Monmouth council demolishes £700,000 home in front of couple

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Thu Feb 21 01:16:15 GMT 2008

'Despite repeated site visits by planning officials, they were not
warned that the development would break the rules.'

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'The moment council bullies demolished our £700,000 dream home in
front of us'

20/02/08 - News section

This was the scene when a couple's retirement dream was turned to rubble.

Council machinery moved in to smash down their £700,000 barn
conversion yesterday, reducing it to a pile of stones, timber and debris.

The five-bedroom home was deemed to have breached planning regulations
by being too different to the original building.

But Joe Gilling, 65, and his wife Patricia say that, despite repeated
site visits by planning officials, they were not warned that the
development would break the rules.

They also claim that the council refused to compromise during a
prolonged and costly legal battle.

The council ordered the bulldozers in after the Gillings could not
bring themselves to tear down the property - which they never got to
live in.

"What we really think about how the council has acted is unprintable,
but you could say they've been absolutely diabolical," Mrs Gilling,
61, said yesterday.

"It's heartbreaking - and they just seem to be trying to make a point
about who's boss, like a playground bully."

The couple bought 72-acre Newton Farm, in Welsh Newton, outside
Monmouth, with 60 head of beef cattle and 20 sheep in 2002.

They got planning permission from Herefordshire Council to convert a
barn on the site to a house.

They also won permission to build an equestrian centre and six small
holiday homes at the farm, which they intended to run as a business to
pay for their retirement.

Using stone from elsewhere on the farm to maintain the building's
uniformity, the barn was extended.

The couple, of Devauden, near Chepstow, say that during this period
planning officers repeatedly visited the farm to check on the
equestrian centre and holiday lets, but never identified a problem
with the barn.

But in June 2005, they were told the project breached restrictions
because the work was so extensive that it was judged to be a new build
rather than a conversion.

Later that year, an enforcement notice was served ordering them to
demolish the building.

The shell was nearly complete, but work had not yet started on the

The couple began an appeal process which saw them unsuccessfully visit
the High Court twice and left them with a legal bill approaching £30,000.

Mrs Gilling said they are now deciding if they can take any further

"I can't believe what has happened," she added.

"Planning officers came and went lots of times but never once
mentioned anything helpful about the barn.

"We had wanted to retire into it and give the farm to our son
Kristian, but we just don't know what to do."

Andrew Ashcroft, Herefordshire Council's planning chief, said: "There
is a long and complicated history on this site going back to 2002.

"The council has exhausted the more traditional enforcement processes.

"It has a duty to protect the appearance of the countryside and
demolition is the only option now available."

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