Grandmother and Rutland county councillor 'intimidated' by villagers over plan for earth-sheltered eco-house in Whitwell
A grandmother who runs a small farm in Rutland says she is being “intimidated” by some villagers over her plans to build a £400,000 eco-house.
June Titterton-Fox, 61, has applied for permission to create a single-storey, three-bedroom home that would be dug into one of two fields she owns in Whitwell.
Describing it as a “21st Century farmhouse”, she claims it would be one of the most energy-efficient properties in the UK.
It would also provide a way for her and husband Andy, 57, to downsize from the five-bedroom house they currently own in the village.
But around a dozen residents have lodged objections to the planning application for ‘Field House’ claiming it would be a “blot on the landscape”.
A protest group, named simply ‘Whitwell Residents’, said they had instructed solicitors to “fight the case” and were concerned it would set a precedent.
They wrote: “The proposed building would be a real blot on the landscape, and would be in full view from the Grade II* listed church in the village. It would sit on raised land, overlooking several of the heritage assets of the village.
“More widely, we feel that, if this application succeeds in receiving planning permission, it could open the floodgates for similar projects gaining approval, thereby diminishing the rural assets of the county.”
The application will likely be considered by Rutland County Council’s planning committee in October or November this year.
Mrs Titterton-Fox, who is also a county councillor, said she found it deeply upsetting that people would try to scupper her plans when she had invested in the village for 20 years.
“I don’t know why you’d object to something you can hardly see,” she said. “There’s been a concerted programme of intimidation through social media. It’s really sad.”
Last year she ran a half-marathon to help fund a defibrillator machine for the village. She also recently battled breast cancer and underwent two heart operations last year.
“Going through that really makes you think about your future,” said Mrs Titterton-Fox, who has two grown-up sons and a three-year old grandson.
“We want to downsize to a three-bedroom property that will future-proof our requirements. It’s all on one floor so as I get older I don’t have to worry about stairs or falling.”
The Whitwell Residents protest group also alleged she had received preferential treatment from Rutland County Council in the form of a grant that would pay 40 per cent of the roughly £3,000 needed for a pre-planning design review for the earth-sheltered eco-home.
They used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of emails in which the details of the grant were discussed.
However, Mrs Titterton-Fox said the grant would be available to any Rutland resident and, furthermore, she had actually decided against applying.
“It’s all a bit hurtful when all we want to do is build one house for us to live in,” she added. “We shouldn’t have to move out of the village we’ve lived in for 20 years just because we want to downsize. Our current house would be perfect for a new family to move into.”
Inspired by the 1970s sitcom The Good Life, which sees a suburban couple ditch their jobs to become self-sufficient, Mrs Titterton-Fox started her farming dream with a few chickens.
She and her husband then began renting two fields near their home in 2002 before buying them two years later.
Starting with sheep, she moved on to rearing rare-breed cattle and pigs, and now sells surplus meat under the banner of ‘June’s Farm’, which has seen huge success over lockdown.
“I just enjoy watching the pigs and cattle and being outside with them,” she said. “I’d rather spend £800 on a cow rather than jewellery or a dress!”
Living in ‘Field House’ would enable her to be closer to the animals, making the job of looking after them much easier.
“We want to build a 21st century farmhouse in our field that will blend into the landscape,” she said. “The house puts back into the environment more than it takes out.”
The property would create its own water supply, waste would be sorted out on-site, and they would sell excess power back to the grid.
“In fact it would probably be the most energy-efficient house in the UK,” added Mrs Titterton-Fox. “It stays warm in winter and cool in summer.”
She estimates the house would cost between £300,000 and £400,000 to build with work beginning next spring, should planning permission be granted.