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Invisible house pleads special case

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Marks Barfield's scheme for an 'invisible house' on Green Belt land in London's Mill Hill has been rejected on principle by planners, despite winning over the support of CABE and English Heritage.

The scheme for a singlestorey family house embedded within a bank is designed to make it invisible to passing traffic. But officers at Barnet council last week rejected the plans without even sending them to planning committee.

Client Keith Zerdin, who has worked for more than a decade with Marks Barfield on commercial projects for his development company, said he was determined to appeal the decision.

'We weren't expecting to be turned down in the way we were, ' Zerdin said. 'They turned it down on delegated powers - it didn't even go to committee.'

The house on the 4.8ha Rosebank site would be sunk into the bank below the neighbouring road, The Ridgeway. The lowenergy design uses long-lasting, sustainable, natural materials 'to enhance the character of its location'. The scheme would also create a children's nature conservation and recreation area for the neighbouring St Paul's School along with landscaping designed to increase bio-diversity, encourage wildlife and improve views over the open countryside.

CABE praised Rosebank as an exemplary design which it was happy to support. 'This would be a rare example of a new project which would enhance its Green Belt settting, ' the commission said.And English Heritage agreed that the 'intelligent and imaginative' design for the sensitive site 'would not damage the conservation area's character and appearance'.

Marks Barfield director David Marks - who argued the scheme should be let through as an exception under the 'special circumstances' rule governing the Green Belt - said: 'We are all naturally disappointed. We think this is an important site that raises important issues.'

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