Self builder ordered to demolish £500k passivhaus built without permission

The owner built the one-storey building without planning permission
The owner built the one-storey building without planning permission (Image credit: Google)

The owner of a £500,000 self build property near Glastonbury has been told he must tear it down after neighbours said it “lit up like a Christmas tree” in the dark.

Tony Harvey built the one-storey building without planning permission in West Compton, a hamlet near Glastonbury in Somerset.

Mr Harvey, a mechanic, was reportedly told last year that the building was illegal by council officials. He applied for retrospective permission but this was rejected.

What did the self builder build without permission?

A planning statement for the single-storey eco home submitted to Somerset Council states: “The proposed development has been designed and considered to reflect that of a contemporary modern home, designed with passivhaus (energy-efficient) principles in mind with a fabric first approach, and also one which supports on-site renewables and low carbon energy sustainable design.

“The proposal provides an opportunity for good design, acceptable scale, form and contemporary vernacular design, and with a particular emphasis on a scheme which supports a building for life with an adaptable approach.

“The proposed curtilage of the plot is adequate, and the building does not interfere with the neighbouring properties or the public footpaths, and is not overbearing/overlooking. The design is felt appropriate in that it reflects an agricultural setting.”

But neighbours say it looks like an ‘alien invasion'

Objectors had issues with light pollution with complaints ranging from its large windows “lit up like a Christmas tree” at night to complaints over the water drainage from the property.

One objector said it’s a “visual eyesore and completely abnormal within the local community”, while another said: “It dominates the skyline creating significant light pollution and threatens our rich biodiversity as it does not respect the Dark Night Skies with many lights on overnight and adversely affecting the site as several barn owls' natural habitat.”

However, there were also supporters, with one writing: “I wholeheartedly support Mr Harvey’s application, and his determination to ensure he provides a lovely property where he and his family can grow and remain local.

“I certainly cannot see a reason this should be refused when you look at some of the other monstrosities being allowed to be developed in and around the local area.”

Why was the self build ultimately rejected?

Council planners rejected planning permission on the grounds the proposed development lies in a conservation area, where development is strictly controlled.

Somerset Council claimed the self build failed to demonstrate that it complies with the council's policy for rural workers.

A spokesperson from Somerset Council said: “The Local Planning Authority, having carefully considered the grounds for refusal, consider it expedient and an enforcement notice has been issued requiring the property to be demolished and the land restored back to an agricultural field.

“The enforcement notice was served on 12 October and the owner has until 27 November to appeal the notice to the Planning Inspectorate or demolish the property within six months.”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.