ACTION against someone who is believed to have been living on a paddock without planning permission has been approved – despite concerns over a lack of evidence.
Forest Council planning officers say there has been a breach of planning control at land north of Rookery Lane in Newland.
The council’s planning committee was told the site is being used to live on without planning permission.
Ward councillor David Wheeler (Green Newland and Sling) called on the committee to vote in favour of enforcement and said it was the “most egregious and blatant breach of planning control”.
He said: “Concerned residents have made it clear to me that the owner of the site has been using the land as a residential unit for some time. The permitted planning usage for the land is for personal equestrian use.
“As far as I’m aware the land has not been used in recent years for any equestrian usage at all and the officer has provided evidence that you have seen that the stable block is being used for residential storage.”
However, Cllr Thom Forester (Independent Alliance, Mitcheldean, Ruardean & Drybrook) asked what evidence the council had to substantiate the claims that the site was being used to live on and that a business was being operated from the site.
He said: “From reading the paperwork, the evidence for the business is some screenshots from a Facebook post. What evidence do we have that it is being used residentially?
“Is it even illegal? I believe she would be allowed 28 days a year to stay there with a caravan. How do you know that she hasn’t stayed there 26 days as opposed to permanently?”
The council officer said the caravan had been witnessed at the site connected to the electricity supply in excess of 28 days.
He added that witnessed dog training taking place on the weekends while going to Monmouth. He also said residents are monitoring the site on a weekly basis.
“These are my personal opinions of that, that I’ve witnessed so those activities are occurring. The evidence is there that they have been living on the site in excess of those periods that are permitted,” the council officer said.
“All of those factors lead us to believe that these activities are occurring on the site.”
Cllr Julia Gooch (Progressive Independents, Newent & Taynton) proposed deferring the case to allow the person three months to submit a planning application but was rejected by six votes to three
Cllr Maria Edwards (Independent, Tidenham) said she had some sympathy with the landowner but was not in favour of deferral.
“I’m looking at these photos and I’m thinking, what’s the business plan. Is it going to be a viable business? We can’t give planning permission to a business that is not viable.
“On the balance of probabilities, they live on that site more than 28 days.”
A vote on the officers’ recommendation was approved by six votes to three to issue a notice to cease the residential use of the site, remove the camper van, touring caravan and all other residential paraphernalia.
Officers visited the site in 2020 after receiving complaints that the land was being used for residential purposes.
On June 11 2020, they say they found a camper van, two cars and a touring caravan at the site which is designated for equestrian use. No horses were noted to be present in the fields or stables, according to the report.
The owner, who returned to the site after walking her dogs, told the officer she did not live there but did camp on weekends when she is not house sitting at other properties which is her usual employment, according to the enforcement report.
The report states that the officer was told that the touring caravan was used to store towels, sheets and linen and she could not store everything in her campervan.
The officer noted there was a washing line outside of the touring caravan and a make-shift toilet in a small timber building next to it.
The council documents say the stables were being used to store furniture. And the owner had a generator at the site and a fridge and kettle in the stable.
When asked what the fields were being used for the owner confirmed they had no horses but that the grass would be cut for hay and sold to a commercial operator, according to the report.
A week later the council wrote to the owner giving them two months’ notice to return the land to its previous use.
In July 2021, the owner’s planning agent contacted the council informing them they were preparing a planning application for the diversified use of the site.
However in October, the council’s agricultural consultant said there was very little likelihood that any of the proposals would result in a successful application.
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