DIY housebuilder loses court battle to save 'off-grid holistic retreat'

Eddie McIntosh, 52, lost a court battle to save his much-praised handmade structures

Eddie McIntosh, 52, lost a court battle to save his much-praised handmade structures

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, was ordered by council planners to demolish his hand-built wooden classroom, tree house, cabins and even a footbridge on his rural farm at Llandegley, near Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales.

McIntosh - who featured in Channel 4's Man Made Home with TV presenter McCloud - fought to save the buildings on his 12-acre 'natural holistic farm' called Mellowcroft. 

But he was convicted of ignoring the demolition orders and continuing to live at the site.

Prosecutor Christian Jowett, said: '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.'

Father-of-three McIntosh began developing his retreat 12 years ago to live a sustainable lifestyle. 

And he made a range of buildings by hand out of recycled material - hailed as 'beautiful, a delight, an inspiration' by TV presenter McCloud.

McCloud 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.

But council officials say the buildings were put up at Mellowcroft did not have planning permission - and have ordered him to get rid of them.

McIntosh said the first enforcement notice issued in December 2013 'came out of the blue with no warning'.

The tree house folly built solely from recycled/donated materials around three birch trees by Eddie McIntosh and his friends in a Radnorshire woodland

The tree house folly built solely from recycled/donated materials around three birch trees by Eddie McIntosh and his friends in a Radnorshire woodland

McIntosh lost an appeal to run his country estate as a 'retreat' for nature-lovers - and changed it to a 'natural holistic farm'.

He grows willow furniture, rears pigs and grows fruit and vegetables in polytunnels at the Mellowcroft farm to make ends meet.

McIntosh denied 18 breaches of planning laws at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court but was found guilty after a trial.

A jury heard a long running planning dispute between Powys council and Mr IcIntosh

A jury heard a long running planning dispute between Powys council and Mr IcIntosh

Eddie McIntosh ran the site as a rural retreat offering education and alternative therapies

Eddie McIntosh ran the site as a rural retreat offering education and alternative therapies

His barrister Jonathan Rees, had pleaded with the jury: 'The council want to make him homeless and penniless.

'I ask you to find in common sense and acquit Mr McIntosh of these charges.'

The structures he failed to removed included a compost toilet, a motor home, a drover's cabin, a shepherd's hut, a wood fired bath, a footbridge, a wind turbine 'the size of a Range Rover's wheel', a jetty and a stone circle. 

Planning inspectors said though the site could be used for agricultural purposes it did not have permission for recreational use, including a retreat, or permanent residence.

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.

But the 52-year-old could no longer use Mellowcroft as his permanent residence or a rural retreat and holiday accommodation after losing an appeal in January 2016.

Mr McIntosh then used Mellowcroft as a farm where he grew vegetables to be sold on the side of the A44 - the judge heard he made around £2,500 a year. 

Giving evidence he 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.

Eddie McIntosh was charged with 18  breaches of planning laws in the trial before judge His Honour Christopher Vosper QC at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court

Eddie McIntosh was charged with 18  breaches of planning laws in the trial before judge His Honour Christopher Vosper QC at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court

Father-of-three Mr McIntoch said his marriage fell apart under the strain of the planning dispute

Father-of-three Mr McIntoch said his marriage fell apart under the strain of the planning dispute

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.

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 they had an open invitation to come and see the site.'

Defence counsel Jonathan Rees also took the defendant through a series of structures he'd erected on the site which form the basis of the charges.

He explained none were permanent structures and told how many are used, or have been adapted, for use for agricultural purposes.

He asked the jury to use 'common sense' when deciding the case. 

He said the structures that remained were essential for the agricultural use the planning inspector had said was allowed.

Mr McIntosh's rural retreat was called 'truly inspiring' by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud

Mr McIntosh's rural retreat was called 'truly inspiring' by Grand Designs presenter

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