Final whistle for footballer's £6m zero-carbon 'bunker'

It was not so long ago that Gary Neville was touted as a possible addition to England's World Cup squad. But while his former England team-mates celebrated their place in the last 16 yesterday, the Manchester United captain was busy addressing Bolton Council's planning committee.

For the carbon-neutral underground bunker that Neville had been hoping to build on his Lancashire estate, at a cost of £6m, was refused planning permission yesterday.

Neville had hoped to construct a zero-carbon, futuristic four-bedroom property on moorland between Bolton and Bury. The plans had been praised by green activists, though others had likened its petal-shaped design to the "Teletubbies house" and local campaign groups had vociferously opposed plans to site the home on greenbelt land.

Bolton Council had been expected to give the go-ahead having recommended its approval – subject to government backing – because of "its exceptionally high quality of design" and "sensitive relationship with the surrounding landscape and its neighbouring residents".

But planning committee members ignored the report's advice and voted by 14 to 6 to refuse the application. Accompanied by his wife, Emma, Neville gave a short speech at the meeting at Bolton Town Hall in support of his application. The 35-year-old said he was still as passionate as he was when he set out on his "journey" to build a unique home for his family 18 months ago.

He said: "One of the crucial things we did was to open plans up to independent scrutiny at the highest level. While the scheme has been faced with some objections, I have privately met with residents. Houses are supposed to move towards generating their own energy by 2016 and we will all have to go on that journey."

"There is an opportunity to create an important moment in Bolton. Schemes likes this will inspire."