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Artist's eco-homes vision to regenerate town is unveiled

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 16, 2012

AMBITIOUS: Damian Hirst and the area around Winsham Farm which has been earmarked  for  the development of 500 eco-homes.    Picture:Paula Davies. To order call 0844 4060 269 and quote Ref: BNPD20120210A-001_C

AMBITIOUS: Damian Hirst and the area around Winsham Farm which has been earmarked for the development of 500 eco-homes. Picture:Paula Davies. To order call 0844 4060 269 and quote Ref: BNPD20120210A-001_C

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ARTIST Damien Hirst has unveiled plans to build more than 500 landmark eco-homes in Ilfracombe, which he hopes will regenerate the town and provide a national blueprint for environmental housing.

Architects working for Hirst, said to be the richest living artist in the world, hope to submit a planning application for the development at Winsham Farm in six months.

Building work could begin next year.

The announcement was made by one of Damien Hirst's representatives, architect Mike Rundell of MRJ Rundell Associates, at a meeting to discuss Ilfracombe's southern extension last week.

The meeting followed two similar meetings in July and October last year where plans were announced for up to 1,000 new homes, a primary school, sports facilities, small business units and a medical centre on 32 hectares of land near Killacleave.

The plans involve utilising land at Winsham Farm, which has been owned by Hirst for the past ten years, as well as nearby Channel Farm and Bowden Farm.

Although plans to extend the town to the south are well documented, Hirst's involvement has never been publicly announced until now.

Councillors, officers, agency workers and other interested parties at the meeting heard of the artist's excitement and vision for the development.

Addressing the meeting, architect Mike Rundell said: "I'm a representative of Damien Hirst. He owns 40 per cent of the land we are talking about.

"As you know, he is a very successful artist and has very high ambitions for this project. He has a horror of building anonymous, lifeless buildings. He wants these houses to be the kind of homes he would want to live in."

Mr Rundell said Damien Hirst wants the development to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of Ilfracombe and create a new gateway to the town.

He said: "Damien is a local developer. He lives locally, shops locally, owns local businesses and his children go to local schools.

"He cares about Ilfracombe and wants this project to have a positive effect on the town.

"He wants these buildings to be landmarks that will stand the test of time and create a blueprint for quality, environmentally sustainable developments across the country.

"Ilfracombe will be a pioneer and Damien is incredibly excited about it."

Mr Rundell said the houses would be modern in design and could incorporate state of the art environmental features such as photovoltaic panels, concealed wind turbines in the roofs and increased insulation.

However, he also stressed the importance of complementing existing buildings in the town.

He said: "We don't want to make anything pastiche but we need to take into account the themes of existing local buildings. We hope to incorporate features such as pitched roofs, bay windows, smart gable ends, short terraces and robust materials used in a decorative manner. The development should provide a fusion between the town to the north and the countryside to the south.

"Damien also wants each house to be practical, make the most of natural light, be big enough to live in well and boast spectacular views."

Combe Martin district councillor Yvette Gubb asked if the houses would be affordable for young local people.

Mr Rundell said: "We are not expecting to make retirement homes for rich people coming down from London. We want these houses to attract young, creative families as well as people who already live here.

"It's our ambition to make them affordable but houses like these are more expensive than ordinary houses. I couldn't tell you specifically how much we are talking about."

Ilfracombe district councillor Paul Yabsley said there were a lot of community aspirations for this project such as the provision of health and education facilities as well as affordable housing.

But Mr Yabsley said: "We are never going to get all of this from one development and if we try to do so, we will compromise the entire project."

Mr Rundell said the success of the development would depend on the level of cooperation from North Devon Council in terms of a section 106 agreement.

He said: "If the council insists on a very high level of affordable housing within the development, the overall quality of the homes will drop.

"We believe that if you bring wealth, energy and business to a town like Ilfracombe, it will have far wider social benefits than simply, say, introducing a youth club.

"You have to ask yourself the question do you want cheap housing or do you want to attract business and money to allow the town to grow?"

Those who attended the meeting were given a chance to discuss elements of the development including green spaces and the gateway to the town.

Closing the meeting Mr Rundell said: "This is a very ambitious project only made possible because Damien is a local developer who truly cares and wants to create an exemplary development.

"If we are committed to doing this as Damien wants it, it will happen. Damien is a man who gets things done."


NDJ COMMENT: Back this bold proposal

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  • LanternView  |  February 20 2012, 10:24AM

    Affordable, now there is a euphemism that can be interpreted in many ways. I am not sure where I stand on this bit of social engineering right now .. I need more information. Damien Hirst seems to have decided that what Ilfracombe needs is more working age families with steady jobs and a level of confidence that leads to entrepreneurial activity. Other seem to think Ilfracombe wants a large social housing development. Target balance maybe?

    Rate 0
  • ROOMATTHETOP  |  February 19 2012, 12:04PM

    Damian Hirst has said that they will the kind of homes he'd like to live in? But will he? Answer: No!

    Rate 0
  • Saddo64  |  February 19 2012, 9:25AM

    Says his intention is to make them affordable - has he seen local wages? Yea right!

    Rate   2
  • 2ladybugs  |  February 18 2012, 9:15AM

    These are not going to be cheap that's for sure. quote: "but houses like these are more expensive" and: "we believe that if you bring wealth"

    Rate 0
  • appignanesi  |  February 18 2012, 3:59AM

    Well, well, well; it has oft been said that "art" is subjective!

    Rate   2
  • organnyx  |  February 16 2012, 5:46PM

    Who's going to tell him the turbines won't work? Roof mounted chocolate teapots don't work, ducted inside a roof they haven't a snowballs chance in hell of working - they'lll also keep the occupants awake with bearing noise~!

    Rate   5