A British couple who spent five years building their home from scrap by hand have been ordered to tear it down by Torridge Council in Devon.
Matthew Lepley, 34, and Jules Smith, 54, left London five years ago after reading “How to Live Off-Grid” planning to build their dream house in the countryside.
They used railway sleepers, lorry tyres and scrap metal to build up the house, and used no power tools.
Their home has an outdoor compost toilet, no power or running water, and an underground pantry instead of a fridge.
The couple ran into trouble after complaints from jealous neighbours. The couple say their neighbours were initially supportive of their ambition to live a self-sufficient lifestyle on the remote woodland plot.
But when they revealed plans to turn their rustic retreat into a conservation business, hosting workshops in green engineering and ‘permaculture’, locals turned against them.
They lived in tents while they constructed the home but the enforcement notice this week ordered them to ‘remove’ it from their field in in Beaworthy, Devon.
Mr Lepley said: ‘We wanted to build a home that would let us truly live as one with nature. We used recycled materials, an axe to break up the wood and hand tools to piece the structure together.
‘We don’t have electricity but we get by with paraffin lamps and candles. This life is not for everyone but we love it
The foundations were made from old tractor tyres filled with gravel, while the walls and roof were build from discarded haulage pallets and railway sleepers.
Despite having just one bedroom, a lounge, a kitchen and a bathroom to build, the building has taken years to complete because of the low-tech methods of construction.
The couple feed themselves by growing their own fruit and vegetables. They rear ducks for their eggs and sheep for wool. Instead of a fridge they use a compartment two and a half feet underground to keep it cool.
Their water is drawn out of the ground with a bore hole, and all the waste from their outside compose toilet is recycled.
But two years into the build a local opponent gathered ten signatures and submitted the petition to Torridge District Council’s planning department.
The first enforcement was appealed three years ago, and the couple are now going through a second round.
Mr Lepley said: ‘There is a chronic lack of affordable housing in this country and very few options for people on a low income. It’s not illegal, though we knew there was a risk someone might complain.
‘We’ve had a lot of drama with the neighbours, some have been really supportive while others have gone against us and started a petition. We were hoping no one would notice as its only visible within the dwelling and can’t be seen from the road.
‘The idea of the conservation project was to provide retreat accommodation and run courses and workshops on sustainable living. The house and surrounding land enables us to be totally self sufficient – we would be devastated if we had to knock down.’
Torridge District Council said the process had gone to appeal to decide if the notice is to be enforced and the house torn down.
A spokesman said: ‘I can confirm Torridge District Council has served an enforcement notice that they remove the structure. However, as it has now gone to appeal, we have to wait for the inspector’s decision before we can take any further action.’
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