Friday, 04 December 2020

Peer’s plan for new house ‘like a prison’

A BARRISTER and life peer has had plans for a six-bedroom house turned down

A BARRISTER and life peer has had plans for a six-bedroom house turned down after the design was likened to a “prison” façade.

Baron Marks of Henley-on-Thames wanted to demolish seven outbuildings at Walled Garden House in Shiplake Row, Binfield Heath, in order to build the property.

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

The application was made by Welldon Properties, which is based at Holmwood, his 18th century home next door. The 0.9 hectare-site is between two houses, Walled Garden House to the east and Old Acres to the west.

The new brick and flint house would have featured west and east halls, a pool, “sunspace” and a triple garage.

Lord Marks, 62, who was made a Liberal Democrat peer four years ago, is said to have spent years developing the plans and his application included a 45-page design and access statement compiled by Adam Architecture.

The application received four letters of support, saying it was an exciting proposal and the house would be of significant importance in architectural history and a “landmark”.

However, there were also 18 letters of objection, many of which raised concerns about the size of the house.

The property’s appearance was described as “incongruous” and “ostentatious” and not sympathetic to the surrounding area.

One critic said that a planned blank wall was like a “prison” façade. Others claimed the property would be overbearing and monopolise the skyline. Richard Pawson, of Gravel Lane, Binfield Heath, 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.

“I would have no objection to a new mansion of similar size if the styling were more conservative and sympathetic to the surroundings.”

Martin Swords, of The Homestead, Binfield Heath, 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.”

Binfield Heath Parish Council objected and the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England raised concerns about potential light pollution and the impact on the countryside and night sky.

In the council’s refusal decision, senior planning officer Paul Lucas said: “The principle of a new dwelling in this location is unacceptable and the proposed dwelling would form a prominent and intrusive feature in the landscape, which would detract from the character and appearance of the site and surrounding area.

“There are no special circumstances that would warrant a departure from the development plan.

“The proposal would significantly intensify the level of built development in an area that essentially consists of sporadic development along a rural road.

“In introducing a substantial amount of built development, and features such as a pool, terracing, solar arrays, together with the associated residential activity that a new dwelling would generate, the proposal would diminish the rural and undeveloped aspect of the sites character.” Mr Lucas acknowledged the house would incorporate technologies, including a heat recovery ventilation system, that would contribute towards its environmental credentials but these were not sufficient to conclude the property would be “truly innovative” and an example for other developments.

Robert Adam, a director at Adam Architecture, said: “It’s rather disappointing because it’s a derelict site and no use to anybody at the moment.

“My feeling is that people have misunderstood this. They think it looks bigger than it really will be but in fact it’s just a two-storey house like the houses on either side.

“It’s a highly sustainable house and using forms of heat storage that have never been used in this country before. It is innovative and of the highest quality.”

He said Lord Marks believed he had very good grounds for an appeal.

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

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