A FARMER and his wife believe they are being victimised after being told they must demolish their home – after it was given planning permission.

But Sharon and Tommy Gibbs of Willow Farm plan to fight for the right to stay in their home on Willow Farm in Stoke Abbott.

Mr Gibbs, 63, got temporary planning permission for his three bedroom house in 2009 so he could look after animals on his 20-acre farm.

But now a planning inspector has upheld West Dorset District Council’s enforcement notice telling him to take the house and a chicken shed down.

The couple say they are angry and determined to fight.
Mr Gibbs has had Willow Farm for 28 years and has kept animals, mainly pigs, on the land for the past 16 years.

But commuting from Bridport was difficult, he said, and seven years ago he built his three-bedroom house, without permission.

Planners told him to take it down but on appeal he won the right to keep it for three years.

Mrs Gibbs said: “In that time we proved we could make money but the planning inspector said he didn’t care if we did make money, which is odd when it’s part of planning policy.”

The couple argue being on site is a welfare and security issue.

Mr Gibbs said: “We have nine horses, three goats, nine sheep, one alpaca, around 170 pigs, 230 chickens. Some of those are RSPCA rescue animals. If we have a winter like we just did you have to bring the animals inside. We have already had people trying to steal them and we have been told by the RSPCA inspector it is an offence to leave animals in a building with no one here at night.

“If we can’t look after the welfare of the animals then there is no point in farming at all. We feel victimised by the planning system.

“We know other people who have got planning permission with less animals and less acreage. We feel it has been very personal.”

Planning inspector Jeremy Sargent said a house was not necessary to look after the animals on site.

He said: “While the need for a house was accepted in the previous decision, for a temporary period at least, it was in connection with a very different operation to what is now on site and included the establishment of a hen unit of significant size.

“In my opinion the demands that unit would have placed on the farm workers would have been appreciably different to those associated with the existing activities.”

He said that preventing theft or injury to livestock was not in itself justification to build a house.

The inspector also said he had not seen evidence the smallholding was financially viable even if Mr Gibbs said he makes around £15,000 a year.

Mr Sargent said: “Even if Willow Farm were to be financially viable that in itself would not justify a dwelling.”

He said the buildings detract from the scenic beauty of the landscape of the AONB but accepted there were few public viewpoints where they could be seen.