Gary Neville’s Blooming House

Gary Neville’s Blooming House

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Manchester United’s longest-serving player gets go-ahead for his flower-shaped eco-mansion. Gary Neville is that rare thing in modern football, a one-club player.  But fans may be forgiven for thinking that he’s transferred his loyalty from Old Trafford to the Tubbytronic Superdrome.

Neville has been working for over a year to get planning approval for his eco-mansion, which even fans must admit bears more than a passing comparison to the home of the Teletubbies.  After several attempts and a radical overhaul of the plans, he finally has the go-ahead.

Neville’s original plan was for a build on a Bradshaw hillside, near Bolton, powered by a wind turbine and scoring a perfect code 6 (out of 6) on the government’s chart for eco-friendliness.  But the first set of plans ‘generated over 100 objections from local residents,’ as Mike Ralph, from RED property services and Neville’s representative, reported.  Neville has been forced to alter his plans.  The result has been likened by less Teletubby-minded commentators to a Neolithic settlement, being largely underground.

In the original plans much of the power was to be provided by a wind turbine.  Excess energy from the turbine was to be sold back to the National Grid, ensuring the building’s carbon neutrality.  In March last year, a revised version of the original plan was given the official go-ahead.  However, the turbine was the source of many of the complaints made by local residents, who felt that it would disfigure the landscape.

Neville’s new plan leaves out the wind turbine.  It also promises to have a considerably smaller ‘footprint’ – though slightly larger, the new plan takes up less floor space, and neighbours expressed gratitude that Neville had ‘seen sense,’ because, as one unnamed resident pointed out, ‘a structure like that would have been an eyesore.’

Neville’s plan is to build his home carbon-neutral, which is how it rates its code six(PDF).  Following the initial round of planning rejections, Neville went back to the drawing board with Make to look for solutions.  But after being forced to abandon the wind turbine altogether, Neville also abandoned Make and in August of this year brought in a German firm to work out alternatives.

The new design will use a ground source heat pump, taking advantage of temperature differentials deeper underground, as well as photovoltaic cells for converting sunlight into electricity.  As tempting as it is to point out that the Bolton area can rely more on wind than on sunshine, Neville has the weather covered: the house will have sustainable rainwater harvesting too. Additional neighbour-pleasing is provided by offsite production – the house will be fabricated elsewhere and assembled on-site.  Partly as a result of this the construction of the new plans will take only 4 to 5 months rather than the 18 to 20 previously projected.

Artists’ impressions of the plans show a central kitchen surrounded by petal-like lobes sunk into the ground, with a waist-high traditional-looking drystone wall outlining each lobe.  This low visual profile and semi-traditional appearance – as if marking field boundaries for psychedelic farmers – is vital to the success of Neville’s plans, for the home he hopes to build is on green belt land.

While central government wrangles over letting 2% of all green belt land go for housing to ease the shortage, Neville’s local council has been more conservation-minded.  But he got the green light in both senses after proving that his would be the first carbon-neutral home in its Bradshaw purview. Councillor Andy Morgan said he felt ‘the exceptional circumstances [requirements] had been met because of code six and it is still an attractive and modern building.’

After persuading his neighbours to feel the same way, it looks as if Gary Neville, now a pundit for Sky Sports, will get to say ‘Eh-Oh!’ to his new home at last.