Thursday, February 01, 2007

His Highness the Prince of Wales gets "OK" on new eco-friendly "Palace"

By Nick Britten of the Telegraph

The Prince of Wales has been given the green light to build an eco-friendly house, rumoured to be a "starter home" for Prince William once he gets married.

Planning permission has been granted for the six-bedroom property in the grounds of the Duchy of Cornwall's Harewood Park Estate.

The home, built to stringent environmental parameters, contains a chapel, a rainwater reservoir and stables, and draws heavily from Greek and Roman classical references.

A spokesman for the Prince said that it was designed to be rented out, but would not comment as to who it might be offered to.

Many Royal watchers believe Prince William will make the estate his country residence after he gets married, although he is likely to have company as other redeveloped buildings there are already let out and plans for the future include offering "five-star holiday accommodation".

The estate affords all the privacy a young royal couple like Prince William and his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton would require, sitting on an isolated stretch of road near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border.

It is less than an hour's drive from Highgrove House, the Prince of Wales's home in Gloucestershire. Work on the two-storey house will start later this year, with the emphasis on it being environmentally sustainable.

In a more functional than palatial move, a 200-litre rainwater reservoir will collect and recycle rainwater to the house. The house will even have an eco-friendly reed bed sewage system.

Forty per cent of the lighting will be energy efficient, solar panels will heat the water in the summer, whilst a wood chip boiler using wood from the estate will heat it in the winter.

The roof, made of salvaged Welsh slate, will be insulated using wool, whilst volcanic ash components in the 610mm-thick external walls, some of which will be built from recycled bricks and stone taken from the estate's quarry, will keep the heat in.

The house has been scaled down from its original 14,885 sq ft to 8,500 sq ft to make it more energy efficient but the occupants will still live in splendour. There are six reception rooms downstairs and six bedrooms upstairs – five of which are en suite.

On the ground floor there is also a 25ft dining room and 18ft sitting room, as well as a kitchen, drawing room, library and orangery.

Low energy and water saving appliances will be fitted everywhere, whilst three large recycling bins will make the best use of waste and, according to a sustainability report, make "recycling and composting easy for the occupants".

The report, by Dr Gail Kenton, of the BP Institute in Cambridge, gives the house a "very good" rating according to the Eco Homes 2006 criteria. It misses out on an "excellent" rating predominantly because of its remote location.

The most eye-catching aspect will be the entrance hall containing eight columns inspired by the Telesterion, built in 480BC at Eleusis, north of Athens. According to the plans, it will provide a "mysterious experience akin to being in a forest of columns, which provide a contrast to the large open spaces".

Outside, arches, some of which were inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, will dominate the facade, whilst the walls will contain sculptures of winged lions.

The design of a four-bay garage has been based on one of the smaller monuments on the Acropolis in Athens.

Designed by the architect Craig Hamilton, the house is part of a redevelopment of the 900-acre estate, which was bought by the Duchy in 2000 and will be built on the site of a demolished 17th Century bungalow.

It offers stunning uninterrupted views across the border valleys.

Mike Wilmont, who dealt with the planning application at Herefordshire Council, said it was approved last Wednesday without objection.

He said: "When the initial application was made, it had Crown Exemption, which meant they could pretty much do what they wanted without the need for permission, but the rules changed last year so they needed planning permission from the council."

A spokesman for Prince Charles said: "Work will begin in due course. The house was scaled down in size because the Duchy felt a smaller property would have a greater commercial return. It has always been the intention to build it for the rental market."

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