Well-heeled eco homebuyers find it ain't easy being green

Living the ecological dream can be a nightmare when it comes to nimby neighbours

A A A

Gary Neville put in a lot of effort and was ready to shell out £6m on a subterranean "eco bunker", designed – despite its resemblance to the Teletubbies house – to exist in peaceful harmony with its surroundings. Unfortunately, at least 100 of his neighbours had other ideas and lodged objections. Last Thursday, Bolton Council's planning committee killed off the scheme.

The decision has thwarted the Man United player's dream of joining a growing elite of well-heeled greens living in "earth-sheltered" buildings or underground houses, disparaged as Teletubbies houses or hobbit holes.

There was little to have so upset neighbours. Planned to fit into a hillside, the house's impact on the surrounding landscape was to be minimal; the only visible sign of the underground home being six petal-shaped zones, prosaically labelled "relax"; "eat"; "work"; "entertain"; "play" and "sleep".

The greenest elements of the scheme – solar panels and a 128ft wind turbine – were the things that the prospective neighbours objected to most, despite the grass meadow roof, and the fact the petals would have been made from local stone.

Other hobbit homes have fared better. The former Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews has a holiday home built into the Pembrokeshire hillside. The grass-roofed and glass-fronted capsule is locally known as the "Teletubby house".

Simon Dale's organic wooden framed woodland home, insulated with straw bales and then covered with turf, is made entirely from recycled materials. It is built – an estate agent would no doubt claim – to bring the occupants as close to nature as possible.

Roger Dean has designed a sustainable "hobbit" village of houses to be built from fibrous plaster shells, made from moulds, and then sprayed with concrete and supplied by sustainable resources. But it has yet to be built.

As Neville has found to his cost, the whole eco house thing is a minefield. Tony Wrench built the Roundhouse – wooden frame, straw insulated turf roof, recycled window walls and a wind turbine for electricity – in 1997. But there have been numerous battles with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park over planning permission: the building was nearly demolished in 2004.

David Cameron too fell foul of neighbours over his plan to put a turbine on his roof. He had to take it down. And the actor Orlando Bloom described his attempts to develop an eco home in London as a "hassle".

The creator of the TV series Judge John Deed, G F Newman, had to take his fight for a 15ft wind turbine at his home, Cherry Hill Farm, to court. Neighbours complained the view would be ruined. He won.

Jonathan Dimbleby's 50ft wind turbine, at his home in north Devon, was also opposed by neighbours. He won but admits that it has failed to deliver as hoped.

Despite this, people remain prepared to go to admirable lengths – and depths – to get the eco home of their dreams. Alex Michaelis (the architect responsible for David Cameron's green makeover) designed a sleek, subterranean townhouse, perfect for the city moles among us. He paid £750,000 for a plot in Notting Hill, knowing the planning restrictions meant the house could be no higher than its 6ft boundary wall. Michaelis tunnelled 22ft into the ground to create a five-bedroom, eco-friendly home.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions