A Derbyshire farmer who has turned a derelict barn into a Grand Designs-style house has said that the borough council is considering ordering it to be demolished because it is ‘hell-bent on getting revenge’.
The site in question lies off Risley Lane in protected green belt land between the Derbyshire villages of Risley and Breaston.
It lies opposite a row of 10 large houses which were originally built for workers on the Risley Hall Estate.
Barry Bickley has kept a range of livestock on the land, including sheep, cows and horses over the past few decades.
In 2014 he applied to convert a disused barn, which sits beside Risley Lane, into a house – to serve as a “lifetime home” for him and his wife.
These applications were rejected by Erewash Borough Council three times, in July 2014; February 2015; and September 2016.
However, in May 2016, ahead of the third refusal, government planning inspectors approved the application at appeal.
But now the borough council says that the building is not a conversion and is purely a new-build constructed without planning permission in protected green belt land.
This is because parts of the original building were demolished due to not being “suitable” and a timber roof structure was replaced with a steel frame.
It asked the applicant to apply again – this time for a new home on the site.
Officers have now recommended that the plans are refused – which could see the authority use its full enforcement powers to demolish the building, or return it to its previous state.
Several residents near the site said that they have been firmly against the proposal since day one and say it is a “monstrosity” and “completely inappropriate”.
Councillors on the authority’s planning committee will make a decision on Wednesday, April 24.
The grounds for permission from government inspectors were granted within regulations introduced in 2015 – with the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order.
This brought in “Class Q” which intended to ensure that derelict buildings could be brought back into use and converted into homes.
Work began on the building in October 2018 and Mr Bickley says that he and his wife have “sunk their entire life savings” into the project – which is set to cost £300,000 once complete and fitted.
He says that it proved to be extremely difficult to obtain a contractor who could convert the site – instead of demolishing it and starting afresh.
Mr Bickley said that he was willing to keep searching to find a firm which could get the job done as specified – “keeping everything above board”.
But he says that it the borough council “seem hell-bent on revenge”.
A borough council report on the issue says: “It is considered that the proposal causes harm to the open and rural character of the green belt and undermines the purpose of it, and the very special circumstances put forward by the applicant are not considered to outweigh this harm.
“Furthermore, the siting of the building is not considered to have an acceptable impact on the street scene.
“The proposal would constitute inappropriate development in the green belt.”
Mr Bickley said: “I am quite angry and upset about it all. We have followed all the regulations and we were given permission several years ago by the planning inspectorate because Erewash refused it three times.
“We haven’t changed the height, shape or appearance of the building. We were allowed to replace the windows and the roof – and add cladding purely from a decorative point of view.
“From day one we have had Erewash oversee all the stages of it, and they ok’d everything.
“We haven’t done anything to hide it, like hiding it behind bales of hay – and we feel like we have just been treated very badly.”
Mr Bickley says that if the plans are refused next week that he could go to appeal again to seek another overturned decision from the planning inspectorate.
He said: “It seems to me that Erewash Borough Council intend to cost taxpayers more money by chasing this through appeal.”
A resident near the site, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The applicant is fully aware of the change in planning regulations, but they were not intended to be used for this.
“If this is allowed to stand it could see every farmer in the area convert their agricultural buildings into dwellings. What then would be the point in the green belt? There would be no point.
“This is completely inappropriate development.
“At this rate, people will be gobbling up fields with the aim of speculative applications to convert stables or other buildings into homes.
“This was effectively built without planning permission and it should not be allowed to stand – it would set a dangerous precedent.”
Another resident near the site said: “I didn’t protest at the time of the application, but I do wonder whether planning permission should have been given – it looks a bit of a monstrosity to be honest.”
Meanwhile, another neighbour said: “I have been here 30 years and the building used to be a little shed, and slowly more additions were built and it got bigger and bigger – and look at it now.
“I’ve opposed this since the very start – it is a major blot on the green belt.
“If this is allowed it will open up the flood-gates for development in the green belt.
“As a building, it has been done very well. Architecturally it blends in beautifully – but there are rules in place for a reason and this is the only green belt between Derby and Nottingham.”