Yellow house becomes unlikely tourist attraction

Picture: John DevlinPicture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
IT is a house with zest designed to give a Mediterranean glow to the Tail O’ The Bank, but yellow, it seems, is not the mellow colour is once was.

The owners of a villa that has become an unlikely tourist attraction thanks to its bright lemon paintwork will this week learn if they and their thousands of supporters will have to bid farewell to the bold new look.

The striking Georgian villa in Greenock, known simply as the Yellow House, has attracted a groundswell of admirers since its unorthodox makeover last year, but it has also incurred the wrath of local authority officials.

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Inverclyde Council’s planning department stress the yellow paintwork is not becoming of a conservation area, and want it replaced with pastel colours.

With the row over the fate of the house having raged on for the past six months, councillors will vote on Wednesday whether to allow the lemon fascia to remain

Located on the picturesque Esplanade, the most sought after street in Inverclyde, the house commands views over the Firth of Clyde, a prime route for ocean liner traffic.

The villa has been owned for the past three decades by the Varese family, who last summer grew tired of its cream colour and decided to freshen things up.

In a nod to the roots of his family, who hailed from La Spezia, a northern Italian port well known for its cluster of yellow, pink and amber properties, brothers Stefano and Edoardo went about transforming the four-storey property for their parents, Adriano and Edilia.

Along with the yellow masonry, they painted the doors and window surrounds in shades of gold. In the garden, meanwhile, olive trees from Tuscany completed the £3,000 project’s autentico look.

“It’s a nice fresh colour and over in Italy, houses are lovely and bright and it seemed fitting for the Esplanade and a riverside town,” Edoardo told Scotland on Sunday. “We’ve paid rates for the villa for 30 years and take pride in our home.”

The equilibrium did not last long, however. After complaints were made to Greenock West and Cardwell Bay community council, planning officials from Inverclyde Council contacted the Vareses to say the period house’s appearance was “intrusive” and inappropriate and that they would have to once again repaint it, this time in a “soft, pastel hue.”

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The Vareses contacted the local authority’s planning department in October to have the paintwork officially approved, but as the work had already been carried out, it was deemed a retrospective application.

“What seems odd is that there is nothing in the council’s conservation plans to say you can’t paint your house yellow,” Stefano added. “The vast majority of people are overwhelmingly supportive of it and if one of my neighbours wanted to paint their house pink, I’d be all for it.

“The house has been painted turquoise, blue and cream over the years with no complaints. We thought the yellow it would bring a wee Mediterranean touch to the area and I hope the councillors will look favourably on it.”

To date, over 2,600 people who want the house to stay yellow have signed a petition condemning Inverclyde Council’s excessive “micromanagement” and use of “redundant” planning policies.

On Wednesday, the house’s future colour will be determined. In an extensive 220 page report due to come before councillors on Inverclyde’s local review committee, Stuart Jamieson, the head of regeneration and planning, recommends that the application be refused, meaning the Vareses would have to repaint the property.

Among the five people who agree with Jamieson’s point of view is Hugh Currie, another Esplanade resident. In his submission to the council, he stressed: “This is not the Mediterranean but a conservation area and it is inappropriate to paint the property bright yellow. Do we wish the Esplanade to end up looking like Balamory?”

However, the number of supporters of the Vareses outnumber the objections by over six to one. They include Peter O’Donnell, who lives directly next door the family. The property’s bold new look, he says, is “bright and cheerful” and “adds colour and a happy atmosphere to the area.”

Another resident in favour of the yellow paint is Michael Broadley, also a neighbour to the Vareses. “I for one could find could find plenty to moan about in Inverclyde but this house is not one of them,” he explained.

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Carlo Cultera from Bishopton, who walks the Esplanade every weekend, said: “It is so delightful to see a yellow house on the Esplanade. It is a charming colour, in line with the river views that the Esplanade has. I wish other people would do the same as it would seriously improve the location.

“Character is everything. This yellow house has it in abundance.”