Proposals by Charlotte Church to convert a 15th century Powys home into a wellbeing and healing retreat are set to be dissected by planners in the new year.

An application on behalf of the singer was submitted to Powys County Council (PCC) in November. It will now go before the local authority’s planning committee, unlikely to be before the end of January 2022 because of the notice period and time required for reports to be written.

Ms Church is proposing to change the use of Rhydoldog House, just outside Rhaeadr, from a Class C3 residential dwelling to a Class D1, as well as converting the grand house’s associated barns into workshop space and accommodation.

Rhydoldog House is the former home of fashion tycoon Laura Ashley – who bought the property in 1973 along with her husband Sir Bernard. Mrs Ashley died in 1985 with the estate sold by her family in 2009.

After purchasing the 47-acre Elan Valley estate for a reported £1.5 million earlier this year, Ms Church revealed details of the exciting new vision she had for Rhydoldog House, which includes transforming it into a community that will help people “reconnect with themselves and the natural world” following a turbulent year brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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She plans to create a community which will welcome people from all walks of life and providing an array of activities for them to enjoy; from mixed martial arts and spiritual healing practices, to creating a space for writers, musicians and artists, as well as a host of other activities like cycling, archery, foraging, hiking and star-gazing, as well as introducing a hot-tub, plunge pool and outdoor cinema.

On her Instagram stories, she described the ambitious project as “a radical and inspiring new wellness project: building an accessible, zero-emissions, off-grid, healing retreat centre in the heart of Wales”.

“The client brief calls for a wellbeing and healing retreat taking advantage of the site’s remote rural location,” Llinos Hallett, principal planner at Cardiff-based Asbri Planning Limited, acting on behalf of Ms Church, said in a planning statement.

“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.

“There is an ambition for the site to be carbon neutral and a number of renewable technologies will be installed on the site. Agricultural areas will be utilised for growing food to meet the needs of the staff and volunteers, as well as providing fresh produce for guests.

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“The healing retreat in the house is to be the central focus. All other spaces within the barns and outbuildings will be ancillary to this and will support events and activities taking place at the healing retreat

“Upstairs, the bedrooms will become shared rooms for two-three people with shared bathrooms providing a maximum capacity of 17 guests for three or four-day residential courses.

“The barn will undergo a sympathetic conversion to become a studio space, comprising bar/cafe, event space, as well as providing two accommodation units for guests and users of the retreat.

“Much like the house, biodiversity, biophillic design and the use of sustainable materials are key drivers for the barn conversion. The vision is to maintain the agricultural feel, by preserving and enhancing the historic fabric.”

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There are several snags that could stop the application from receiving the green light, however. Both Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and PCC’s highways department raised initial concerns. NRW fear wildlife could be impacted, as well as the River Wye. The Wye is a Special Area of Conservation and NRW worry the development could have a “significant effect” on phosphorus levels in the river. Powys, meanwhile, said it was concerned about a separate planning application of four log cabins and access to them, describing it as posing an “unacceptable risk to highway safety”.

NRW said it would require evidence of retained dark corridors and access points for bats, while raising separate concerns about the impact on the Wye.

“Small numbers of brown long-eared bats, common pipistrelle and Natterer's bats were detected exiting the barn during the activity surveys,” they said.

“The proposal is likely to harm or disturb the bats or their breeding sites and resting places and will, therefore, require a licence.”

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A new package treatment plant providing drainage for the house and converted barns, as well as the holiday cabins proposed under the separate application, is also a cause for concern.

NRW added: “No detailed drainage strategy is available or has not been submitted; we therefore consider the proposed development has the potential to increase the amount of phosphorus being discharged from the site.”

READ MORE: George Monbiot says eating chicken adds to Wye pollution

The council’s highways department raised additional concerns about traffic and road hazards, in-particular the lack of passing points on the C1219. “It has poor horizontal and vertical alignment along its length resulting in vehicles being forced to reverse significant distances along a highway with restricted visibility and passing opportunities in order to pass oncoming traffic,” said a highways statement.

“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.”

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