Actor tipped as next James Bond in planning row over home rewilding

At the centre of the project at the couple's home is a huge lake, which has already been excavated
At the centre of the project at the couple's home is a huge lake, which has already been excavated - BNPS

The actor who is expected to be the next James Bond and his director wife are seeking retrospective planning permission for a lake they excavated on their country estate after work was shut down last year.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his wife, Sam, upset villagers when they started work on rewilding the grounds of their home in the Mendip Hills in Somerset.

At the centre of the project is the huge lake, which has already been excavated.

But the Grade II-listed property is in a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Taylor-Johnsons should have first obtained planning permission.

When the local council found out about the work, officials visited the property, which used to be owned by the Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, and shut down the operation.

That was more than a year ago and since then the circular muddy crater, which is one acre in size, has been left as a blot on the protected landscape.

Last month, The Sun reported that Eon Productions, which has made most of the Bond films in the series adapted from Ian Fleming’s novels, has offered Aaron Taylor-Johnson the role of 007.

The newspaper said that he was likely to sign the contract and start filming this year at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson met on the set of Nowhere Boy, the 2009 biopic in which he played John Lennon
Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson met on the set of Nowhere Boy, the 2009 biopic in which he played John Lennon - Dave Benett/Getty Images Europe

Some local residents, who have been irked by the noise and mess caused by the work at the Taylor-Johnsons’ home, had speculated that the celebrity couple intended to use the lake for open water swimming.

Now Mrs Taylor-Johnson, 56, and her 33-year-old husband have submitted a retrospective planning application in the hope of obtaining permission to carry on with the work.

They claim that the lake is necessary to protect their 16th-century farmhouse from flooding.

The new wetland feature will also boost the biodiversity of wildlife in the area, including common toads, newts, water voles, otters, badgers and bats.

In their application, they say the amount of surface water that runs down onto their land leaves the five-bed house vulnerable to flooding as well as a studio, barn, guesthouse and piggery.

It is reported that the farmhouse has flooded every year since the Taylor-Johnsons bought it in 2011 and the housekeeper recalls the boot room previously flooding up to her knees.

Somerset council will decide on their application in the near future, with the couple’s planning expert urging them to grant approval so that works can be completed ahead of the “2024 winter storm events”.

Many villagers are delighted at the prospect of an increase in wildlife that the scheme will bring.

Tom Kemp said: “This project will bring desperately needed biodiversity and wildlife conservation improvements. In this regard, I can’t think of a more important project within our parish to date.

“I can see most of the site from my bedroom window, and wholeheartedly welcome the effect on my view.”

‘Project will deliver biodiversity’

Amy Fukuyama, a neighbour, said: “I live to the west of the fields belonging to the farm and am overjoyed at the prospect of the increase to biodiversity in our area.

“I can see the ponds from my house and very much welcome the change to the view and monoculture. Since the ponds have been constructed there has been a noticeable increase in bird activity.

Mrs Taylor-Johnson, who has directed the new Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black that is due to be released later this month, and her husband have commissioned a flood risk expert and a biodiversity specialist to help with their case.

A report submitted on their behalf by the Bath-based planning consultancy experts PlanningSphere stated: “Flooding threatens the historic fabric of the listed farmhouse.

“The owners are undertaking a project to create new wetland features to alleviate severe flooding to the house and to enhance biodiversity.

“The wetland features are partially constructed, and the remaining elements include the installation of pollution prevention measures and swales.

“The project will deliver biodiversity enhancements in an ecologically appropriate location. The long-term effects of the proposals will be to deliver locally significant biodiversity gains.”

‘Proper permission was not sought’

But Jamie Walker, a resident, believes that the village has already put up with enough and has called on the council to reject the application.

He said: “I believe this planning application should be turned down in its entirety and the lakes filled in.

“The noise from the work on these lakes directly affected me. I would hate to see the farmhouse lost, but I believe the work to date should not have been carried out without seeking the proper consent. I don’t believe the local residents had any say in this ‘development’ until the lakes had been dug, and no concern was shown to local residents around noise issues.

“Proper permission was not sought, this I feel strengthens the argument to reject the application and fill the lakes in.”

‘Hole has just got bigger and bigger’

After the council put a stop to the ground works in February last year, one villager, Jackie Inch, complained about the “eyesore” view from her home, which overlooks the valley.

Mrs Inch, a retired counsellor, said at the time: “When I open my bedroom curtains in the morning the first thing I see is that eyesore.

“We had no idea they were going to do it, and I can’t believe they went ahead without permission.

“The hole has just got bigger and bigger.”

Mrs Taylor-Johnson met her second husband on the set of Nowhere Boy, the 2009 biopic in which he played John Lennon.

Despite an age gap of 23 years, the couple married in 2012 at the Grade II-listed Babington House in Somerset, which is close to their rural home.

She went on to direct Fifty Shades of Grey, while her husband has starred in films including Godzilla, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Bullet Train.

The couple have two daughters together and are thought to spend most of their time living in California.