BARN CONVERSION: Councillors were told this home was built without proper planning permission through a genuine mistake, not  with an intention to flout the rules
BARN CONVERSION: Councillors were told this home was built without proper planning permission through a genuine mistake, not with an intention to flout the rules

A FAMILY home built without proper planning permission has been saved from possible demolition.

The home at Old Granary Farm, in Morley, was supposed to be part of an approved barn conversion, but Durham County Council’s south and west planning committee heard that a “cock-up, not conspiracy” resulted in the barn being torn down.

Homeowners Vanessa and Ian Harbottle say they were given bad advice from a planning agent and a builder when they chose to dismantle the barn and build the house on the barn’s footprint.

The family applied for retrospective planning permission after realising the error, but county planners had recommended it be refused.

Speaking on behalf of the family at the committee hearing, county councillor Heather Smith said: “I am totally convinced this was a genuinely mistaken situation and that the applicants had no intention whatsoever to flout planning conditions or to practice any sort of deceit.

“I believe Mr and Mrs Harbottle find themselves in this difficult position because of their inexperience in navigating the planning process.

“They used a planning agent and a builder and it would seem they received inappropriate advice from both.

“Since the irregular situation of their house has come to light Mr and Mrs Harbottle have suffered months of stress and anxiety. If permission is not granted for their house to remain, it will result essentially in financial ruin for them and have devastating consequences for their family life and mental wellbeing.

“They believed they had permission to dismantle the structure and rebuild a dwelling on the exact footprint using materials salvaged from the barn.

“I do hope the committee will accept that this unfortunate situation was not arrived at deliberately. To coin a phrase it’s cock-up, not conspiracy.”

She added that there had been no objections to the application, neither from

neighbours, nor from the parish council.

Also speaking for the family John Lavender, of Plan Arch Design Limited, said there had been no attempt at deception by the family, and it was the family themselves who had contacted the county council after realising the mistake.

He added that the home had been built to a high standard and “the house raises no objections in terms of highways, landscape, design or ecology”.

Mr Lavender said: “While it is accepted there is a point of principle at stake for the local planning authority, there is also a human issue and a development which has no adverse impacts associated with it. The consequences of planning permission being refused are enormous in both human and financial terms.

“That mistake should be balanced against the quality of the development undertaken.”

In a report given to the committee, planning officers said it was an isolated and unsustainable location, therefore the plan should be rejected. The homeowner would have been told to demolish the property or risk enforcement action.

However, several committee members last week expressed sympathy for the family before voting unanimously to approve permission for the building.

The family were visibly relieved by the outcome.