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Inspector rejects appeal for UK's first Frank Lloyd Wright house

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Plans to build an unrealised Frank Lloyd Wright house near Bristol appear to have been sunk after the planning inspector agreed with the local authority’s decision to reject the contentious scheme

Last year North Somerset Council turned down Stephen Brooks Architects’ proposals for the first house by the American architect in this country on a green-belt site at Tyntesfield Springs.

The scheme had been based on a design drawn up in 1947 for Dr and Mrs Arthur O’Keefe of Santa Barbara, California and the design team had spent eight years negotiating with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for permission to build the home thousands of miles away from its intended location.

Following the council’s rejection, project backer Dr Hugh Petter lodged an appeal and subsequently released a video about the proposals to bolster his bid (AJ 21.07.14).

However the planning inspector dismissed the appeal claiming the house would have an ‘unacceptable impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding countryside’, would have a ‘detrimental impact on highway safety’ and was unsustainable and an ‘inappropriate development’ for ‘the green belt’.

Inspector Edward Gerry also rejected claims the plans should be allowed, based on the ‘countyhouse clause’ - namely Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework. He said: ‘At the time of its conception the design may have been considered to be highly innovative and exceptional. Nonetheless, in my view, the design, including in terms of its horizontal form and its use of materials, would not be of exceptional quality or of an innovative nature when considered against modern construction techniques.’

He added: ‘Furthermore, the lake that the proposed dwelling would overlook over is a recent man made construction. Thus, the setting for the dwelling would appear to be at odds with Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of ‘organic architecture’.

Architect Stephen Brooks said: ‘We are obviously disappointed that the inspector did not recognize the importance of the project, so we will be reviewing the options shortly to explore how else we can proceed.’

Previous story (AJ 29.11.13)

UK’s first Frank Lloyd Wright house set for refusal

Plans to build an unrealised Frank Lloyd Wright house near Bristol look set to be rejected by the local authority

Stephen Brooks Architects’ proposals for the UK’s first house by the American architect has been recommended for refusal ahead of the next week’s meeting of North Somerset Council’s north area planning committee (5 December).

According to the authority, the proposed scheme for the green-belt site at Tyntesfield Springs, Wraxall did not ‘demonstrate very special circumstances [which would] outweigh the damage to the countryside’.

Despite Frank Lloyd Wright being named the ‘greatest American architect of all time’ the planners said that the proposal is not considered to be of ‘exceptional quality’ or ‘innovative design’.

Stephen Brooks, founder of Stephen Brooks Architects hit back, saying: ‘North Somerset Council Planning Department refuses to acknowledge the importance of the last Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house to be built.’

‘The council fails to accept this house as outstanding or innovative, or that it reflects the highest standards in architecture - all criteria for allowing permission within the Green Belt. [Yet] one wonders what outstanding buildings of the 21st or 20th century North Somerset has found acceptable? Does anybody know?’

Based on a design drawn up in 1947 for Dr and Mrs Arthur O’Keefe of Santa Barbara, California, the design team spent eight years negotiating with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for permission to build the home thousands of miles away from its intended location.

Extract from the planning report

Recommendation: Refuse for the following reasons:

  1. The proposal constitutes inappropriate development within the Green Belt that would be harmful to the openness of the Green Belt and conflict with the purposes of including land within it. The proposal is not considered to be ‘exceptional quality’ or ‘innovative design’ and no very special circumstances have been demonstrated to outweigh the harm caused and the proposal is therefore contrary to policy CS6 of the North Somerset Core Strategy and policy RD/3 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan and guidance set out in the National Planning Policy Framework under Section 9 - Protecting Green Belt Land.
  2. The site lies in the open countryside in an area where new residential development is limited to that required to meet a proven agricultural or other local need or other special circumstances.  No such need or special circumstances have been demonstrated in this case.  The site has limited access to local services and facilities, employment opportunities and public transport and future occupants would be reliant upon the private motor vehicle. The proposal would therefore result in an unsustainable pattern of development that conflicts with the locational strategy for development set out in policies CS33 of the Core Strategy and policy H/8 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan and to guidance set out under paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
  3. The proposed development, by reason of its siting and form, would adversely affect the rural character of the area which is devoid of new development. The proposal is therefore contrary to policies CS12 and the landscape section of policy CS5 of the North Somerset Core Strategy, policy GDP/3 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan and to guidance contained in the North Somerset Landscape Character Assessment.
  4. The proposed development would involve the intensification of use of an existing substandard vehicular access to the detriment of highway safety. The proposed development is therefore contrary to policy CS10 of the North Somerset Core Strategy and policy T/10 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan.
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Readers' comments (2)

  • It is just a lot of rock slab arranged carefully so it does not fall over and gives the cat sun spots and the wife dusting of the walls to keep her occupied, what is the Problem ? it is character for England Wales Scotland, some of the best houses are in sandstone mudstone rugged low grade and high grade slate block marlstone even and of course the famour limestones and sometimes Millstone Grit. People have been known to make local culture in schist flint chert and clay, rather a lot in clay, some Brazil import ! Call themselves Conservation Architects ? OK so we have rain, but there are block without pointing on hillsides that seem not to allow the damp into walls. Perhaps they did not like the functional arrangement? Look at Cotswold that is all primitive Frank Lloyd Wright, pre era.

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  • How Inspectors can twist and bend evidence; firstly the design is not as 'modern' as it was when FLW designed it, second the lake adjacent to which the house would stand is artificial, and therefore the whole concept is contrary to Wrightian 'naturalness'.

    Although the re-design does not sit comfortably in the landscape, as would a true Wright design, it is probably better than the majority of special case green-belt designs.

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