Country cottage saga settled at court

PUBLISHED: 08:20 24 October 2012

Bewley house before safety work was carried out. Photo by Patrick Stow

Bewley house before safety work was carried out. Photo by Patrick Stow


Membury farmer happy with outcome after 12 year planning battle

A Membury farmer has ended a 12 year planning battle in which he was taken to court for refusing to return a converted cottage back into a derelict ruin.

Robert Burrough, aged 65, turned the abandoned Bewley Cottage at Chardstock, near Axminster, into a home for a farm labourer without applying for planning permission.

The local East Devon District Council objected and demanded he undo the £40,000 remedial work and restore it to a wreck and it prosecuted him when he refused.

The legal stand-off has finally ended when the case was discontinued at Exeter Crown Court on Friday after the two sides reached an agreement.

Mr Burrough will not be prosecuted but will not be allowed to use the building as a dwelling, meaning it can be used as an agricultural building and does not need to be demolished.

Mr William Hopkin, prosecuting, said: “This was a prosecution for the breaching of an enforcement notice concerning a property which was in disrepair or ruin and which the defendant renovated externally to a very good standard.

“Planning permission was applied for and refused and at that stage enforcement action was issued for the building to be restored to its original state.

“There has been a protracted history of litigation of which this case was the end result. A pragmatic solution has now been reached so these proceedings can be brought to an end.

“At the core of the agreement is that the premises will not by put to residential use. The local authority reserve the option of further action if it is needed.”

Mr Burrough, who was represented by a neighbour Brian Friend, said he was content for the case to be stayed.

Recorder Mr John Williams welcomed the compromise. When told of the agreement he said: “Good.”

The saga started when Mr Burrough bought farmland which included the 200-year-old cottage in 1992.

In 2000 he repaired the flintstone walls and rebuilt the roof to make it safe for walkers, horse riders and livestock and in 2003 he put in and then withdrew a planning application to convert it into a worker’s accommodation.

The council started enforcement proceedings after complaining his work went beyond essential structural repairs and he had effectively turned the building into a house.

Mr Burrough has always insisted his intention was to make the building safe rather than develop it.

This week, Mr Friend, his legal advisor, welcomed the outcome of the case on behalf of his client.

He told The Herald: “Mr Burrough is very pleased that, at last, this matter has been settled.

“Mr Burrough’s efforts to make safe dangerous structures on a public highway has taken 12 years, having been opposed by the council at every stage. We are very pleased that the court has accepted this settlement.”

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