Charles plans 'starter palace for William'

Country house will be neo-classical, but green
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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales's architect, Craig Hamilton, has filed plans for a six- bedroom house less than an hour's drive from Highgrove, increasing speculation that the Royal Family is now equipping Prince William for married life.

With its orangery and a four-bay garage that owes much to a Greek monument found on the southern slopes of the Acropolis, the house - which could one day become Prince William's first home - is less of a starter home, and more a starter palace.

The classically inspired two-storey house will be built in the Harewood Park estate in Herefordshire. It is widely believed that when Prince William finally marries, the 900-acre estate, which became part of the Duchy of Cornwall six years ago, will become his country seat.

Rumours that Prince William will marry - sooner rather than later - Kate Middleton, his girlfriend of three years, have been in overdrive in recent months, and were stoked by her very public appearance at his passing-out parade at Sandhurst last week.

Since they first met at St Andrew's University in 2002, Prince William and Ms Middleton have spent much of their time at Ms Middleton's Chelsea flat in London. Earlier this month Ms Middleton made her first public appearance at Sandringham and is also said to have been invited to attend Christmas lunch there with the Royal Family.

Prince Charles had originally submitted plans in 2004 for a far larger 14,855 sq ft mansion which was intended, Buckingham Palace said, for the rental market. These were shelved after it was found that the projected rental income would not justify the initial cost. A spokesman for the prince said: "The property has always been one the duchy wanted to let. Scaling it down makes it easier to let."

The new plans, however, describe a "starter home" and although Buckingham Palace maintains that this property, too, will be commercially let, observers say the new building is more suited to a newly married future king wishing to avoid accusations of excess.

Designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, the plans submitted to Herefordshire council show that the house will be built using recycled bricks and "salvaged" Welsh slate. With solar panels on its roof, it will be insulated with natural sheep's wool and will boast a double-height central hall with Ionic columns.

If Prince William and Ms Middleton were ever to move into the property, they would be encouraged to be as green as possible. Recycling bins and energy-efficient light bulbs will be installed and a "sustainability report" states that energy can be saved if "showers are taken instead of baths" and "low-flow showers and spray taps fitted".