The renovation of fashion designer and Welsh icon Laura Ashley’s former country mansion by singer-songwriter Charlotte Church has had some setbacks since it began.
One of the most shocking for Charlotte was the discovery of tonnes of rubble and waste dumped on the land by the last owner that cost her £10,000 to remove. Find out more about that here.
While there have been huge high points too, like the construction of the woodland sleeping hut, these have been overshadowed by the worrying backdrop of the speed of the planning applications.
In the latest epsiode of Charlotte’s Dream Build on the Really channel on Tuesday. February 15, Charlotte is annoyed about the slow progress due to a lack of planning consent.
Charlotte – who was unveiled as Mushroom in the final episode of ITV’s The Masked Singer last weekend – says: “The lack of architects’ drawings and the slowness of the renovation is doing my head in!
“We are now in October and planning still hasn’t gone in. We started the process back in April so it’s taking the p*ss to be honest.
“I’m getting really, really annoyed! We did it all properly, we did it in good time. I got professional people in to expedite the process and make sure the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted.
“And so then when you’re paying a premium for what you think is getting the best people in and stuff and then it still takes forever.
“And it’s not that it’s taking forever because it needed to take forever, it’s taking forever because people have dropped the ball. And that’s frustrating because it’s my money that’s being wasted.
“There’s not a great deal I can do now to be honest – we’re in the position that we’re in and I’ve just got to be calm with it I suppose. I just know who to use again and not – not that I’m ever going to do this ever again!
“But I can’t afford any more delays.”
Charlotte wants to change the mansion from a dwelling into a health and well being nature retreat, with the aim of being open for business, at least partially, by June 2022. She bought Rhydoldog House for £1.5m as a renovation project, and is sinking her life savings into the dream.
The house when Charlotte purchased it had been partially ripped out and there is much to do to create the retreat to match her vision, and there’s plenty to do within the grounds too.
The 35-year-old Welsh singer says if the project is not bringing in income from June she will be in “a lot of financial trouble”.
As Charlotte is a self-confessed novice at renovating a building, her expectations on the speed of producing and submitting complex drawings are not necessarily in sync with the reality of the time needed for planning applications.
But fast forward to January 2022 and the planning consent is still the illusive but imperative aspect of Charlotte’s dream build that is still on-going.
Agents on behalf of Charlotte have submitted a planning application to Powys County Council for approval.
According to the submitted plans, the retreat will provide accommodation for a maximum of 17 guests for three or four-day residential courses. There will also be four one-bedroom log cabins.
But highways officials have objected to the application due to concerns about the suitability of access to the retreat from a narrow country lane, the C1219, the Press Association reported.
In the application, it is estimated the retreat and log cabins on the land would create a total of 30 vehicle movements a day – 15 arrivals and 15 departures.
“The highway authority notes the submission of trip rate data within the transport statement and, whilst its limitations with regards to available data is acknowledged, it would argue that the locations chosen are not adequately comparable to this application site,” the official said.
“It is argued that the actual vehicle movements generated by this proposal would be significantly higher than the 22 per day quoted within the transport statement.
“Based on the above, the highway authority does not support this application, on the basis that the development as proposed, will create an unacceptable risk to highway safety.”
Natural Resources Wales also expressed its “concerns” with the application because of the “inadequate information” provided in supporting documentation regarding protected sites,” the agency said.
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Documents submitted to the planners within Charlotte’s proposals outline the benefits of the retreat.
The submission states: “The client aims to restore both the buildings and the sensitive landscape setting, enhancing biodiversity and retaining and celebrating the history of the house; particularly in reference to its past ownership by the Laura Ashley family.
“The proposal contributes towards the county’s vibrant tourism economy and is based on the principles of sustainable tourism offering a quality experience.
“The wellbeing retreat will complement several existing tourist assets and is located within the recognised regional growth area of Mid-Wales which supports tourism development.
“The proposal is considered to offer a distinctive healing and mindfulness experience for its visitors and further adds a very unique offer to the county’s tourism portfolio and in turn helps indirectly support the local rural economy.”
According to Powys County Council’s planning portal, the proposal is for ‘change of use of dwelling (C3) to a D1 (wellbeing and healing retreat), conversion of barn to ancillary space and accommodation, erection of parking structure, creation of a pond, installation of solar arrays and all associated works’.
The status of the application at this time is still stated on the council’s website as ‘pending consideration’.
Charlotte Church’s Dream Build started on Discovery’s Really channel on Tuesday, January 11 at 9pm and runs for eight weeks and is available to stream on discovery+. This story can be seen within episode six, airing Tuesday, February 15 at 9pm.
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