End of the good life? Seeking planning permission was against couple's principles
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun Mar 2 23:41:32 GMT 2014
End of the good life! Couple who spent five years
building eco home must tear it down - because
seeking planning permission was against their principles
* Matthew Lepley, 34, and Jules Smith, 54,
left London five years ago to build their dream house in the countryside
* They used railway sleepers, lorry tyres and
scrap metal to build up the house, and used no power tools
* Home has an outdoor compost toilet, no
power or running water, and an underground pantry instead of a fridge
* The couple are now facing an order from
Torridge District Council in Devon to tear down their home after complaints
* They decided not to apply for planning
permissions because the process uses up too much paper and electricity
MAIL REPORTER PUBLISHED: 11:44, 28 February 2014
| UPDATED: 15:56, 1 March 2014
After fleeing a city tower block in search of the
good life, Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith spent
five years sleeping in a tent and living off the
land in a bid to build Britains greenest home.
Armed with an axe and hand tools, they pieced
together scrap metal, tyres and wooden crates
until a one-bedroom cabin complete with compost
toilet rose out of the muddy field they had bought.
Now the couple have been served with an
enforcement notice to tear it all down because
it was against their eco-friendly beliefs to apply for planning permission.
They argue that the process would have wasted too much paper and energy.
Mr Lepley, 34, said: We wanted to build a home
that would let us truly live as one with nature.
The process was a lot slower but it was
extremely satisfying. We wanted to reduce carbon
emissions as much as possible. We took the
decision to build without planning permission
because the councils procedure is not
environmentally friendly enough and it goes against our personal principles.
Five years ago, Mr Lepley and 54-year-old partner
Miss Smith left jobs as carers and moved out of
the tower block in Wood Green, north London, where they were living.
They bought a 20-acre field in Beaworthy, Devon,
put aside £20,000 for construction costs, and set
about scouring farmland and scrap yards for
unwanted materials which they could use to build their home.
Country retreat: Ms Smith, left, and Mr Lepley, right, left Lon
FEATURES OF THE ECO-HOME
* Attic bedroom
* Bathroom with woodfire-heated bath
* Kitchen and living area
* Outdoor compost toilet
* Underground storage chamber
* Bore hole for fresh water
* Duck pond and vegetable patch
* No electricity or running water
They built foundations out of tractor tyres
filled with gravel and used haulage pallets and
railway sleepers to construct the walls and roof.
Today the house is made up of just one bedroom, a
living room, kitchen and bathroom.
Water is drawn out of the ground via a bore hole
and they use an outdoor compost toilet.
And just like Barbara and Tom from BBC sitcom The
Good Life they grown their own fruit and veg and
rear animals ducks for their eggs and sheep for their wool.
Because they have no electricity, they keep their
food cool in an underground fridge a
compartment dug two and a half feet deep.
The couple say their neighbours were initially
supportive of their ambition to live self-sufficiently.
They were relying on locals not alerting the
council to their project so they would be given
automatic planning permission after four years.
But two years into the build, the couple say
locals changed their tune when they revealed
plans to run an eco-friendly retreat and host green workshops in their field.
A neighbour gathered ten signatures and submitted
the petition to Torridge District Council.
Mr Lepley and Miss Smith appealed against the
first enforcement notice three years ago and are
now in the process of appealing against the
second one. Mr Lepley, who earns a living selling
homemade produce and doing part-time care work,
said: What weve done isnt illegal.
Weve had a lot of drama with the neighbours.
Some have been really supportive while others
have gone against us and started a petition.
The idea of the conservation project was to
provide retreat accommodation and run courses and
workshops on sustainable living. The house and
surrounding land enables us to be totally
self-sufficient. This life is not for everyone
but we love it. We would be devastated if we had to knock down.
A council spokesman said: I can confirm Torridge
District Council has served an enforcement notice
that they remove the structure.
However, as it has now gone to appeal, we have
to wait for the inspectors decision before we can take any further action.
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