The Duchess of Cornwall has lost a long-running planning battle to thwart her next door neighbour from building a ‘granny flat’ for his elderly mother where an outhouse on his Wiltshire property once stood.
It comes after her neighbour, Phil Clayton, last year won a separate protracted planning battle to be allowed to make significant renovations to his house – including the addition of a sun room.
Camilla, 71, kept her former home Rey Mill House, built in 1860, after she married Prince Charles in 2005.
The Duchess objected to plans by her neighbour Phil Clayton when he applied to demolish an outbuilding next to his house and build a flat for his elderly mother.
On three separate occasions the Duchess submitted letters of objection to the council – on HRH-headed notepaper from the head of Prince Charles’ nearby Highgrove estate.
But despite her clear and longstanding objection to the planned changes Wiltshire Council has now approved the plans for the flat, which will be 60m from the Duchess’ property in Reybridge, near Lacock in Wiltshire.
An aerial view of Ray Mill House, the Duchess of Cornwall’s country estate in Wiltshire
Grade-II listed Ray Mill House in Wiltshire was built in 1860. Its owner, the Duchess of Cornwall, has had her objections to a neighbour’s planning proposal disregarded
The apostrophe-shaped swimming pool on the grounds of Ray Mill House
Planning Ping Pong
The back-and-forths of the planning disputes between the Duchess, Mr Clayton and their other neighbours can be hard to follow.
Mr Clayton bought The Old Mill for £675,000 in 2017.
Since then he has sought permission for two main projects: one to renovate and extend his main home; the other to demolish an outbuilding and build a granny flat in its place.
The Home Renovations
2017: He submitted an application to increase the size of the bedrooms, lounge, and dining room and build an extension with a sun room. This received objections from the Duchess and other locals.
March 2018: The application was withdrawn.
April 2018: An amended application was submitted. These plans did not draw objections.
July 2018: The application for home renovations were approved. The council told Mr Clayton that care should be taken with ‘the use and routing of heavy plant and vehicles, and the control and removal of spoil and wastes.’
The Granny Flat
March 2018: In the same month his renovation application was rejected, Mr Clayton submitted a separate application to Wiltshire Council requesting permission to demolish an outhouse and build a granny flat. This application received objections from the Duchess and others.
July 2018: The application was rejected.
August 2018: An amended application was submitted. This also drew objections from the Duchess.
Autumn 2018: Mr Clayton amended the application again, turning the proposed building through an angle of 90 degrees but making it 25 per cent bigger. Camilla objected again.
December 2018: Wiltshire council approved the application.
It comes after the pair clashed last year over different renovations at his home, The Old Mill, which shares a private lane with the Duchess’ Grade-II listed country pile.
Outlining the granny flat decision, council officer Alistair Cunningham, said ‘This distance [60m] combined with the simple design of the outbuilding, means it is not considered that there would be any harm to the setting of Rey Mill House from the proposals.’
Camilla bought her property in 1986 for £850,000 following her divorce from Richard Parker Bowles and is said to use it as a country retreat.
It has been reported she uses it as a bolt-hole from the pressure at nearby Highgrove and can enjoy putting her feet up there.
One source said: ‘At Rey Mill she can sit down with a big G&T, kick of her shoes and watch Coronation Street, which Charles loathes.
‘She also doesn’t have to bother about how the place looks – Charles is so fussy about tidiness, while she leaves her stuff all over the place. She doesn’t need her cushions plumped all the time.’
Mr Clayton bought his nearby £675,000 home in 2017 and initially focused on renovations to the main house.
The businessman submitted plans which included increasing the size of the bedrooms, lounge and dining room, and building a separate extension with a sun room.
The Duchess and other locals objected over flooding concerns and the plans were withdrawn in March last year.
Revised proposals were submitted a month later to which Camilla did not object.
That application was approved in July.
Mr Clayton was granted permission to renovate the interior and exterior of his house, build an extension with a glass passageway, replace the garage with a two-storey gymnasium and hobby room, and construct a new sewage treatment plant.
The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales on a country walk, left, and the Duchess, right
This outbuilding, since demolished, on the grounds of The Old Mill will be replaced by a ‘granny flat’ after Wiltshire Council gave owner Phil Clayton the go-ahead for the construction project
The rear of The Old Mill, which is due greatly to expand as a result of a separate planning application approved last year
Mr Clayton’s Wiltshire home, The Old Mill, pictured, shares a lane with the Duchess’s
After numerous objections and resubmissions Mr Clayton has now been granted permission to undertake works on both his main property, pictured, and the outhouses
The garage at The Old Mill which – courtesy of a different planning application approved last year – is due to be turned into a gym and a hobby room
But at the same time, Mr Clayton also submitted plans to demolish an outbuilding and build a granny flat for his mother.
The plans entail replacing the structure with a new, timber-clad, slate-roofed building for ‘ancillary accommodation’.
Once again, Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate manager Charlie Craven – based 18 miles away and in a different county – objected on behalf of Camilla.
In a letter to the council’s planning team, he said: ‘I believe it will have a negative effect on the flow of water from the river during periods of flooding. The river has flooded numerous times.
Mr Clayton’s planning application shows the proposed replacement of the old outbuilding with a timber-clad flat
The plans show how close the two properties are and make clear where the flat will sit in relation to Rey [corr] Mill House
Not the Duchess’s first spat with a neighbour
Mr Clayton bought The Old Mill from long-term owner Ralph Adams, who died in 2017. He was also involved in a spat with the Duchess – over an overgrown hedge of hers, in 2006.
The bush was so out of control that bin men refused to reverse down the narrow private lane to collect the rubbish, and residents were told to drag their bins to the main road, which infuriated some.
Mr Adams, a retired sand merchant, complained: ‘Walking 400 yards is hard for me but she can get a flunky to do it.
‘It might not be a problem for her, but I’m 83, with arthritis and collapsing discs. She needs to cut the hedge. It sticks out about three feet further than it should.’
In the same year, it was revealed that the taxpayer was footing a £1.8 million security bill at the house.
‘Anything that hinders or alters the natural flow of the river to the detriment of other properties is clearly unacceptable.’
The council rejected the plans in July – claiming they did not address the potential impact of flooding – and he resubmitted them a month later. These plans received further objections from the Duchess and fellow nearby residents.
Once again a letter from Highgrove, written by Mr Craven, listed flooding concerns, and others also wrote to the council to object.
Mr Clayton submitted amended plans – which increase the proposed size of the flat by 25 per cent but turn it by an angle of 90 degrees – which he said would reduce the risk of flooding.
The head of Charles’s Highgrove estate objected once more and said in a letter he was ‘encouraged’ by some changes, but ‘perplexed’ over the size increase.
Fellow neighbour James Campbell also wrote: ‘Our main concern is with flooding and we have experienced several major incidents since we came to live in Reybridge in 1993.
‘The present owner of “The Old Mill” has not experienced a serious flood of the Avon at Reybridge and so is presumably unaware of how quickly and dangerously the water rises and flows at such a time.
‘Anything which could theoretically exacerbate the extent of flooding is of serious concern to us and indeed to our immediate neighbours.’
Despite the objections, Wiltshire Council planners approved his plans on December 12.