AN ECO-HOME IN A LEAFY VILLAGE IN MILTON KEYNES. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? PLENTY, ACCORDING TO LOCAL RESIDENTS. But with National Planning Policy rooting for “green” development, it could have been hard to refuse…
Guest column by Sue Malleson
A zero carbon “Hobbit” house, to be situated in an attractive landscape on a hillside in Bow Brickhill, was recently refused planning permission by Milton Keynes Council. The application relied on the claim that 33 solar panels placed on a beautiful green sward would “significantly enhance” the area. The proposal had to be for an eco house; that was the only possible way the landowner – using a loophole in the National Planning Policy Framework – might be allowed development on a site where there is a presumption against building. It is the second such house to be attempted on this Greensand escarpment in the village. The first one has still to be built on a site frequented by rare great crested newts and other amphibians and reptiles. In the case of both eco-houses proposed in Bow Brickhill, access is via very narrow single-track lanes, where there is no possibility of pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders passing safely by a large lorry.
Also, the force of construction traffic loads would pass directly below the sparse foundations of very old cottages. The potential for damage or collision would be high. These cottages would be at severe risk of structural damage or even collapse due to repeated heavy loads. Both eco houses propose to rely on reed bed sewage systems; one of them will drain – not into a stream as the application states – but into someone else’s back garden! At the other site, a reed bed system may not even be possible because of the steep gradient, the trees and the geology. A bund would be required to prevent the risk of raw sewage flowing down the road into the centre of the village. Carbon neutral living is to be commended provided it does not risk jeopardising the beauty of the environment, the rich ecology of the area, the safety of residents and the very existence of other people’s houses.