That Roundhouse to be Demolished

Rowan ladyrowan100 at
Tue Feb 17 00:31:51 GMT 2004

Champion of green homes bows to planners

Long battle to maintain sustainable roundhouse ends after national
park threatens to send in bulldozers

Monday February 16, 2004
The Guardian

One of Britain's most commited proponents of sustainable living has
given up his five year struggle to live in a house made of wood, mud
and straw hidden away in the Welsh woods. Tony Wrench has been
battling the Pembrokeshire coast national park authority for the
right to stay in the low impact eco-home he designed and built since
it was discovered in 1999 when a park survey plane looking for
illegal caravans spotted sunlight reflected off its solar panels.
He built the home without planning permission in 1997 at Brithdir
Mawr, a community of people trying to live in a way that does not
impact the environment inside the national park, near Fishguard.

Mr Wrench, who last month was prosecuted and fined for failing to
comply with an order to demolish the hobbit-hole style roundhouse,
has become a cause celebre in the sustainable living movement. But
he told the Guardian he is tired of fighting the planners and has
decided to demolish it.

"We'll have to pull it down," he said. "I've got other things to do
with my life than just defend this, and so in a way I'm happy that
we might have lost the battle but won the war. We have raised the
profile of the debate, so now politicians realise there is a way of
building low impact homes in the countryside under strict controls."

The Welsh assembly is one of only two governments in the world to
formally commit itself under law to promote sustainable development,
though Mr Wrench said the park authorities have refused to discuss
the issue with him.

"There is absolutely no evidence that they are willing to look for a
compromise. We could be working with the park effortlessly by now if
they were willing to see this as an enterprise worth encouraging."

Mr Wrench's decision comes as the park authority, which last week
was considering sending in bulldozers to enforce the demolition
order, is promoting its own vision of sustainability and drafting
plans that could permit low impact homes similar to Mr Wrench's to
be built on park land.

It is offering £750,000 over the next three years to support
sustainable projects, which its website describes as "treating the
earth as though we intend to stay".

Mr Wrench and his partner, Jane Faith, do not now intend to stay
beyond April 9, when they say they will start taking the house down
during a week-long deconstruction camp at the site. The frame of the
£3,000 roundhouse is built from local coppiced wood, with a plastic
lined turf roof so that it blends in with the surroundings.
Catherine Milner, head of development control with the park
authority, said: "The problem is not what the house is, what it
looks like or how sustainable it is or might not be. The issue with
the roundhouse is that it is the erection of a dwelling in the open
countryside. Planning policies at a national and local level do not
allow new houses in the open countryside unless there is
justification for them." She denied that the action to demolish the
roundhouse undermined the park's pledge to promote sustainability.

"We are looking at the whole issue of low impact development, but
that is quite separate and is nothing to do with Tony Wrench and the
roundhouse," she said. "Years ago we had people pulling up and
living in converted vans in the countryside. We never had any
problem getting rid of them because they looked bloody awful."

Supporters of Mr Wrench said losing the roundhouse, which receives
hundreds of visitors a year, will damage attempts to promote
sustainable living in other communities. "We have brought more than
60 students here who have gone back to work in inner city
regeneration, and school garden projects, and been inspired to
reduce their own environmental impact," said Sarah Pugh, an
environmental project worker in Bristol. "The authorities should be
taking advice from people like Tony, not making them homeless."

Ms Milner said turning a blind eye to Mr Wrench's house, which would
have been exempt from planning regulations if it had remained
undiscovered for four years, would open the floodgates. The Brithdir
Mawr community has admitted it has built a further three

She added: "Before long you won't have any countryside left because
these people will be building these things all over the place."

Mr Wrench said: "Floodgates are opened at a certain point when the
flood around the town is so great it will wreck everything. The
flood is all the people who need low cost, efficient houses.",13369,1149060,00.html

This is the same planning authoruty that have agreed the building of
a multi-million pound 500-acre leisure and sports village, with 340
log cabins, in the same National park.

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