Artist Damien Hirst Will Build Eco-Friendly Town in British Countryside

Locals worry that plans for 750 new homes might not be all that sustainable

Damien Hirst is the world’s richest living artist, which might explain why he’s now turning his hand to property development. The British-born artists has plans for 750 eco homes in the North of Devon, England. Complete with wind turbines on the roof, photovoltaic solar panels and state-of-the-art insulation, Hirst wants to try and provide a blueprint for other parts of the country. Even though the development plan is well-meaning, there has already been strong opposition from some locals.

Known as the Southern Extension project, the development includes plans for a school, playgrounds, stores, office buildings, and a health center. While it might sound good on the surface, one of the main concerns is that proposals developers are only set to provide 75 affordable homes.

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On top of that, there are worries about how much employment will be available in the village once the development is complete. There are plans for a business park extension, but exactly how many jobs that will provide are unclear. One local told the North Devon Journal: “That’s not sustainable, it’s disgraceful.”

Mike Rundell, an architect involved with the project explains to the Telegraph that Hirst conceived the project with the best interests of the local community in mind:

“He wants these buildings to be landmarks that will stand the test of time and create a blueprint for quality, environmentally sustainable developments across the country.” The architect went on to add, “Damien is a local developer. He lives locally, shops locally, owns local businesses and his children go to local schools.”

Philip Webb, a member of the Ilfracombe Regenration Board, said:

“All the groups that I work with recognise that we need to grow Ilfracombe. 2,500 extra people in the town, that’s considerably more spending power. This will create further jobs in our restaurants and shops, it will create a stronger economy.”

While it might be true that the village needs to grow, trying to do everything is one go doesn’t sound like the most sustainable option. The houses might be eco-friendly, but a more gradual development plan that allows for changes along the way sounds like a better way to put the locals minds’ at ease. Growth is important, but so too is preserving the way of life that sets towns like Ilfracombe apart from the sprawling, unaffordable mass that is London.

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Damien Hirst

[h/t] Telegraph, North Devon Journal

Images by Suzanne Gerber and Miranda Wood

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