Villagers criticise stately home plan

By James HoreRESIDENTS have criticised the design for a 21st Century “stately home” in the heart of the East Anglian countryside as reminiscent of 1960s architecture.

By James Hore

RESIDENTS have criticised the design for a 21st Century “stately home” in the heart of the East Anglian countryside as reminiscent of 1960s architecture.

If given the go-ahead, the plan - which has been described as bold and ambitious - would be realised at Roper's Farm in Writtle, near Chelmsford.

However, Writtle Parish Council and the Writtle Society have both objected, claiming the house is not suitable for the area and could also set a precedent for similar designs.

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The design by James Gorst Architects covers an area of 18,000 square feet. It hopes to take advantage of a Government initiative, known as PPG7, which encourages “outstanding” country houses to be built in isolated areas in the middle of Green Belt land.

James Gorst, 52, the architect behind the design grew up in East Anglia and has a house in Woodbridge.

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He said: “It has a contemporary manner and style - we were not interested in doing a neo-Georgian or neo-Tudor. It is pure and abstract and is set against the rolling fields.

“There are very few houses fitting for the 21st Century and it will be an interesting project - we care about what we do and it is nice to 'come home' with a design.

But John Aldridge, of the Writtle Society, criticised the design and the precedent it could set.

“Essex is under extreme pressure to build thousands of houses and here we are building one in 80 acres of land and creating a moral predicament,” he said.

In a letter sent to Chelmsford Borough Council, the Writtle Society said the site was not isolated and, therefore, PPG7 did not apply.

It added: “Approval would create a major precedent for other land owners that control land on the fringes of the Green Belt and rural areas, to pursue similar applications, given the low price of agricultural land versus the value to land in the housing sector.

“The design appears to be devoid of architectural innovation. It incorporates many of the worst elements of modern building design which, until changes in recent years, have blighted Chelmsford and its environs.”

Tony Sach, a member of Writtle Parish Council and Chelmsford Borough Council, said the design had shocked a lot of people, although he added it would be in an isolated area and would not easily be seen.

“There is not a great deal there, not in the immediate vicinity and it is away from view, although it's not to my taste as it reminds me of the 1960s architecture that you see in towns,” he said.

Chelmsford Borough Council's planning executive will make a decision about the plan on April 15.

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