Fringe Box



Grand Designs Crew Member Has Eco-home Bid Refused

Published on: 19 May, 2022
Updated on: 24 May, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A Grand Designs crew member and “long-time colleague and friend” of the show’s presenter Kevin McCloud has had his bid for a nearly net-zero home in Guildford turned down.

Councillors refused planning permission for the home in the back garden of the applicant’s Grade II listed home in a meeting which left councillors “totally perplexed”.

Guildford Borough Council officers had recommended refusal of the two-bed bungalow in Forest Road, East Horsley because the “backland development” would be out of character in the area.

Applicants Antony and Denise Etwell have, according to documents submitted to the council, “lovingly restored” their current home and have lived in East Horsley for 22 years.

According to the documents, Antony has worked for more than 20 years with Channel 4 series Grand Designs, and is described as being heavily influenced by his “long-time colleague and friend Kevin McCloud”.

Antony and Mr McCloud have shared “passionate conversations” about modernism, sustainability and other architectural issues, the report added.

Cllr Catherine Young

The application had been brought to the borough council’s planning committee because Cllr Catherine Young (GGG, Clandon & Horsley) thought the benefits of the “innovative and climate friendly home for the future” outweighed the reason for refusal.

Councillors narrowly voted with officers’ recommendation to refuse the application at Forest Farm, with seven voting for refusal, six against and one abstention.

The development, with parking for three cars, had received 11 letters of objection, raising issues such as being out of character with the area, being backland development, and harm to setting of the listed building, relating to Forest Farm.

Backland development refers to building on “landlocked” sites which may be behind existing buildings or on land between a built up area and the countryside, and often results in homes which do not face the street.

The officers’ report into the application said the proposal would result in “significant harm to the established character and appearance of the area” contrary to several council planning policies.

The meeting heard from an objector on behalf of the immediate neighbour of the property, which called it “completely at odds with the surrounding rear gardens”.

Cllr David Bilbe

Cllr David Bilbe (Con, Normandy) said he wasn’t sure why the proposal was being debated, saying the policy and the officers’ report were clear and he considered the plans to be backland development.

He said: “This isn’t about what this is – energy efficient – it’s about where it is.”

Several other councillors said the application left them in a difficult position, because other apparently backland developments had been approved in other areas.

They were reminded that each application should be looked at on its own merits.

In the same meeting, the committee approved a development of two homes to the rear of an existing home in Recreation Road in Guildford, as well as extending and subdividing the existing home to create two separate ones.

The development would create one two-bed home, one three-bed home and two four-bed homes with a total of eight parking spaces.

The current building has a number of outbuildings including a garage/shed visible from Recreation Road and a workshop, according to the officers’ report.

A previous appeal for an application for ten houses on the site was dismissed in 2020.

Councillors voted 12 in favour and two against the development, which had been recommended for approval by officers.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

The officers’ report said: “The site is in a sustainable location within the urban area where the principle of new residential development is acceptable.”

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty (GGG, Shalford) said he was left feeling “totally perplexed” by the two applications and voted against the Recreation Road application.

He said: “I find this a dichotomy that I cannot live with.”

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Responses to Grand Designs Crew Member Has Eco-home Bid Refused

  1. Daniel Hill Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    Has Cllr Bilbe and friends forgotten we’re in a climate emergency?

    Why do we have a planning department that bends over backwards to help big developers make millions from destroying the green belt?

    At the same time everyday day residents are prevented from building an eco net-zero house in their garden because it’s “out of character”.

    It’s just another example of the poor leadership at GBC and why we need more GGG Councillors like Catherine Young.

  2. Adam Aaronson Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    Your report mentions that a previous application for 10 houses in Recreation Road was turned down.

    Observers of the planning process in Guildford and elsewhere will be aware that the usual strategy for development is to ask initially for more than you think you’ll get and then when the application is refused, go back with a more reasonable application and depending on the result, repeat until permission is granted. Wearing down any opposition by a process of attrition is favoured by deep-pocketed developers and their lobbyists.

    Another strategy that seems to work in Guildford is to establish a property’s permitted development rights by seeking numerous certificates of lawful development for unsightly extensions before using these as leverage to get a planning application approved for something deemed not as bad as the permitted development option.

    Obviously, nobody had bothered to explain this system to the Forest Road applicants. They seem to have made the fatal error of putting in a sensible, measured proposal on the first round, in the sadly mistaken belief that the planners would welcome such an honest proposition.

  3. Dave Middleton Reply

    May 27, 2022 at 11:37 am

    Surely, leaving the garden as a garden, with grass, shrubs and other plants, along with the birds, bugs and beasties, is more environmentally friendly than building any kind of structure, however “green” it may be?

    It should be borne in mind that the proposed house may well be “nearly net-zero” but the humans residing in it will not be. They will inevitably consume products, probably add to the population of the world, have a vehicle of some kind and of course produce waste.

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