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Ray O'Rourke battles council after plans for own home branded 'lumpen'

The Laing O’Rourke boss is in a planning battle with his local council after designs for his new Essex home were rejected and branded “overlarge and lumpen”.

Laing O’Rourke chairman and chief executive Ray O’Rourke originally applied to demolish his existing property in the leafy Essex village of Ingatestone and build a new house on the same plot last autumn, but Brentwood Borough Council refused the application.

The existing property – described by a conservation officer as a “very good Arts and Crafts style house in a village where this architectural style predominates” - sits in both a Conservation Area and the greenbelt.

Mr O’Rourke’s new house - with “handmade plain clay tiles” on the exterior - would include basement, ground floor and first floor accommodation.

But the conservation officer recommended refusing the application, saying “there is no merit whatsoever in replacing a building so typical of one style of architecture in a Conservation Area where this is the dominant style, with a pastiche of a quite different style of building”.

The officer said: “The proposed design has the jarring quality of being based on a late medieval timber framed house, for which Essex is renowned, without maintaining the traditional proportions and massing. This gives it an overlarge and somewhat lumpen appearance.”

The parish council objected to the plans, while one neighbour said it was “time to stop lovely old houses being knocked down”.

Council planning officers decided that Mr O’Rourke’s plans “would not clearly outweigh the harm the development would cause to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area”. 

Mr O’Rourke - who has already been given permission for extensions at the front and rear of the property - appealed the decision. A hearing was held in front of the Planning Inspectorate at the town hall last week, where a planning agent, design expert and an architecture historian from Cambridge University put forward Mr O’Rourke’s case, according to the Brentwood Gazette.

The team argued the new plan was beneficial for the openness of the Green Belt because its footprint was 47 per cent smaller than extension design.

Essex County Council’s heritage expert and town hall planning officer said the building was inspired by Essex architect George Sherrin, and destroying it would be a “huge loss” to the Conservation Area, reported the Gazette.

Mr O’Rourke has also lodged two revised new build applications, which are currently being considered. 

A decision on last week’s hearing is expected at a later date.

Mr O’Rourke declined to comment.

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