DIY housebuilder loses court battle to save his ‘off-grid holistic retreat’ hailed as ‘truly inspiring’ by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud because he did not have planning permission
- Eddie McIntosh, 52, from Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales, built the ‘off-grid’ site
- He has now lost a court battle to save his ‘Mellowcroft’ holistic woodland home
- hand-built the tree house along with cabins, a classroom and a footbridge
- But Powys County Council had not approved the land for anything but agricultural use, and ordered him to tear down his creations
Eddie McIntosh, 52, from Wales, has lost a court battle to save his ‘truly inspiring’ treehouse
A DIY builder living in a treehouse described as ‘truly inspiring’ by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud has lost a court battle to save his home.
Eddie McIntosh, 52, from Wales, constructed the twelve-acre farm himself complete with wooden classrooms, cabins and even a footbridge.
The father-of-two began developing his ‘Mellowcroft’ woodland site over 12 years ago to live a sustainable lifestyle and offer alternative therapy.
One shack had 26 stained glass windows along with an outdoor spa using recycled baths.
At the woodland site Mr McIntosh grows willow furniture,fruit and vegetables and rears pigs.
He also produces silver birch water – made from silver birch trees and used as a tonic for rheumatism.
He made a range of buildings from recycled material – hailed as ‘beautiful, a delight, an inspiration, off-grid luxury’ by McCloud on his Channel 4 show Man Made Home.
However Mr McIntosh now has to tear the whole thing down after he lost a court case with his local council.
He had been given permission for it to be used for agriculture but the authority proved it was being used a residence – because he was living in a tree house there.
Mr McIntosh (pictured with wife Kim and daughter Ellie) had been given permission to use the site for agriculture only
Mr McIntosh, 52, constructed the twelve-acre farm himself and grows willow furniture, rears pigs and grows fruit and vegetables at the woodland site
The DIY builder’s treehouse was once described as ‘truly inspiring’ by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud
Mr McIntosh has now been found guilty of 18 charges of breaking planning laws by failing to comply with planning enforcement notices served on him by Powys Council.
He was accused of continuing to use Mellowcroft as his residence and failing to remove a motor home and various wooden structures he’d built.
He must now demolish the buildings at the retreat in Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales.
Mr McIntosh had denied 18 charges at his trial at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court but was found guilty on all counts.
The court was told McIntosh had already appealed the notices to the independent planning inspector who in a January 2016 decision mostly upheld the notices.
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His Honour Christopher Vosper QC fined McIntosh, of Mellowcroft, Llandegley, a total of £750.
Prosecutor Christian Jowett said the council’s costs were in the region of £35,000 but did not make an application for the authority to be awarded the costs.
McIntosh was also given a 12 month conditional discharge on three charges, relating to the motor home, a shed and the tree house as they had now been moved.
Mr Vosper told him: ‘The jury have convicted you on all 18 counts.
‘I understand you just took a stand against the order I understand you felt frustrated but you can’t simply ignore the order especially after an inquiry by the independent inspector.’
The incredible tree house was built solely from recycled/donated materials and around three birch trees
Mr McIntosh ran the site as a rural retreat offering education and alternative therapies as well as off-grid holiday accommodation
The judge said he had to impose a financial penalty but acknowledged the defendant, who is reliant on selling vegetables he grows at Mellowcroft from a trailer beside the A44, only had a yearly income of around £2,500.
He said had he fined him £100 for the 15 offences, not dealt with by conditional discharge, the total would be £1,500 so instead told him to pay £750 over the next 12 months.
Should McIntosh fail to pay he will have to serve 28 days in jail.
The structures he failed to removed included compost toilet, a motor home, a drover’s cabin, a shepherd’s hut, a wood fired bath, a footbridge and a wind turbine and a jetty as well as a stone circle.
Earlier Jonathan Rees, defending, had asked the jury to use ‘common sense’ when deciding the case.
He told them the enforcement notices had succeeded in bringing about the outcome that the council wanted, that unauthorised uses such as as the retreat, education and alternative therapies, no longer took place and Mellowcroft was returned to being agricultural land.
Following a court trial with his local council Mr McIntosh now has to tear the whole thing down
The 52-year-old was accused of continuing to use Mellowcroft as his residence and failing to remove a motor home and various wooden structures he’d built
He said the structures that remained were essential for the agricultural use the planning inspector had said was allowed.
Mr Rees said: ‘The jetty and footbridge allow him to cross his farm and tend to his pond without falling in it.
‘A compost toilet, it was the only toilet on site allowing him and volunteers to use the toilet when working rather than just go behind a tree with no dignity or privacy at all.
‘The tree house has not been used since the decision by the planning inspection and is being dismantled now.
‘The change of use notices have been successful and led to compliance and have led to what the council set out to do, turn Mellocroft back into an agricultural smallholding, they have been successful.’
Father-of-three Mr McIntosh said his marriage fell apart under the strain of the planning dispute
Mr McIntosh’s rural retreat was called ‘truly inspiring’ by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud
Mr McIntosh had been given permission for it to be used for agriculture but following a trial the authorities were able to prove it was being as a residence
Mr Rees reminded the jury of the defendant’s personal struggles and said he’d tried his best to comply with the council’s requirements throughout them.
He said: ‘During this period he was confronting personal difficulties, his mental and physical health and what appears to be the irreconcilable break up with his wife and estrangement from his young daughter.
‘Still he succeeded through all of these matters to turn the land back to an agricultural small holding while living in what many people would regard as a state of squalor in a motor home and the back of a converted lorry trailer.
Mr McIntosh says he had nowhere else to live but the prosecution wanted him to get rid of the only roof over his head.
‘The council want to make him homeless and penniless. You, after 13 years, can stop this. You are entitled to say Mr McIntosh has done everything he could be reasonably expected to do and I ask you to find in common sense and acquit Mr McIntosh of these charges.’
Prosecutor Christian Jowett had however told the jury in his summing up: ‘In this case the prosecution say Mr McIntosh clearly loved Mellowcroft and loved what he was was doing there. It is difficult for you not to have sympathy for him but he is still bound by the planning inspector’s decisions.
Included in the complex was a classroom with 26 stained glass windows called the ‘Elixir Room’ along with an outdoor spa using recycled baths
Eddie McIntosh (centre, front) with friends outside court where he was being tried for building a tree house without permission
He is not able to not comply because he thinks it is not common sense or unreasonable.
‘He invested all that time and money in breach of planning law he was clearly aggrieved when he received that notice and it was the end of his vision for Mellowcroft.
‘That is why he made the effort to appeal and he said he became ‘fixated’ and the reason why he didn’t comply by October 29, 2016.
‘He knew what was required by the enforcement notice.’
Earlier Mr McCloud had said: ‘What Eddie has concocted here is off-grid luxury and I rather like it.’
Included in his building was a classroom with 26 stained glass windows now called the ‘Elixir Room’ along with an outdoor spa using recycled baths.
Mr McIntosh told the court he first bought the then abandoned smallholding, he named Mellowcroft, off the A44 at Llandegley, near Llandrindod Wells, in 2006.
He then ran as a rural retreat offering education and alternative therapies as well as off-grid holiday accommodation.
Giving evidence he also explained how his marriage with the mother of his youngest daughter, now aged six, fell apart under the strain of the planning dispute.#
He said he had a website up and running and said his intention was to see if Mellowcroft could be a viable business.
McIntosh told Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court while he lived in the tree house he always slept in a motor home and has since taken it down.
He said the retreat, which also allowed community groups to use the site and its allotments, was proving successful and in 2012 featured of Man Made Home.
The father-of-three said Powys council first alleged the site didn’t have planning permission in 2013 when the first enforcement notice was issued.
Earlier he told the court: ‘It came out of the blue with no warning, we had a good relationship with the planning officer.
‘I was transparent in everything I did and had an open invitation to come and see the site.’
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