Harry Potter star Rupert Grint's attempts to build eco homes sparks tension in village

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Villagers have objected to attempts by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint to build his own “green” village in the Hertfordshire countryside due to fears over wildlife. The Ron Weasley actor’s family has asked North Herts Council for permission to build 15 new homes on their Kimpton Grange estate, between Harpenden and Codicote.

© Jeff Spicer The Harry Potter actor, Rupert Grint

The planning application includes a design for six apartments in the existing “The Lodge” building, with five sustainable new-builds and four affordable homes. The developer claims the proposal will enable “sustainable building from construction to day-to-day running,” HertsLive has reported.

Neighbours in Kimpton fear new buildings in existing woodland and grassland could see habitats in the green belt for bats, frogs, stag beetles and red kites destroyed. Davina Malcolm of Kimpton Environmentalists, who has lived in the village for 41 years, said: “I have no problem with what they are going to do with The Lodge and the buildings which are already on the site.

“I also have no problem with new homes in the village, and they won’t necessarily destroy views from the village. But the point of the green belt is that nature is allowed to recover and that nature gets its own space.” Davina, whose home backs onto the Kimpton Grange estate, said “hundreds” of frogs migrate between the site and the field opposite her home twice each year.

She said red kites nest in the trees on the hillside but lamented she has seen a decline in the jackdaw population in recent years. “We need more woodland and more wild spaces,” Davina said. “If they press ahead with the development, they will need to replace as many trees as possible, but it could take 20 years or more for these trees to grow into mature habitats.”

North Herts Council ran a consultation on the development between October 17 and November 18 this year, with the responses published online Mr Davies, of High Street, objected to the plan. He said: “I have lived in Kimpton for the last 86 years. For the last 150 years at least, the spinney on the south side of the property has been a property.

“My grandfather and grandmother who also lived in Kimpton all their lives often told me about the rooks going home to roost at night. When I was at Kimpton Junior School during the Second World War, the teachers used to take us to the Grange where we used to look for and find slow worms and great crested newts. As the rooks and spinney are still there, and quite possibly newts and slow worms, we should not disturb this area of very important natural habitation.”

Mr Pepper, of Kimpton Bottom, said: “There cannot be any possible justification for a development of 15 residential units on a site located in the green belt and in a conservation area.” But Mr Hunter, of Luton Road, supported the project and said: “Looking at these plans it is very clear that a considerable amount of time, work and effort has been made to create an exciting new era for the Grange while being sympathetic to the environment.”

According to the government’s Land Registry, Mr Grint, aged 34, bought the estate in 2009 and remains the registered owner. A document detailing the plans reads: “The proposals seek to restore and old building within the green belt, saving it from further decay and damage.”

It adds: “To improve openness within the green belt, the proposals appear much smaller than the existing storage barn and outbuildings due to careful use of topography and intelligent design. Nestling the houses into the topography and within the walled garden reduces the form of the proposal. Numerically, the proposal consists of a volume reduction over the existing buildings, providing a measurable improvement to openness in the green belt.”

Affordable family homes, a community park and circular walk, a picnic area and forest school resources would be created for “community benefit” and the nearby primary school, the document adds, with a biodiversity “net gain” of more than 50 per cent.

The developer has carried out bat and newt surveys. Surveyors found no great crested newts in the existing waterscape but claimed the plans could benefit amphibians should they arrive in the future. Pipistrelle bats were found in The Lodge, and a report recommends that bat boxes are integrated into the buildings throughout the project. North Herts Council is aiming to rule on this application in January 2023.