A New Vernacular Architecture


Round wood and straw bales -towards a new vernacular architecture

In 1997 Tony Wrench, a resident at Brithdyr Mawr – a working farm community in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park- built a low cost, low impact roundhouse in a field away from the existing buildings. At a cost of only a few thousand pounds using materials derived from site or very close by. For a Low Impact Dwelling, this humble roundhouse has had a remarkable impact on public awareness of LID, through media – especially online digital media- campaigns to support the builder’s struggle against planning enforcement action. At one stage this support included a plan to occupy the house in order to prevent its demolition at the builder’s own hands as demanded by the planning authority. Equally this case has had a great impact on the development of formal LID policies by the Joint Unitary Planning Authority for Pembrokeshire, and subsequently for the whole of Wales.

As well as planning policy, the low cost and simple construction of the roundhouse have also impacted housing policy by offering a demonstrably effective alternative to a lifetime of debt slavery just to put roof over ones head. Many people across Wales have gone on to build their own homes in this emerging Low Impact vernacular style, there is after all no shortage of stone or round wood, the limiting factor remains land with planning consent (or even the remote hope of achieving it). The very fact of affordability has encouraged many to obtain land and to go ahead and build without the time, effort, and above all expense of applying for permission. This may look like a high risk strategy but at least there is a home from which to challenge enforcement action and mount appeals! A gathering in 2012 to discuss this strategy; known as Plan B; was attended by nearly two hundred people and as many again were turned away.

This roundhouse challenges the false assumption that people are bad for the countryside, and dares you to ask for, and design for yourself, the home you deserve.

Tony Wrench   http://www.thatroundhouse.info

Some quotes:

“Land use planning is an important delivery mechanism for the Assembly’s Sustainable Development Scheme.”
Carwyn Jones AM, Minister for Environment, Planning and the Countryside; letter, 28.9.2004

Sustainability is treating the earth as if we intend to stay.
Nic Wheeler, Chief Executive, Pembs Coast Nat. Park Authority, on their website.

“Sustainable Development has emerged as the overarching objective of the planning system in the last decade.
Martina Dunne, Development plans Officer for the National park, in a submission on new Low Impact policy 50.

With regard to the claimed sustainable nature of the appeal dwelling, bearing in mind that all new development should be sustainable, this is not of substantial weight.”
Ian Osborne, Planning Inspector for the Welsh Assembly, in para. 9.9 in his report on this Roundhouse, 25.01.01

“Before long you won’t have any countryside left because these people will be building these things all over the place
Ms Cathy Milner, Senior Development Control Officer at the National Park, to the Guardian, Feb.16, 2004.