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Your ref NP/02/133
Dear Ms Milner
RETENTION OF ROUND HOUSE
I am writing before the 5th April to clarify our position. Although yes, you have plenty of detailed policies, it does appear from the outside that there is some debate whether the policies all add up to achieving your two stated aims of conserving the natural environment, and of helping humans appreciate that environment. Many people have been concerned that the Park can say yes to an Iron Age roundhouse but not to a modern one; yes to a cliffside earth sheltered house costing £250,000 but no to a farm cottage costing £3,000; that they can say yes to huge metal barns that disfigure the landscape for miles yet no to a simple earth sheltered structure that is almost invisible from 100 metres; that they can say yes to a horse shelter 80 metres from this house but no to a human shelter of similar low impact design. Are your objectives to preserve a good view? Are they to prevent inefficient use of resources? Are they to achieve a more sustainable countryside? This house serves all these purposes, and no evidence has ever been brought forward to say that it does any damage to the landscape. What then, does it damage? The only answer you could come up with at the inquiry was that the existence of this house damages your policies. This extremely tenuous argument was used by the inspector to justify what would otherwise be a breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act - an argument we would have been happy to challenge had we been willing to throw money at the high court.
Basically, therefore, it comes down to the question: is it in the public interest to demolish this roundhouse? Are your policies the public interest itself? No, they are not, and you would probably agree that they are currently in a state of flux, to put it lightly (Would cliff edge luxury home Malator gain permission under your brand new housing policy? I doubt it. Is it still enjoying pride of place on your website? Yes it is.). I am not asking, as you imply, for guarantees that the Welsh Assembly will change its guidance following the report on low impact developments. All I am suggesting is that the chances are that it will issue new guidance, and that in the meantime this house is doing no harm to anything, including your policies.
There remains the overall question of public interest. We have had visits numbering in the hundreds from many people, local and from far away, to see for themselves what a biodegradable ecohome might look like. These visits are not abating. Some of the visitors may have written to you, and I trust you will fulfill your obligations to report their views accurately to the Committee. Not a single visitor would agree that it is in the public interest for this house to be destroyed.
Lastly, may I encourage you to reconsider the application of the exception rule relating to material considerations. There are dozens in this case; may I name three:
1. The house is not an independent estate, but an integral feature of a farm being run with the express aim of environmental sustainability. We will continue to seek what it takes to achieve true sustainability. We have no interest in selling this piece of land for a profit. We simply want to live here.
2. The house is perhaps the best known example in Wales of an eco-house designed specifically with a low ecological footprint in mind. It is therefore a pointer to future uses of recycled materials, forestry thinnings and permaculture design.
3. The house, being biodegradable, will rot away one day in any case. No cement is used anywhere in the construction, and I would be quite happy to contract with the authority to keep it that way, including no tarmac on the track, etc. I have already offered to waive any permitted development rights pending review in two years' time.
Yours sincerely, Tony Wrench