DEVELOPERS will have to cross another hurdle in their mission to build a grass-roofed house made of underground pods on Green Belt land.

Ongar estate agent John Sear plans to replace the former pigsties at Coppice Farm, Theydon Bois, with the five-bedroom eco-friendly home, which he says will improve the view of the area.

But the Theydon Bois Action Group, which is worried about housing being built on the Green Belt, has vowed to fight the plans, which are due to go before a council planning committee in January.

Chairman David McKelvey said: “The moment you start to allow anybody to build on Green Belt land, it’s a very slippery slope.

“The design of the house is irrelevant. The point is, it’s Green Belt land and it should not be built on.”

He said the inclusion of the farm in Epping Forest District Council’s survey on where in the area 10,000 homes should be built added to the group’s fears.

Architect Martyn Pattie has defended the plans, which he said had taken two years to draw up.

“It’s particularly because of the sensitive site that we wanted to keep it partly underground,” he said.

“In terms of the Green Belt, that could be used for agricultural services, but there would have been a lot more movement and a lot of dilapidated buildings.

“I think it will improve the Green Belt.”

Mr Sear, of Ambleside, Epping, said: “The farm has been in the family for many, many years and we really wanted to do something that had minimal impact for local residents.

“We know most of the residents and we knew that if we went in for normal house, it was not going to be of architectural merit.

“It’s very low-lying and from the road, you won’t even know it’s there.

“It's almost a Hobbit house."

As well as a grass roof, plans for the house include a ground-source heating system, which use pipes buried in a home’s garden to carry heat from the earth to radiators.

The plans were given the nod by councillors at a meeting in October, but must be referred to a committee with more authority because they are on the Green Belt.