A couple faces being made homeless after being told they have to tear down their mud hut home that they built to combat their ‘allergy to modern life.’
Kate Burrows and partner Alan have been living in the hut – made out of tree trunks, straw and mud – for the past 19 months after being forced out of their rented home by her permanent flu-like symptoms.
Nature-loving Kate claims she suffered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), which gave her permanent symptoms while living at her previous address.
However, North Devon Council say the couple have broken planning laws and have given them until December to move out of the Hobbit-style hut in Tarka Valley, near Chumleigh.
Distraught Kate said: “This is our nest, this is our everything, this is our art. We have sculpted it with our hands from the soil.
“I can’t go back to being ill like that, it fills me with absolute horror.”
Kate and Alan spent six weeks building the hut on their smallholding after she said living in a modern home “was like having flu all the time”.
Their home has an outside compost toilet, kitchen, living area and two bedrooms.
It is topped with tonnes of turf and the walls are lined with lime mortar. Alongside one wall is a bath supplied with hot water from a makeshift boiler.
Outside a hand pump brings water from the river for washing, solar panels on the roof provide power and the couple keep chickens, goats and geese.
Kate said she had been living in a toxic environment and her new accommodation was the answer to all her problems.
She added: “I think it was the water, the electricity, the Wi-Fi and the paint on the walls; my body just couldn’t handle it.
“I didn’t realise how ill I was until we moved here and I started to recover.”
MCS is a chronic, physical illness that causes sufferers to have allergic-type reactions to very low levels of chemicals in everyday products.
It causes the immune and detoxification systems stop working properly and the body cannot process toxins efficiently.
Kate is now campaigning for planning policies in England like the One Planet planning laws in Wales, which can allow largely self-sustaining homes like theirs.
She added: “I think it’s really important that people like are us are allowed to live sustainably on their own land without causing any damage.
“This is normal life. We’re collecting water, we’re chopping wood, we’re growing food.
“Isn’t that what everyone has done throughout time?”
North Devon Council planning officer Graham Townsend said they were left with no option but to take enforcement action.
He said: “It is clearly not in the public interest to have houses and other structures springing up across the countryside without any permissions being obtained”.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Planning policy already promotes good design and encourages low carbon development. Building regulations set high standards for energy efficiency”.
Top pic: SWNS