A west Dorset smallholder has lost a planning appeal over buildings to support an alpaca business at Higher Kingston Russell.

The 6.5 hectare site is already used for horse riding lessons on up to three days a week and as a temporary camp site for up to 28 days each year. At the time of the appeal hearing there were 25 alpacas and ten horses on the site.

Local planners decided that having an alpaca business did not justify also having a three-bed mobile home and other buildings and rejected the temporary application for three years from Tina Hardiman.

She appealed the ruling but that has now been rejected by a planning inspector.

Council planning officers originally recommended approval for the business and the mobile home, together with a barn and field shelter. They told councillors that on the evidence from an agricultural consultant the business could be viable and there was a security and welfare need to live on the site.

But several councillors questioned the claims and in July the area planning committee unanimously rejected the application. They were told at the time that some of the buildings being applied for had already been completed.

Neighbours and the parish council had also objected to the application – expressing concerns about extra traffic on the narrow lane; the water supply from a private borehole, and the effect of having a temporary home in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Some also questioned the viability of the business plan and the need for accommodation on site.

The Bride Valley Alpacas business is to the east of Kingston Russell Farm, and to the north of the A35.

“The need for a residence is questionable and certainly not a three-bedroomed property…the water supply to the whole area is severely limited. We have been without water every evening this week,” said one resident in evidence to the council at the time.

The planning inspector’s finding acknowledges a conflict in planning policy between ‘appropriate developments’ in rural areas and the need for some businesses to have housing for a worker, but said that the business did not meet the test of being ‘substantive’.

Said the Inspector Thomas Bristow: “I am not confident that the enterprise will remain viable for the foreseeable future. Whilst I do not doubt the appellant’s energy, commitment and investment to date, even given reasonable flexibility for inevitable uncertainties, the evidence before me is does not serve to demonstrate an essential need for a rural workers’ dwelling.”

He also ruled that the buildings and parked cars would detract from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty : “The proposal would result in incongruous development that would be readily apparent given the nature of the site and its surroundings, and fail to conserve or to enhance landscape character.”

He heard that Mrs Hardiman had a 22-mile commute to get to the site and had built up the business while also working elsewhere: “I note the representations before me which are highly supportive of the appellant’s work and its community benefits. However they relate to the particular manner in which the appellant intends to operate the enterprise rather than weighing significantly in favour of justification for an essential rural need existing here, nor do they outweigh the specific landscape harm that would result,” said the Inspector in his conclusion.