TV star Rowan Atkinson’s neighbours were furious today after he won planning permission to build a space-age house – in a 7th century village.
Atkinson has been given the go-ahead to demolish his 1930s mansion and replace it with a £5million three-storey building which locals describe as a ”space-age petrol station”.
They claim councillors have been ”seduced by money and fame” after Atkinson made a personal appearance before South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday night (25/08).
Committee members ignored objections from the parish coucil and the advice of its own planning officers to approve the scheme in tiny Ipsden, near Wallingford, Oxon.
The 8,000sq ft white and glass structure has been designed by top US architect Richard Meier, his first project in Britain.
The site lies in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the plans were rejected by the local parish council for being ”out of character” with the landscape.
Planning officers for South Oxfordshire District Council also recommended the plans were refused due to ”the angular form, white finish and the extent of the glazing which would result in buildings which appear as stark features in contrast to the rolling rural landscape of the AONB”.
During the meeting on Wednesday night the Blackadder and Mr Bean star, who has lived in the area for 28 years, admitted the building would ”stand out” from the landscape.
He said: ”I agree with the council’s conclusion that the house would stand out from, rather than blend in with, the landscape.
”However, this is not grounds to reject the plans, but simply a description on how good architecture works.
”There is nothing inappropriate about its stark white colour if the building was proportionally designed and he pointed out that the existing house on the site is white.”
Atkinson, 55, will replace the original Handsmooth House, set in 16 acres of rolling countryside, and replace it with a 30ft (9m) high mansion split into two futuristic wings.
The star’s planning consultant Haydn Morris said this would be the first building in the UK which had been designed by Mr Meier.
He said: ”He has built extensively around the world winning very many awards and he’s very highly regarded as one of the world’s leading architects.
”We truly believe that the proposal is not simply a replacement house, but a building that will stand the test of time to become a true classic.”
Top London architect Lord George Rogers, Baron Rogers of Riverside, also supported the project.
In a letter to South Oxford District Council he wrote: ”Richard Meier’s design for Rowan Atkinson’s house in Oxfordshire is beautiful.
”As with all classical buildings from the earliest Hellenic to Palladio to Indigo Jones’ Queen’s house in Greenwich, Richard’s house stands proudly in contrast to the nature that surrounds it.
”This house, like all of Richard’s best buildings, belongs to the classical tradition in architecture.”
But the decision has not been warmly received from his neighbours.
Ben Yates, 45, a farmer who lives nearby, expressed outrage at the decision.
He said: ”Once again money and fame have been used to bulldoze their way through the planning process.
”It’s appalling the councillors allowed themselves to be seduced by a well known actor while ignoring all of the advice of the planning officers.
”The decision to build this modern monstrosity is outrageous and sets a very dangerous precedent.”
The house will include a tennis court, stables and an underground garage for Atkinson’s large collection of supercars.
The state-of-the-art home will have five bedrooms overlooking the stunning Chiltern Hills as well as a bridge over a courtyard which links both wings of the house.
A swimming pool which was built in the 1970s will also be bulldozed to make way for a two-storey luxury guest wing set into the side of an ancient hillside behind the property.
The main home will come with a Japanese garden and even its own wood to protect Atkinson and his family from nosey neighbours.
Atkinson, 55, has also recruited award-winning landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith to reproduce a meadow at the front of the property.
Atkinson, who has lived in the area for 28 years, refused to comment after the meeting.
Building work is expected to start early next year.