Monday, 16 July 2018

Peer wins fight over 'prison' house

A BARRISTER and life peer has won a fight to build a six-bedroom house that was likened to a prison façade by a critic.

A BARRISTER and life peer has won a fight to build a six-bedroom house that was likened to a prison façade by a critic.

Baron Marks of Henley-on-Thames applied for planning permission to demolish seven outbuildings at Walled Garden House in Shiplake Row and build the two-storey house in their place.

South Oxfordshire District Council turned down the application, saying the property would be “intrusive” and its location was “unacceptable”.

However, Lord Marks appealed and now a planning inspector has overturned the council’s decision.

The 63-year-old Lib-Dem peer lives at Holmwood, an 18th century property next door to the 0.9 acre site and the application was made by Welldon Properties, which is based at Holmwood.

It said the brick and flint house would feature west and east halls, a pool, “sunspace” and a triple garage.

Supporters of the plans said the house would be of significant importance in architectural history and a “landmark”.

But several villagers objected, raising concerns about the size of the house and describing it as “incongruous” and “ostentatious” and not sympathetic to the surrounding area.

Richard Pawson, of Gravel Lane, said: “The Footballers’ Wives styling is totally out of keeping with the character of the village and that bizarre garrison-like wall facing the road is particularly revealing in its intent — to place a substantial barrier between the inhabitants and the rest of the village.”

Martin Swords, of The Homestead, said: “The architectural style of this development is Russian Oligarch meets Los Angeles bling.

“It seems that the designers have never visited a South Oxfordshire village or perhaps they simply don’t care.

“The northerly, road-facing elevation to all intents looks like a prison façade. It is an ugly unneighbourly construct.”

Ivan Gardiner, of New Road, Binfield Heath, said: “The only place for a mansion looking like this one is Dallas, Texas.”

Planning inspector John Braithwaite said: “The main issue is the effect of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the area.

“The council accepts that the proposed dwelling would have some outstanding and innovative qualities.

“Their principal concern, however, is that the dwelling would not be vernacular in design and would therefore be inappropriate in its setting.

“The success of a building is not only dependent on the style of its design but, among other things, on the skill of its designer, the use and detailing of appropriate materials and the quality and craftsmanship of those contracted to build it.

“Furthermore, pursuing vernacular design at the expense of innovation is contrary to this country’s rich tradition of embracing changes in architectural design. This tradition can be found in all cities, towns and villages that have developed through the centuries.

“Binfield Heath is one such village and its character derives principally from the variety of its buildings in terms of their age and design.

“Holmwood is one such building that is obviously not vernacular in design and was, when it was built, architecturally innovative. It is now very much part of, and contributes to, the distinctive character and appearance of the village.

“The skill of the proposed dwelling’s designer is undisputed. He is pre-eminent in the design of classical architecture.

“The design of the dwelling has been carefully considered and has been subject to peer review, which is wholly positive. It would be a large dwelling, compared with its neighbours but significantly smaller than Holmwood.”

Mr Braithwaite said the dwelling would soon become “assimilated” into its surroundings.

He concluded: “The proposed dwelling would be respectful of its surroundings and would not, given its location on an infill plot and as suggested by the council, be at odds with the open, rural landscape character of the area.

“The high quality redevelopment proposal for the site would not undermine local character and distinctiveness and would not adversely affect the character and appearance of the area.”

Robert Adam, a director of Adam Architecture, who designed the house, said: “This will provide a sustainable use for a derelict site in perpetuity and I am sure that, in time, local people will come to see that it will have very little impact on the village and, hopefully, will appreciate the architecture.”

Lord Marks is married with seven children. He and his wife Medina have carried out extensive renovation work at Holmwood.

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