Sir Rod Stewart wins fight to build back garden swimming pool

SIR Rod Stewart has won a battle to tackle a great crested newt problem at his mansion so he can build a large swimming pool for his son.

Sir Rod Stewart was granted permission earlier this year to build a large swimming pool for his son. Picture: Jane Barlow
Sir Rod Stewart was granted permission earlier this year to build a large swimming pool for his son. Picture: Jane Barlow

The rocker was granted permission earlier this year to build the pool for 11-year-old son Alastair who has shown great promise as a swimmer and has already won a host of competitions.

But the development was threatened after ecological surveys of the site in the gardens at Sir Rod’s Grade II-listed Durrington House in Harlow, Essex, discovered the presence of newts.

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The amphibians are a protected species under UK and European law and it is illegal to catch, possess or handle them without a licence or to cause them harm or disturb their habitat in any way.

The discovery of the newts meant Sir Rod’s representatives had to submit a detailed plan on how to construct the pool house without disturbing them.

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He is proposing to create new habitats for the creatures elsewhere in the gardens of the 18th century home and erect “newt barrier fencing” to stop them entering the construction site.

The mitigation measures have now been given the go-ahead by officials at Epping Forest District Council paving the way for the development to start.

In a report submitted to the council, ecologist Simon Thomas, who carried out the newt surveys, said: “In order to allow for construction and landscaping to take place, the habitats within the working footprint will need to be cleared.

“The impact of this will be the destruction of terrestrial habitat within the working footprint, and potentially harm to great crested newts occupying those habitats.

“Construction works are also likely to create temporary habitats such as rubble piles and excavations, which could become occupied by newts during construction.

“Due to the likelihood of the development works harming great crest newts and/or destroying great crested newts terrestrial habitat, a mitigation strategy will be employed to minimise the impact of the development on them and avoid a negative impact on the favourable conservation status of great crested newts in the local area.”

Those found guilty of disturbing great crested newts without a licence face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

But even with a licence moving a colony of newts away from the site of a development to a safe habitat can take months.

In 2014 a building firm in Milton Keynes spent more than £1 million catching 150 of the creatures, delaying the construction of 6,500 new homes by up to a year - at a cost of £6,700 per newt saved.

Sir Rod, 72, and his wife Penny Lancaster have told how Alastair has ambitions to compete for Great Britain at the Olympics and now they want to give him a home training base.

The pool was originally to be 65ft in length but the plans were later revised to make it 50ft. The pool house will also incorporate changing facilities, a bar, a spa pool and a dining area.

The singer bought the palatial 10-bedroom 18th century house on the edge of Epping Forest for £4.65 million in 2013 but only moved in last year.

Dad-of-eight Rod told last year how he would like Alastair to be a footballer while Penny, 46, hopes he becomes a champion swimmer.

He said: “He is a great swimmer. His Mum loves swimming and wants him to be a champion swimmer.”

Penny, who also has a six-year-old son Aiden with Rod, said: “Alastair is an amazing swimmer - he inherits that from my side - and gets up four times week at 5.30am to swim before school. His goal, he says, is to swim in the Olympics.”

Last year, Celtic fan Sir Rod was given permission to build a football pitch at his new home.

He has put his former home Wood House in Essex on the market for £6.95 million but it has not yet found a buyer.