Blur singer Damon Albarn upsets parish council after fitting second heat pump at his Devon home
Britpop star Damon Albarn has upset parish councillors after he installed a second ‘intrusive’ eco-friendly heat pump outside his Devon home.
The Blur singer’s local parish council complained that the sight of the second unsightly box and the sound of its whirring fan could disturb walkers on a nearby footpath in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As revealed by the Daily Mail’s Richard Eden last night, councillors also claimed they were ‘disappointed’ that Albarn, 55, who is known for his eco-conscious views, had the box installed before being granted planning consent.
The musician was originally given planning permission in October 2021 to covert redundant agricultural buildings at his home into a gallery, workshop and studio.
But Albarn, who is also famed for his virtual band Gorillaz, applied again earlier this year to amend the approved plans for his home in Devon.
Britpop star Damon Albarn has been slammed by parish councillors after he installed a second ‘intrusive’ eco-friendly heat pump outside his Devon home. Albarn is pictured streaming from his boiler room during Covid isolation in 2020
The site showing the two eco-heat pumps at Alban’s farmhouse in Devon, which parish councillors have complained about
But councillors from the parish council pointed out the application was retrospective due to a second box having been installed. Pictured are some of the plans submitted as part of Mr Albarn’s redevelopment
He asked to put charred larch timber cladding on an end gable wall of one of the buildings instead of the metal sheeting which he earlier had planning permission to install.
The new plans also involved putting a glazed door in the gable wall and installing a second heat pump in a box measuring around 3ft square and 18 inches deep.
Local parish councillors revealed their concerns about the second box already being in place next to the existing one when they were asked for their comments as part of the planning process.
Planning documents include a letter from Stokenham parish council pointed out that the application was retrospective due to second box having been installed.
The letter from the council clerk suggested that the refurbished buildings might be due to be used for ‘commercial’ purposes and highlighted ‘a concern’ that the ‘proposed’ heat pump was outside the curtilage.
It added: ‘Retrospective applications [are] never well received so parish council were disappointed with this setting as the purpose of this pump was to heat additional commercial not residential premises.
‘The setting of a second heat pump outside the red line, on the application, located right next to the footpath, was intrusive visually and acoustically when it was felt it could have been located away from the footpath and still keep noise away from the main property.’
Albarn who lives with long term partner Suzy Winstanley, the mother of his daughter Missy, 23, reportedly bought his farmhouse close to the sea in 1995 with cash from the success of Blur’s generation-defining album Parklife.
Albarn’s farmhouse (pictured) where the Blur singer is carrying out his project to improve it
Albarn’s agents Woodford Architecture & Interiors insisted that the heat pump boxes on top of an earth bank were ‘well within’ the singer’s ownership boundary. Pictured are plans for the farmhouse
In a design report, agents representing the Blur star added that there would be no change of use to the site or building. Pictured are some of the planning designs submitted with the application
He put in a revised application for the new heat pump and asked to change some aspects of the design of his outbuildings after they were found to be in a worse condition than originally thought.
Albarn commissioned a report by consultants stating that use of timber cladding instead of metal sheeting on his barn as well as the extra heat pump would reduce the building’s CO2 impact.
Air source heat pumps work by absorbing heat from outside a structure, even when it is below freezing, to heat a refrigerant liquid which is then turned into gas and compressed to provide heat.
The systems are seen as far more environmentally friendly than traditional gas boilers as they are powered by electricity which can be generated from solar or wind power.
Albarn’s agents Woodford Architecture & Interiors insisted that the heat pump boxes on top of an earth bank were ‘well within’ the singer’s ownership boundary, and inside the red curtilage line on plans.
The agent also dismissed concerns that the outbuildings would have a commercial use, and insisted they were just part of a family home.
His response to the parish council said: ‘The farm buildings conversion contains ancillary accommodation to the main house (residential) and private gallery and studio spaces for our client’s own use, therefore is not commercial.
‘The two air source heat pumps are required to provide the hot water and heating demands for the entire complex of buildings with a combined net floor area of nom. 490m2.’
Damon Albarn, who is also famed for his virtual band Gorillaz, applied again earlier this year to amend the approved plans for his home in Devon (pictured in 2015)
He added: ‘The raised elevation/location of the heat pumps provides optimum air flow, therefore efficiency.
‘With the Plant Room also located in the east end of the building, this is also the shortest distance from the pipework, again increasing efficiency and performance.’
The agent said that more vegetation was due to be planted to help screen the heat pumps from the path.
He stated: ‘The intent is to establish a planted bank that will provide an acoustic and visual screen between the path and heat pumps, as noted on the application.’
The agent also described the use of charred larch cladding as ‘a more traditional and sympathetic material best suited for the historic farm buildings’.
His design report said that as many materials as possible, including stone and slate, were to be reused during construction.
It added: ‘There will be no change of use to the site or building, in general terms, how it is experienced in the wider context.
‘The proposed changes to the east gable end of the two-storey building include for a new door from the east courtyard, the reduction of the first floor windows and changing the facing material from brisk and metal sheeting to vertical timber boarding.
‘The changes to the general landscape character and visual amenity of the proposed development revisions would be neutral.
‘The additional air source heat pump will further reduce the carbon footprint of the property.’
Sustainable Construction Services, which carried out the report into carbon emissions from the proposals, stated: ‘The design team have gone above and beyond in order to reduce and mitigate any impact from the works, prioritising having the smallest possible footprint on the environment in terms of carbon emissions, biodiversity and the environment.
‘SCS concludes that Woodford Architecture have maximised possible carbon reductions.’
Albarn recently told former Radio One DJ Zane Lowe that he was moving his possessions from London down to Devon, where he now mainly lives.
As he gave Lowe a tour of his Studio 13 in west London for Apple Music in March, he said: ‘I’m about to leave here and pass this on as a place to be used by other people because I’m moving all my stuff down to Devon.’
Lowe asked if he would be living full time in Devon, to which Albarn responded: ‘Not full time, but pretty much, yeah.
‘I’ve got a barn that I’ve converted into a rehearsal space as well so I can not only record but rehearse down there.
‘I just like being by the sea. I just like a quieter life. I’m tired of the city. I’ve turned some of the barns into a really nice place to live so….’
The district council said the proposed changes had no significant impact on the setting or the buildings and agreed to approve the application.
Planning officer Amy Hallett said: ‘Overall, the proposals are concluded to be acceptable in terms of design and not considered to have any significant adverse impacts on the unspoilt character, appearance or tranquillity of the landscape.’
Damon has spoken out previously about watching ‘climate change in action’.
He said he saw the 700,000-year-old Snaefellsjokull glacier in Iceland retreat before his eyes after regularly visiting the country.
Albarn said: ‘The weird thing there is it doesn’t really feel… you’re aware it’s receded but it still looks so magnificent and beautiful and it’s still a very, very clean country in that sense…but it’s real, so that’s the thing, it is real and its effects are real.’