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Damien Hirst eco-town gets the green light

A Devon local authority has paved the way for a major ‘eco-estate’ backed by the artist Damien Hirst by passing a pivotal planning decision in favour of the proposals

North Devon Council said it has ‘approved in principle’ blueprints for 750 homes outside Ilfracombe in North Devon drawn up by MRJ Rundell + Associates for the artist, who owns 40 per cent of the development land. 

The council said the approval is subject to the ratification of Section 106 agreements.

Planning committee chairman Eric Levy added: ‘Representatives of organisations in the town made it clear that they were interested in seeing the town expand. Because of the topography surrounding Ilfracombe, this is probably the only practical site. Although that same topography will make the design stage challenging, we will be working to ensure that the eventual scheme will blend in with the local landscape.’

The development will include rooftop wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, and state-of-the-art insulation, according to Rundell, who spoke at a 2012 planning meeting about the proposals. Rundell said at the time: ‘Damien is a local developer. He lives locally, shops locally, owns local businesses and his children go to local schools. He cares about Ilfracombe and wants this project to have a positive effect on the town.’

The plans also include new commercial units, a primary school, health centre, and open spaces for the local community.

According to The North Devon Journal, residents fiercely debated the plans before the council gave them the partial green light last week. Resident Peter Cresswell told councillors: ‘You build new houses, you provide jobs. Here we have a situation with an employment black spot. That’s not sustainable, it’s disgraceful.’

A spokeswoman for the architect declined to comment. 

Previous story (AJ 17.02.12)

White Cube architects planning 500-home Damien Hirst eco-town

MRJ Rundell + Associates is poised to submit an outline application for 500 new homes as part of an ‘eco-estate’ for artist Damien Hirst in Ilfracombe, North Devon

The Kentish Town-based practice, which designed the White Cube Gallery, declined to discuss this project. However, reports in the local press say the firm recently presented plans to the public for the ‘ambitious’ proposal which could start next year.

Hirst, who is famous for exhibiting a Shark pickled in formaldehyde, owns a number of properties in the seaside district including Winsham Farm where the homes would be built.

According to The North Devon Journal, Mike Rundell of MRJ Rundell + Associates told the meeting: ‘I’m a representative of Damien Hirst. He owns 40 per cent of the land we are talking about.

‘As you know, he is a very successful artist and has very high ambitions for this project. He has a horror of building anonymous, lifeless buildings. He wants these houses to be the kind of homes he would want to live in.

‘Damien is a local developer. He lives locally, shops locally, owns local businesses and his children go to local schools. He cares about Ilfracombe and wants this project to have a positive effect on the town.

‘He wants these buildings to be landmarks that will stand the test of time and create a blueprint for quality, environmentally sustainable developments across the country.

‘Ilfracombe will be a pioneer and Damien is incredibly excited about it.’

He added: ‘If the council insists on a very high level of affordable housing within the development, the overall quality of the homes will drop.

‘We believe that if you bring wealth, energy and business to a town like Ilfracombe, it will have far wider social benefits than simply, say, introducing a youth club.

‘You have to ask yourself the question do you want cheap housing or do you want to attract business and money to allow the town to grow?’

The practice designed Jay Jopling’s White Cube Gallery at Mason’s Yard in London and the 2011 RIBA Award-winning West Buckland School near Barnstaple.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Why do we seem to have an aversion for straight roads in England. (they are safer for both cars and pedestrians)

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  • Forget the roads; what about buildings ? What a relief it was to see real apartment buildings in the mountains at various stages of Le Tour de France, and here we go again with spec built Victoriana !

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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