Historic Derbyshire farmhouse to be torn down to make way for modern home

An historic Georgian farmhouse is to be torn down to make way for a large modern home in the Derbyshire countryside.

The replacement property, which would sit on the site of a 200-year-old Derbyshire farmhouse has been compared to Chatsworth House and said to be more in keeping with Beverly Hills – home of Hollywood’s stars.

Derbyshire Dales District Council has approved plans from property developer Tim Tomlinson to demolish and redevelop a site at Nether Hillside Farm in Biggin, in the countryside between Ashbourne and Belper.

The plans would see the Georgian farmhouse, believed to be from around the earlier 18th century, between 200 and 250 years ago, demolished due to issues with its structural integrity.

An artist's impression of how the new modern home could look

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Council officers agreed that the current farmhouse “does not make a positive contribution to the landscape character”.

However, parish councillors and residents living nearby feel the farmhouse is a “beautiful period property” which ought to be restored.

They feel the proposed new five ensuite bedroom property – including a sauna, gym, six-car garage and a cinema – would be wildly out of keeping with the rural character of the area.

The exisiting farmhouse is thought to date back to the early 18th century.

Louise Redfern, chair of the Biggin by Hulland Parish Meeting, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that “the sadness of the destruction of this Georgian farmhouse in the community is unbearable”.

She claimed the current property could be redeveloped and restored and “the developer just wants to flatten it and build a massive new house”.

Ms Redfern said: “I just think it is terrible that this is happening in our rural village. It is not derelict, the developer has been living in it, it has a terrible extension that was never completed and all the focus has been on the poor extension – which should be knocked down.

“I just think it is wrong. There is severe opposition from residents and we don’t feel they (councillors) took any notice of the public and yet what the developer said was like gospel.

“It is devastating for the community and the countryside and the precedent it will set. I don’t think anyone comprehends how big this is going to be when it is built.”

Ms Redfern told a district council meeting earlier this month: “This will fundamentally change the landscape and destroy a beautiful period property if this planning application is allowed and permitted and it is wrong that it should be destroyed to allow for a proposed building out of the scale.

“It is nearly four times the size of my property, nearly twice as high, it overlooks us, it is being protruded to the front of the hillside where it will dominate the whole valley and our property.

“It resembles a public house and not a home. It looks like Chatsworth House is going to be built above us.

“This is Biggin by Hulland, it is not Beverly Hills, why are we allowing buildings like this to fundamentally change and damage our countryside.”

During the meeting, William Hibbert, a member of the Biggin by Hulland Parish Meeting, said the current farmhouse was one of the oldest buildings in the area.

He said Barry Joyce, vice chairman of the Derbyshire Historic Building Trust, found the 18th century property “merits retention as a non-designated heritage asset”.

Mr Joyce said that the property has been standing for 250 years and that restoration is “perfectly feasible” and that its replacement would “destroy forever part of the local heritage”.

Cllr Georgina Geraghty, member of Kirk Ireton Parish Council, told the meeting: “It is obtrusive by its design, scale and concerningly detrimental to the landscape, not being reflective of the character of the area as a whole.

“People don’t want our landscape to change that much that we don’t recognise it. This is more in keeping with a city or another country

“The enormity of the proposed dwelling is very alarming and is equivalent to eight averaged sized detached houses.”

Wendy Whitbread, who lives close to the site, told the meeting: “I am absolutely astounded that approval of this application has been recommended.

“This is spoiling a rural hillside on the edge of the Ecclesbourne hillside for good.”

Tim Allen, from Green 4 Developments Ltd, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said in the meeting: “The scheme replaces on a one for one basis an aged and problematic existing building with a new architecturally designed high quality home that reflects the style, nature and material finishes of buildings in the area. It is a highly energy efficient proposal that is designed to have a low carbon footprint.

“The current buildings on the site, amended as they have been, do not present an attractive facade and would not meet the requirements for modern living, should they be returned to a much earlier arrangement.”

Sarah Arbon, a senior district council planning officer, said the extension to the property was built in the 1980s and is “structurally unsound”.

She said: “The original farmhouse is dominated by extensions which have ultimately caused the structure significant damage

“Any public views are overwhelmed by the extensions and it is on this basis that it is not considered to make a positive contribution to the landscape character.”

Cllr Garry Purdy, leader of the council, questioned the scale, design and character of the proposed new home and said much of the debate was “subjective” but felt the existing property “doesn’t seem to have much architectural merit at all”.

Cllr Stuart Lees asked that the council attach a condition ensuring the windows on the new property were made of anti-glare glass. He said he could see the current building “crumbling away” on a visit to the site and that the site and all other homes were currently obscured by trees.

Cllr Peter Slack said the new property would be “massive” compared to what is currently there.

He said: “It is a shame a building like this has never been listed, buildings like this we do not want to lose as part of our heritage.

“It could be restored, yes it could cost a lot of money to be restored, but it could be restored and improved and the extensions which could be put on to it could be in keeping with the property.

“I am disappointed that this gigantic property is to be dropped there in the countryside.”

Cllr Peter O’Brien said that the council did have policies based on design which were not just subjective opinions but strong advice for developers.

He said: “This is the sort of development that is more appropriate somewhere in the home counties (the counties around London), I don’t think it is reflective of the characteristics of the Derbyshire Dales.”

Cllr Sue Burfoot said: “This proposed dwelling certainly would make a statement, by virtue of its design and scale but do we want to make that sort of statement in this area…in my view we definitely do not.

“One of the speakers mentioned it would be more in keeping with Beverly Hills and I absolutely go along with that. I think it is inappropriate for its surroundings.

“The agent talked about a one for one replacement but it is clearly not that. It is too big, it is too dominant and it is out of character with its surroundings.”

Cllr Neil Buttle said the proposed scheme was “a little bit too large” and the applicant should be given the chance to reduce it and then to return with the smaller project.

Cllr Richard FitzHerbert said an assessment of the current building’s condition was clear, that it was “uninhabitable, structurally compromised and completely derelict”.

He said: “Unless you have got stacks of money I don’t know how you can reconfigure it for modern living.

Cllr Purdy said: “Whilst we might not like the building it may be a building that actually grows on people.

“We have to accept sometimes that contemporary can be a benefit, it doesn’t always have to fit the vernacular.”

Councillors first voted on whether to refuse the scheme or not, which was rejected by a vote of four in favour to six against. Members then voted on whether to approve the project or not, which was approved by a vote of six in favour, three against and one abstention (Cllr Buttle).