House that leaves no carbon footprint has to come down, rules council

Date: Friday 23rd November 2007
Adam Hoyle outside his Mallerstang home.
Adam Hoyle outside his Mallerstang home.

A KIRKBY Stephen environmentalist has been told by Eden Council that he has to pull down his “carbon neutral” house because it was renovated without planning permission.

Adam Hoyle warms his hands on his wood-burning stove.
Adam Hoyle warms his hands on his wood-burning stove.
Adam Hoyle and wind turbine.
Adam Hoyle and wind turbine.
Adam Hoyle and his water-powered generator
Adam Hoyle and his water-powered generator

Adam Hoyle, aged 40, owner of Eden Recycling, applied to the council for a certificate of lawful use to continue living at Carr House, Mallerstang, as he had used the building as a dwelling since at least April, 2003, which is more than four years.

That application was refused and Mr. Hoyle has been told he must demolish the house and have the area on which it stands reseeded. Mr. Hoyle, who has an engineering background, has been based at his waste transfer station in Station Yard, Kirkby Stephen, since 1992. He has been working on Carr House, which was last inhabited in the 1920s by a plate layer working on the Settle-Carlisle rail line, for the past five years.

The house, which dates back to the 1700s and is probably one of the oldest in Mallerstang, is energy self-sufficient and is currently open plan on both floors. Electricity is generated by a wind turbine and a water turbine powered by the neighbouring stream. It also has an outside composting toilet which extracts foul air via solar power. There are no electricity bills as the house is completely off-grid.

The wind and water turbines each produce 24 volts DC which is then stored in a battery bank before being converted, via an inverter, into the 240 volts AC needed to run household electrical appliances like a television set, lights, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner and hairdryer.

Mr. Hoyle said the house was not ahead of its time, and he was just utilising ideas which everybody had access to. He said it was a sustainable affordable home from which he would like to start a family with his girlfriend, Gill Abram, who works for Connexions in Kendal.

“In the future every house is going to need a means of sustainability. We have all got to think more about our actions and our carbon usage as global warming becomes more and more important, and we’ve all got a duty to leave a clean environment for our children,” said Mr. Hoyle.

Kirkby Stephen-based planning consultant Tom Woof, of Development Planning Solutions Limited, said the situation was very regrettable, but was not over yet.

“There are a number of avenues still to pursue,” said Mr. Woof. “We are asking the council to look again at its decision.”

Mr. Woof said Mr. Hoyle contacted him about the potential enforcement action earlier this year. “Adam has restored this old building as a zero carbon development which is the way the Government wants us to be. There is a lot of planning merit in the development and it also provides an affordable house for a local person,” he said.

However, planning officers at Eden Council, who received 23 letters of support for the application and no objections, said that for a certificate of lawful use to be granted, the property had to have been completed and lived in for a period of four years. They produced photographs to show that in 2004 the property still did not have a roof, meaning it could not have been completed in 2003.

Planning officer Gwyn Clark told a meeting of the council’s planning applications committee that Mr. Hoyle himself only claimed to be sleeping in a sleeping bag within a structure, covered with a tarpaulin, on the site, rather than the main building, which Mr. Clark said did not constitute continuous residential use.

He said letters which had been sent to the council confirming Mr. Hoyle’s residence there since 2003 were irrelevant if he had not been living in the substantially completed main building, and the evidence suggested that this was the case.

Henry Sawrey-Cookson (Ind., Kirkby Thore) said Mr. Hoyle had effectively created an affordable house, while Margaret Wilcox (Lib. Dem., Orton with Tebay) commended the zero carbon footprint of the property.

However, councillors agreed there was no evidence to support an application for a certificate of lawful use and refused the application.

They were told that Mr. Hoyle had been warned that he required planning permission for the work being carried out, but still continued, despite being advised permission was unlikely. As a result of the planning applications committee’s decision, Mr. Hoyle was told that enforcement action will be taken to undo the renovation work.

With planning permission, it is estimated that the house would be worth about £200,000.