Pembrokeshire: Eco-house couple battle on

diggers350 tony at
Fri Jun 25 18:31:08 BST 2004

BBC are running a similar article at

Eco-House Couple to Battle On
By Antony Stone, PA News

A couple today vowed to fight on to preserve their way of life after 
appearing in court for failing to demolish an illegal eco-house.

Tony Wrench, 59, and Jane Faith, 56, built their turf-roofed roundhouse in =
the depths of west Wales without planning permission but it was discovered w=
hen it was photographed from the air five years ago.

Since then the couple have fought and finally lost a battle to retain their=
 home at Brithdir Mawr, near Newport, in Pembrokeshire.

Both were fined and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £400 each today at =
the climax of a two-hour sentencing hearing at Swansea Crown Court.

Earlier Judge Keith Thomas heard that Wrench had an income of £86 a week an=
d Faith around £2,000 a year ­ a combined income of £6,300.

Faith told the judge they lived very simply without a TV, washing machine o=
r dish-washer: ­ "All our fuel is wood."

After the hearing today Mr Wrench said their supporters would willingly cha=
in themselves to the roundhouse's roof to save it.

"They could send in the bulldozers whenever they want but we have got a lot=
 of supporters now. The weather is far too nice to tear it down this time of=

"But overall I feel relieved. The judge could have clobbered us but he didn=

Wrench and Faith both admitted failing to comply with an enforcement order =
issued by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in May 2003.

Paul Cooper, prosecuting, told Judge Keith Thomas he could understand if he=
 were "bewildered" by having to deal with the case at all.

He said local magistrates, who could impose fines of up to £20,000, had dec=
lined jurisdiction of the case.

Instead they had preferred a crown court judge, who has the power to impose=
 unlimited fines, to deal with sentencing.

Speaking of the defendants Mr Cooper said: "They have been put forward by n=
ewspapers and the media as new Robin Hoods."

He added that any publicity attracted by the case had not been at the 
"behest of the national park".

Mr Cooper said that after the couple's illegal home had been discovered in =
1999 an enforcement notice had been issued.

In the meantime the couple had applied for retrospective planning 
permission, which was refused, and appealed to the Welsh Assembly.

A three-day appeal hearing took place in June 2001 which quashed the 
enforcement notice and granted them an 18-month temporary permission to giv=
e them time to find alternative accommodation.

"That decision was in 2001 and it is now 2004," Mr Cooper told the judge.

"After the 18 months the roundhouse was not removed and the land was not re=
turned to its original state."

He said that as a result a new enforcement notice had been served which the=
 couple now admitted breaching.

Speaking in his own defence Mr Wrench, who has a law degree and is a former=
 council performance review officer, said he was not a law breaker.

He said a review of planning policy forced on the national park by the Wels=
h Assembly could mean their low impact home was accepted in future.

He said the roundhouse did not damage the environment it "only damaged the =

"At the moment those rules are being changed."

Mr Wrench added: "It does seem to me that the attitude of the park is to tr=
y and prosecute us willy-nilly despite the fact that they are being obliged =
to change their rules towards low-impact dwellings."

The judge also heard the couple were ready to demolish their home at Easter=
 but were surprised when hundreds of supporters called on them not to go ahe=

As a result they both felt the roundhouse was an example of a viable 
alternative life-style which should not be demolished.

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