Camilla’s country pile neighbours get permission to build a holiday let


The Duchess of Cornwall‘s neighbours have been granted planning permission to build a holiday let accessed by the private road to her Wiltshire mansion.

Camilla, 74, who has in the past complained three times about renovations on the property next door, now faces the prospect of having to rub shoulders with Airbnb-style tourists.

The Duchess’ Grade-II listed property, Ray Mill House, in Lacock, Wiltshire, has only one close neighbour, The Old Mill, owned by Phil Clayton. The two estates share a private lane. 

Camilla uses her historic property to get away from husband Prince Charles‘s Highgrove House estate, which is open to the public in the summer months and receives more than 40,000 visitors a year.

But the 74-year-old has been at loggerheads with her only close neighbours, the Claytons, who have been renovating their estate for the last five years – much to the reported fury of locals.

They both share the same private driveway and the Claytons have been allowed by Wiltshire Council to convert the first floor of a former garage into a one-bedroom flat for tourists. 

The Duchess of Cornwall ‘s neighbours have been granted planning permission to build a holiday let accessed by the private road to her Wiltshire mansion

Camilla (pictured), 74, who has in the past complained three times about renovations on the property next door, now faces the prospect of having to rub shoulders with Airbnb-style tourists

Camilla (pictured), 74, who has in the past complained three times about renovations on the property next door, now faces the prospect of having to rub shoulders with Airbnb-style tourists

The plans brought about seven complaints, including Lacock Parish Council and local conservative chairman Peter Hickman, who shares the same private access road and said: ‘There is no commercial right of way and we would not agree to such.’

Owner Trudy hit back at locals moaning about the holiday let, and wrote a letter to the council.

It read: ‘I find it very difficult to understand why people who are completely unaffected by the improvements we have carried out at The Old Mill put so much time and wasted energy, time and time again… it is always the same group of people, objecting no matter what the planning application is for.

‘I find it rather sad on their behalf. Their time and energy could be used for a much more worthy cause.’

Although Camilla didn’t complain about that particular planning application, she wasn’t happy with the original proposal in 2017 to demolish the garage and replace it with a two-storey building, which the Claytons have now modified to include the holiday let.

Grade-II listed Ray Mill House (pictured above) in Wiltshire was built in 1860

Grade-II listed Ray Mill House (pictured above) in Wiltshire was built in 1860

An aerial view of Ray Mill House, the Duchess of Cornwall's country estate in Wiltshire

An aerial view of Ray Mill House, the Duchess of Cornwall’s country estate in Wiltshire

Highgrove’s Estate Manager Charlie Craven wrote on the royal’s behalf saying that he had concerns about flooding and the ’negative affect on the flow of water from the river during any periods of flooding’.

He was also worried about the garage’s design saying it ‘is not conducive to a normal garage in that there are 3 large windows and a door.’

Revealed: How this isn’t the Duchess’s first run-in with a neighbour

Mr Clayton bought The Old Mill from long-term owner Ralph Adams, who died in 2017. He was also involved in a spat with the Duchess – over an overgrown hedge of hers, in 2006.

The bush was so out of control that bin men refused to reverse down the narrow private lane to collect the rubbish, and residents were told to drag their bins to the main road, which infuriated some.

Mr Adams, a retired sand merchant, complained: ‘Walking 400 yards is hard for me but she can get a flunky to do it.

‘It might not be a problem for her, but I’m 83, with arthritis and collapsing discs. She needs to cut the hedge.

‘It sticks out about three feet further than it should.’

In the same year, it was revealed that the taxpayer was footing a £1.8 million security bill at the house.

In March 2018, the royal opposed the Claytons’ plans twice to demolish another outbuilding to create a granny flat.

Mr Craven remarked in his first letter about the issue of flooding again, saying: ‘I have now been involved with Ray Mill House for six years within which time, the river has flooded numerous times.’

He added in a further objection: ‘I am now also concerned that the proposed design appears to be larger and higher than the existing building, which clearly goes against the Design Statement that it would remain unchanged.’

Despite the complaints, the Claytons’ tweaked their plans and the granny flat was approved in December 2018.

Camilla bought the property in 1996 for £850,000, with the proceeds of her divorce from Andrew Parker Bowles, and it is a welcome respite from Highgrove, which is only a 15-minute drive away.

One source told Express columnist Adam Helliker: ‘At Ray Mill she can sit down with a big G&T, kick of her shoes and watch Coronation Street, which Charles loathes.

‘She also doesn’t have to bother about how the place looks – Charles is so fussy about tidiness, while she leaves her stuff all over the place. She doesn’t need her cushions plumped all the time.’

But she’s had to contend with the Claytons’ renovations since he bought it from long-term owner Ralph Adams, who died in 2017 and was also involved in a spat with the duchess over an overgrown hedge in 2006.

The bush was so out of control that binmen refused to reverse down the narrow private lane to collect the rubbish, and residents were told to drag their bins to the main road, which infuriated some.

Mr Adams, a retired sand merchant, complained: ‘Walking 400 yards is hard for me but she can get a flunkey to do it. 

Mr Clayton's Wiltshire home, The Old Mill, pictured, shares a lane with the Duchess's

Mr Clayton’s Wiltshire home, The Old Mill, pictured, shares a lane with the Duchess’s

The garage previously pictured at The Old Mill. In March 2018, the royal opposed the Claytons' plans twice to demolish another outbuilding to create a granny flat

The garage previously pictured at The Old Mill. In March 2018, the royal opposed the Claytons’ plans twice to demolish another outbuilding to create a granny flat

‘It might not be a problem for her but I’m 83, with arthritis and collapsing discs. She needs to cut the hedge. It sticks out about three feet further than it should.’

In the same year, it was revealed that the taxpayer was footing a £1.8million security bill at the house, with the area being dubbed by the Daily Mail as ‘Camillashire’.

In June last year, the Claytons applied for planning permission for a potting shed, with locals concerned that it was to be used as a summer house, with Dr Louise Heren stating: ‘It is most irregular for a “potting shed” to require a veranda – what is the rationale for this.’

It received nine complaints, with the parish council adding that ‘there is concern over the amount of ad hoc development that is taking place on this site.’

Mr Hickman says: ‘In trying to “dress-up” a Summer House as a Potting Shed the Consultants are insulting the intelligence of both the Planning Authority and neighbours.’

The planning disputes between the Duchess, Mr Clayton and their other neighbours

Mr Clayton bought The Old Mill for £675,000 in 2017.

Since then he has sought permission for two main projects: one to renovate and extend his main home; the other to demolish an outbuilding and build a granny flat in its place.

The Home Renovations 

2017: He submitted an application to increase the size of the bedrooms, lounge, and dining room and build an extension with a sun room. This received objections from the Duchess and other locals.

March 2018: The application was withdrawn.

April 2018: An amended application was submitted. These plans did not draw objections.

July 2018: The application for home renovations were approved. The council told Mr Clayton that care should be taken with ‘the use and routing of heavy plant and vehicles, and the control and removal of spoil and wastes.’ 

The Granny Flat

March 2018: In the same month his renovation application was rejected, Mr Clayton submitted a separate application to Wiltshire Council requesting permission to demolish an outhouse and build a granny flat. This application received objections from the Duchess and others.

July 2018: The application was rejected. 

August 2018: An amended application was submitted. This also drew objections from the Duchess.

Autumn 2018: Mr Clayton amended the application again, turning the proposed building through an angle of 90 degrees but making it 25 per cent bigger. Camilla objected again.

December 2018: Wiltshire council approved the application.

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