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.
Read more: Guildford woman’s complaint over neighbour’s high hedge accidentally passed to the neighbour by council
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.
The application had been brought to the borough council’s planning committee because Councillor Catherine Young ( Guildford Greenbelt Group, 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.
Do you think planning permission for the nearly net-zero house should have been granted? Have your say in our readers’ poll
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”.
Councillor David Bilbe (Conservative, 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.
The officers’ report said: “The site is in a sustainable location within the urban area where the principle of new residential development is acceptable.”
Councillor Ramsey Nagaty (Guildford Greenbelt Group, 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.”
What can be done to make Surrey homes more climate-friendly? Join the conversation with other Surrey readers here.
Looking for more Guildford news? Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get more news from the town direct to your inbox. Find out how here.