual Built in Quality Awards are run by Mendip council, and the presentation took place in spring at the Town Hall. (Full list on Mendip website.)

A side-on plan of three houses. Each has a protruding section on the left and, set back from that, a section facing us. Each has a wall blocking the ground floor windows from view. The protruding section of each house is unique in terms of roof shape. The left two have a circular window in the centre; the one on the right has no window on this section of the building. Behind, a line is visible describing a wall running behind the buildings.

Orchard Court: Just over the wall from the Abbey orchard, three large houses are to go up next to Nº3 Magdalene Street, behind a row of terraced houses. Roofs are zinc, and the exterior walls are cedar and render. This view is from the Magdalene Street direction. (Heriz-Payne architects)