OK, I am deeply conflicted about this one. The UK has very strict greenbelt and cultural heritage landscape rules to preserve heritage views and historic sites, and to control suburban sprawl.
Recently there have been a bunch of attempts to bust the rules by using green roofs and underground construction to hide the buildings, and to qualify for a Clause 11 of Planning Policy Statement 7 or PPS7 which the Architects Journal defines as the ‘exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design’ of a proposed building may provide ‘special justification for granting planning permission.’
Then there is the issue of who is really gaining from these restrictions. I have always defended them (I am past President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and Cultural Heritage Landscapes are in our mandate), but economist Ryan Avent gave me a lot of food for thought in his book The Gated City, where he makes the case that such rules are there to protect the status quo, the people who got there first, the NIMBYs.
Then there is the issue of the actual house itself, which is pretty wonderful from a green design point of view. It is designed by Hawkes Architecture, who I have admired before, and has green zingers like a sterilization system for rain and gray water, locally grown and harvested lumber, a sunken courtyard garden with fruit and vegetables, light-reflective Whistable cockleshells in the floor to save on energy costs. Oh, and a green roof.
But according to the local paper, the project had been turned down twice previously because it was on land classed as countryside.
The decision has left neighbours fuming. Protestors sent twelve letters of objection and argued that the development would affect the nearby Bigbury Hill monument...."The planners have found a back door into greenbelt land and turning a massive profit at the expense of local heritage."
Then when you look at the photomontage of the building into the aerial photo, you wonder which neighbours are complaining, the toff in the mansion to the left, the one behind or the one to the right. And once again, I am wondering what I am fighting for, to save greenbelt for the NIMBYs or to promote "‘exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design."
Since at least 2006 with the Nanyang University School of Art have been using green roofs to bust zoning rules and make buildings "disappear". But like the mirrored glass of the seventies, everyone quickly learned that they don't disappear at all. It is a very thin line separating the use of green roofs as a tool of green building or a new form of greenwash. With this house, it is tough.