Charlie and Meg’s Roundhouse- Their Story So Far
Scroll down for the latest update:
Last August, we were so disappointed to read that Charlie and Meg had lost their appeal against a planning enforcement notice telling them to tear their lovely roundhouse down.
We decided to visit Charlie and Meg and see their hand built home in Glandwr, Pembrokeshire for ourselves. We wanted to find out where they could go from here, what was the future for their eco roundhouse?
I’m not sure why I have taken so long to write this post. I think I worried that words and photos (especially phone photos as this visit was pre-Nikon!) could not do this beautiful house justice.
As we travelled, quite literally, off the beaten track to the roundhouse it became clear that this home was not affecting anyone in the nearby area. Unless you know where you are going, then you really wouldn’t know that it existed at all.
Charlie grew up on this land, which is owned by his parents, and for a couple of years both Charlie and Meg lived (legally) in an old leaky caravan on this very spot.
Charlie was always making dens and tree houses in these woods, so to build a home seemed like a natural extension.
They both always knew that they wanted to stay on this land and help maintain the family small holding. The caravan they lived in was damp and unsuitable for starting a family- Meg still winces while describing the chilblains that they suffered during the long wet, Winters in their temporary home.
Influenced by the neighbouring Lammas Eco Village, Charlie became confident enough to feel that he could build their own home and with a baby on the way this seemed like the right thing to do.
An old friend advised him to “Just start.” and their story began.
“Using timber straight from the tree is an organic process…(and the house) it sort of designed itself.”
With the birth of Eli in July 2012, Charlie and Meg moved into this family house made from natural materials, they put in an application for planning as ancillary to the main house.
“We were told this was invalid and two weeks before Christmas received an enforcement order telling us to demolish the house.”
They then put in an application for a stand alone dwelling, which was refused. They subsequently lost their appeal. This week, on Tuesday 29th July, they were refused retrospective planning permission and could now again be ordered to tear their home down. They are currently working on their appeal which they will submit to The Welsh Assembly Government within the next six months.
The more I discovered about this wonderful house the more determined I became that it would be a tragedy if it was ever demolished.
Take a look…
As well as being a beautifully well made home, what really impressed me were the artistic touches all around the dwelling.
Our kids loved the design of the house, every nook and cranny, from the kooky storage shelves or cosy living areas. Here they peek at space for storage above the “music nook”.
(I apologise for the plastic pop bottles-they look so out of place, but after a long car journey, the kids got these at the garage when we asked for directions!)
Whilst here, I discovered that I have actually met Charlie (and maybe even Meg) before as he used to play guitar in local band Johnny Action Fingers. The local band scene is a small World.
A tree is the base root of the whole house. I love how gracefully these stairs wind around due to the natural curve of the branches.
At the top of the stairs is a cosy, sleeping nook, just like I have always craved since my “Little House on the Prairie” days.
The earth floor underfloor heating is supplied by this wood burner, the sole source of heating in the house.
I love Eli’s handmade high chair.
This sturdy natural wood stool was suprisingly heavy.
Rebecca sits at the dining table, with the living area in the background.
Eli plays with Danny.
Mirror is used to reflect the natural light.
The walls are made of straw bales, which are covered in lime render.
From this angle the tree looks like a kind, strong hand supporting the whole house.
The thing that most surprised the kids was how “normal” the bathroom was! I’m not sure what they were expecting to see!
This lovely cloud and raindrops mobile was made for Eli by a friend. We have been meaning to make one for ages. I think it will be a rainy day project during the school holidays.
A skylight lets in natural light during the day and LED light at night.
The open plan living area gives a really practical family space.
The “living roof” keeps in warmth, is a natural habitat, off-sets their carbon usuage and of course, looks aesthetically pleasing.
The pond also has many benefits. It provides more reflected light, is another natural habitat, will eventually provide a sustainable supply of fish and is fun to swim in! I have been thinking (and feeling envious) of their pond during this heat wave!
The decking area is a lovely place to stand and take in the view and serenity around you.
Rebecca has a turn on one of Eli’s hand made outdoor toys.
The windows are made from recycled double glazing, so the window frames all had to be made to fit the odd sizes. This is another feature that I think enhances the creative look of the house.
Eventually, Charlie and Meg wish to live a completely self-sufficient life, they keep chickens and grow vegetables together with the main family household. Charlie works with the trees that grow on this land.
We were really sad to end our visit and leave this house so can’t imagine having to say a permanent goodbye to a home that is in so many of our hearts. I really hope it never comes to that.
Why not planning permission?
I recognise that planning permission is needed in this World. We don’t want houses being built everywhere and of course we want houses to be, well, as safe as houses.
A lot of people ask why Charlie and Meg didn’t get planning permission before building this house. As I mentioned earlier, it is a hidden family homestead, there wasn’t room for them to live in the main house but the caravan was no longer meeting their basic needs. Building the house started off as just a trial and I don’t think even Charlie initially knew it would turn out so well. If they had applied for planning permission before building the house, I think the plans would have seemed so vague, and would not have been granted anyway. So in some twisted logic I’m glad that they never went down this route which would have meant this roundhouse would never have seen the light of day.
What is needed is a change in the planning permission law. It should take in consideration the economic times that we live in and challenge the preconception that families should be expected to sign themselves up to years of debt in order to own some bricks and mortar.
They need to work with not against builders of eco-dwellings to learn about using natural and recycled materials and the long term sustainability of these houses.
Applications for One Planet Development Planning Permission need to be supported and the assessors need to have a thorough understanding of the complex criteria in order to reduce the lengthy appeal times.
Charlie, Meg and Eli continue to fight to keep their home. They will lodge their appeal to the Welsh Assembly and see where things go from there.
“Hi all, the planning committee voted to refuse to give us planning permission this morning. Disappointing times but determined times. 4 members voted to give us permission, 9 voted against giving us permission so there was some light and positivity. We will now lodge an appeal to the Welsh Assembly within the next 6 months – and so the process progresses. We are very grateful for all the support that we have received from all over the world – our wonderful family and friends who helped us build and continue to support us, our amazing agent Michael Howlett, all who helped on the application including Tao Wimbush, our local councillor Keith Lewis. Lots of love for all the positivity, energy and love sent to us. Tis not the end of the road by any means, so watch this space! Meg, Charlie and Eli x”
They are a lovely family, with a beautiful home which is sensitive to it’s environment.
What annoys me most about this situation is they wanted to lead a more peaceful, simple life on the land and have ended up having to fight bureaucracy the whole time.
I hope they eventually get permission to live happily within their home without the threat of destruction hanging over them.
Great news! Charlie, Meg and Eli’s roundhouse can stay! Here is the status we have all been waiting for: