Charlotte Church is facing battle to save dream of turning her £1.5m mansion in Wales into wellness retreat as it spirals over budget and highway officials object to plans due to fears over increase in traffic
Charlotte Church’s dream to build an eco-friendly wellness retreat in Wales has been opposed by her local council – who fear it could cause ‘unacceptable risk’ to drivers.
The singer – who has poured her life savings into the project – is facing a battle with highway officials, who warn her plans could cause chaos on quiet country lanes, after planning to convert Rhydoldog House.
Charlotte previously splashed out £1.5 million on purchasing the 16th-century mansion in Elan Valley in the hope that she can transform it into a swanky retreat, offering activities including yoga, hiking and cold-water swimming.
Snag: Charlotte Church has reportedly been hit by a setback in her dream to build an eco-friendly wellness retreat in Wales, after warning she’s poured her life savings into the project
Her costs to renovate the property, where designer Laura Ashley previously lived, are said to have ballooned to £1.2 million.
But objections from the highways department at Powys County Council, warning of potential dangers for drivers on the narrow lane driving up to the 47-acre estate have impacted her plans.
A report submitted to the planning department allegedly says ‘actual vehicle movements generated by this proposal would be significantly higher than the 22 per day quoted [by the plans]’.
At odds: The singer is facing a battle with highway officials, who warn her plans could cause chaos on quiet country lanes, after planning to convert Rhydoldog House
Concerns were also raised by environment agency Natural Resources Wales, who fear that bar breeding sites and the nearby River Wye could be damaged.
A decision on the renovations will be put to the local authority’s planning committee at the end of January, with a statement sent on Charlotte’s behalf stating she has ‘ambition for the site to be carbon neutral.’
MailOnline has contacted representatives for Charlotte Church and Powys County Council for comment.
Expensive: Her costs to renovate the property, where designer Laura Ashley previously lived, are said to have ballooned to £1.2 million
Charlotte will document the process on her new TV show, Charlotte’s Dream Build, which begins on January 11, with the show helping to raise funds for the property.
Rhydoldog Houses boasts seven bedrooms with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and also has a 200-year-old barn which will be turned into guests houses, as well as a large hall for gatherings.
Charlotte previously confessed that she has ‘spent her life savings’ on the project, and was also given £300,000 by her parents towards the renovations.
Speaking in a trailer for her upcoming series, Charlotte said: ‘I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing,’ and she could be seen tearing down walls and raking the garden as she roped in her family and friends to help with the build.
Charlotte explained: ‘It’s a complete mess, there’s so much work to do.’
Before she added: ‘If we don’t open in June, I’m in a lot of trouble.’
Back in June, Charlotte revealed that applications were open to share in her dream of ‘a system of non-hierarchical participatory democracy’ at the home, which dates back to the 15th Century.
Lavish: Charlotte previously splashed out £1.5 million on purchasing the 16th-century mansion in Elan Valley in the hope that she can transform it into a swanky retreat
Her aim is to build a ‘zero-emissions, off-grid’ healing retreat centre with spiritual healing practices such as sound ceremony and forest bathing
She said: ‘There’s 47 acres of magical wonderousness in mid Wales. We are going to set up a small democratic community here for the next year basically.
‘We are going to be focussed on different wellbeing practices like meditation and reconnection with nature. Probably do a bit of chanting at dawn.
‘Send us an application if you are interested in living in a community, doing things a bit differently and reconnecting with yourself, with community and with nature.’
Wellness retreat: Proposals for Rhydoldog House in Wales talked of how guests will undergo a cleansing ritual, with their feet bathed in spring water, before having a ‘ceremonial entrance’ as they enter the property situated in Elan Valley
Vision: Documents submitted to Powys’ planning department last month reveal the scale of Charlotte’s vision for the first time and explain how four key aims have shaped the plans
Green: The application also includes plans for a pond, a car port and solar panelling
Interesting: ‘Both ceremonial and boot room entrances have significance within the building,’ the plans state
Reconnecting: Charlotte believes the picturesque backdrop will allow people to ‘reconnect with nature’
Charlotte reportedly splashed out £1.5million on the estate that has seven bedrooms and a 200-year-old barn that will be converted into a large hall for gatherings and events.
The house currently gets 80 per cent of its energy from an onsite hydro-mill and there are plans to install solar panels to make up the other 20 per cent.
Charlotte expects the work to convert the property into a retreat to take 12 months – and aims to complete it around June 2022.
She said: ‘You will need to tell us about your skills, experience, values, and why you want to be a part of this project. No skill is without value, so please declare all skills when applying for a position.’
End goal: Charlotte, alongside Black Cat Architects and Arbor Architects, have planned for a wild moon garden of white plants, with guests handing over their shoes at the entranceway- based on Japanese design called a ‘Shikii Threshold’
Renovation: A separate application reveals Charlotte’s plans for four log cabins and a bath house in woodlands, using the trunks and root systems of living and felled trees as natural foundations and supports
Pictured: Inside the barn Charlotte is planning to convert
Plan of action: Designs for one of four log cabins Charlotte is planning to build in woodlands around her home in mid Wales
Multi-millionaire Charlotte, 33, alongside Black Cat Architects and Arbor Architects, have planned for a wild moon garden of white plants, with guests handing over their shoes at the entranceway- based on Japanese design called a ‘Shikii Threshold’.
The planning documents state: ‘A member of staff washes your feet. When you are ready you step over the Shikii threshold to be greeted in the welcome hall and welcomes to the course.’
Guests will arrive via a sweeping, tree-lined driveway to the landscaped, biodiversity moon garden at the front of the seven-bed property, replacing the existing car park which will be moved to the rear.
‘By reinstating the area in front of the house as a landscaped garden, the main entrance to the house will become much more legible and connected with the landscaping,’ the proposal says.
‘This will create a ceremonial arrival, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the wild nature of the site, unimpeded by cars and back of house facilities.’
From there, they will pass over the Shikii Threshold following the foot-bathing ritual. For the remainder of their stay, guests will be expected to use a ‘boot room’ entrance.
‘Both ceremonial and boot room entrances have significance within the building,’ the plans state.
Dream: Earlier this year, Charlotte unveiled her dream to create a wellness retreat with spaces for mixed martial arts, spiritual healing, yoga and outdoor pursuits
Big money: She previously confessed that she has ‘spent her life savings’ on the project, and was also given £300,000 by her parents towards the renovations
‘The ceremonial entrance being the very first activity of the retreat stay and the boot room being the boundary between internal and external activities.’
The property – set in almost 50 acres of grounds – was the former home of fashion magnate Laura Ashley and boasts its own helicopter pad plus a hidden rooftop hot tub.
Surrounded by steeply-sloping ancient woodland, dramatic rocky outcrops and waterfalls, it offers stunning views to distant mountains from an elevated spot above the town of Rhayader.
Charlotte believes the picturesque backdrop will allow people to ‘reconnect with nature’, with the proposals stating the retreat will aim to: ‘Create spaces that encourage people to reconnect with nature; Encourage social gathering and connection; Promote the importance of ritual, ceremony and rights of passage.
‘Consider site resilience and explore options for improving the energy performance of the site.’
Earlier this year, Charlotte unveiled her dream to create a wellness retreat with spaces for mixed martial arts, spiritual healing, yoga and outdoor pursuits.
The application also includes plans for a pond, a car port and solar panelling.
A separate application reveals Charlotte’s plans for four log cabins and a bath house in woodlands, using the trunks and root systems of living and felled trees as natural foundations and supports.
A delegation from Rhayader Town Council has visited the site along with 12 members of the public and the application is currently under consideration by Powys County Council.
How did Laura and Sir Bernard spend their years at Rhydoldog House?
Laura Ashley in a 1976 documentary about her clothing brand
The pair originally bought the home in 1961 to be near to their fledgling business in the town of Carno. Laura Ashley had been born in Wales and had opened the company’s first shop in Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire.
Rhydoldog would accommodate high-level company board meetings as well as some of Wales’ most lavish parties.
At the height of the their success during Laura’s life, the house would also be used as the backdrop for the fashion brand’s iconic photo shoots of clothes ranges.
The surrounding grounds were even said to have inspired the designer’s famed floral prints that continue to this day.
As the years went on the pair spent less time at the property, affording to buy home in France and Belgium as well as a yacht. Sir Bernard, trained as a private pilot, would fly back from their home in France to keep up with the running of the company.
Laura died due to injuries she sustained in a fall at her daughter’s home in the Cotswolds back in 1985.
After the 40th anniversary of Laura Ashley in 1993, Sir Bernard retired as chairperson and became an honorary life president.
Not much is known about Sir Bernard’s life as a widower in the property, but he lived there for the next 24 years until his death in 2009.
The home went on the market soon after, although the couple’s daughter Jane said that she had spoke to the National Trust and even the National Museum of Wales about restoring the property in public hands but logistics could not be agreed.
Daughter Jane told the Western Mail: ‘I had several meetings with the National Trust and even the National Museum of Wales was trying to think of a way [not to sell the property]. It was just too problematic to keep it.’
The home was eventually sold for £1.2m in the autumn of 2009 to new owners who restored much of the frontage, but are not believed to have given the house the complete overhaul it needed.
Now it appears that the property has been snapped up by singer Charlotte Church, who will be able to spend a bit of her £8m fortune to complete the job.
The soprano had originally envisaged turning the home into a school, but one local said there had been ‘no mention’ of the idea, and may not attract many pupils given its isolate position.