Login Register

PICTURES: The country's most eco-friendly house could be torn down because it was built without planning permission

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 28, 2014

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith. This photo shows progress on the south side of the house.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith. This photo shows building the roof.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith. This photo shows their bath

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith.

  • Collect photo of construction work at the ultimate eco home of Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • SWNS_ECO_HOME_14

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • SWNS_ECO_HOME_35

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

  • SWNS_ECO_HOME_41

  • Matthew Lepley and partner Julie Smith at their home 'Silent Haven' which has been built entirely from waste materials.

Comments (10)

A "Good Life" couple who spent five years building Britain's greenest home by hand have been told to tear it down after they refused to get planning permission - because it was "against their principles".

Super-green Matthew Lepley and Jules Smith moved from a London tower block to the Devon countryside in a bid to build the UK's most eco-friendly house.

They spent five years sleeping in tents and living off the land while they constructed the one bedroom cabin from wooden crates and lorry tyres.

They used no power tools and just scrap wood and metal to build the home so they could live "at one with nature".

Their super-green house has no electricity or running water and a compost heap for a toilet.

But their plans have been wrecked after a neighbour complained they built the dwelling without planning permission.

The couple were forced to admit they didn't bother applying for the local council's say-so because it flew in the face of their eco beliefs.

They say the planning process is not green enough and involves too much paperwork, energy and bureaucracy.

Council officials have now served Matthew, 34, and Jules, 54, with an enforcement notice ordering them to "remove" it from their field in Beaworthy.

Matthew said: "We wanted to build a home that would let us truly live as one with nature.

"We used recycled materials, an axe to break up the wood and hand tools to piece the structure together.

"The process was a lot slower but it was extremely satisfying. We wanted to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible.

"The plans for the house have changed over the years in accordance to our needs and nature. The heat comes from a woodburner which heats the water for the bathroom.

"We don't have electricity but we get by with paraffin lamps and candles. This life is not for everyone but we love it - it enables us to live a therapeutic lifestyle and be self-sufficient.

"We took the decision to build without planning permission because the council's procedure is not environmentally friendly enough and it goes against our personal principles."

The saga began five years ago when Matthew and Jules left their jobs as carers and fled a "pent up" tower block in Wood Green, north London.

They bought a 20-acre field and set aside £20,000 for construction costs, then scoured farmland and scrap yards for unwanted junk.

The foundations were made from old tractor tyres filled with gravel, while the walls and roof were build from discarded haulage pallets and railway sleepers.

Despite having just one bedroom, a lounge, a kitchen and a bathroom to construct, the building has taken years to complete because the couple refuse to use power tools.

They grow their own fruit and veg and rear ducks for their eggs and sheep for their wool.

But because they have no electricity the food has be preserved in a two-and-a-half deep underground compartment to keep it cool.

Their water is drawn out of the ground with a bore hole but they have no running taps and use an outside compost toilet before recycling the the waste.

The couple say their neighbours were initially supportive of their ambition to live a self-sufficient lifestyle on the remote woodland plot.

But when they revealed plans to turn their rustic retreat into an conservation business, hosting workshops in green engineering and "permaculture", locals changed their tune.

Matthew said the pair shunned the procedure for planning permission as they believe it "isn't environmentally friendly" enough and goes against their "personal principles".

They hoped their unique dwelling would not attract any complaints - meaning it would automatically gain retrospective permission after four years.

But two years into the build a local opponent gathered ten signatures and submitted the petition to Torridge District Council's planning department.

Matthew and Jules appealed their first enforcement notice three years ago and our now in the process of appealing against their second notice.

Matthew, who earns an income from selling homemade produce and doing part-time care work, said: "There is a chronic lack of affordable housing in this country and very few options for people on a low income.

"It's not illegal, though we knew there was a risk someone might complain.

"We've had a lot of drama with the neighbours, some have been really supportive while others have gone against us and started a petition.

"We were hoping no one would notice as its only visible within the dwelling and can't be seen from the road.

"The idea of the conservation project was to provide retreat accommodation and run courses and workshops on sustainable living.

"The house and surrounding land enables us to be totally self sufficient - we would be devastated if we had to knock down."

Torridge District Council said the process had gone to appeal to decide if the notice is to be enforced and the house torn down.

A spokesman: "I can confirm Torridge District Council has served an enforcement notice that they remove the structure.

"However, as it has now gone to appeal, we have to wait for the inspector's decision before we can take any further action."

Read more from Western Morning News

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters

10 comments

  • wildwitch  |  March 03 2014, 9:43AM

    I REALLY DISLIKE THE WAY THE MEDIA REPORT ON ANY ONE WHO THINKS OUTSIDE THE BOX! PLANNERS NEED EDUCATING ABOUT NATURAL AND LOW IMPACT LIVING. CONCRETE CONSTRUCTIONS ARE SO POLUTING I.E BAKING OF THE BRICKS THERES NO RECYLED MATERIALS USED. EARTH SHIPS ARE 100 % CARBON FREE CHEEP TO BUILD AND I WANT ONE. NOTHING WRONG WITH LIVING A SUSTAINABLE LIFE. I LOVE THERE HOUSE QND FEEL ANGRY AT THE RDICULAS LAWS. WAKE UP , WE DO HAVE CLIMATE CHANGE AND NEED MORE HOMES BUILT WITH LOVE AND EARTH CARE. IN PORTUGAL THERS MANY BUILT LIKE THIS. I DIDN'T MISS ANY MODERN CONS ,LIKE FLUSHING POO AWAY WITH FRESH CLEAN DRINKING WATER! OFF GRID IS A GOOD MOVE.WE TAKE TO MUCH FOR GRANTED AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN ALL THE TAPS ARE TURNED OFF!! THERES A WHOLE NETWORK OUT THERE LIVING THE DREAM!!!

    Rate   2
    Report
  • paulprior1951  |  March 02 2014, 9:59AM

    These people are living a life style which suits them, they are not hurting anyone or the land scape. They should be left alone to follow their dreams which so few of us can do. Good luck to them for the future.

    Rate   4
    Report
  • Pink_Diesel  |  March 02 2014, 12:09AM

    Pink_Diesel lived in a bender for three years. Luckily the local were on my side.

    Rate 0
    Report
  • rolandsmith  |  March 01 2014, 5:42PM

    Not the best balanced story from the WMN, I'm sorry to say. I was going to agree with Vienesse, as these people shouldn't be getting away with ignoring planning law, which is there for jolly good reasons – but to say "the house looks really good" a stretching a point.

    Rate   -1
    Report
  • PAWB46  |  March 01 2014, 5:07PM

    Building regulations, what building regulations? Paraffin lamps plus candles plus wood, what health and safety issues? Well they do come from London!

    Rate   -1
    Report
  • Pink_Diesel  |  March 01 2014, 12:20PM

    ///So why should they get away with ignoring laws which everyone else has to deal with?/// The planning laws are set up to maintain the equity of membe of the CPRE and to make the countryside safe for the better off middle classes. Peasants need not apply.

    Rate   -3
    Report
  • Pink_Diesel  |  March 01 2014, 12:17PM

    Mathew and Julie. Its time to call TLIO (The Land Is Ours) and their super-planer, Simon. (If you have not already) Go to http://tinyurl.com/ljpjzt9

    Rate   1
    Report
  • Tony248  |  March 01 2014, 8:39AM

    Bit ironic, they refused to get planning permission because the paperwork "wasn't green", now, what colour is the mountain of guff that the appeal will generate going to be?

    Rate   4
    Report
  • Viennese  |  February 28 2014, 4:15PM

    So why should they get away with ignoring laws which everyone else has to deal with? They would probably have got planning permission if they had stated their objectives. Just imagine if everyone behaved like them, it would be chaos. Shame as the house looks really good.

    Rate   -8
    Report
  • Moor2River  |  February 28 2014, 3:29PM

    Good luck to them, I hope they do not lose their home. As for the miseries who complained - get a life, and let others live theirs. These people are using far less resources than house dwellers and have solved their own housing problem. Very few people can endure this lifestyle indefinitely and we should applaud and support those who can/wish to.

    Rate   7
    Report

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES