28th January 2018
MAPLE FIELD FARM,
HANTS SP6 3LR
Re PLANNING DISPUTE – UNRESOLVED
This is a record of what has happened to us. To me and my family, and as collateral damage, to nine other families who worked for us; to an even wider sector of the community who have become part of our business as a Community Interest Company, and who have come to rely on their staple diet of fresh local milk.
We decided in 2006 to buy four acres of grazing land in our village on which to build a local food business. We sold our house to finance the project.
By 2010 we achieved planning permission to build our barn. In 2010 we built the barn together with a self-built twin-unit mobile home for which we applied for retrospective planning permission.
At Appeal (APP/B1740/A/10/2142506) dated 5th May 2011, we achieved temporary permission to inhabit our land. At Appeal (APP/B1740/A/12/2171974 ) in 2012 we finally sorted the ‘definition’ of the self-built mobile home and were permitted to live in it for three years – This was not the five years which we requested. The Inspectorate wrongly granted us a three year temporary trial. All our projections, figures and plans were based on a five year term of trial. Documents and letters with the LA and with the Inspectorate clearly state a five year term.
So with one hand tied behind our backs we embarked on a three year period of business building: to milk dairy cows and to find customers.
We developed the milk processing, bottling and marketing part of the project first in order to be sure and confidant in the market/sales for fresh local doorstep milk. Sensible business approach you might think.
When our three year trial (not five) and temporary living permission was up, we applied for ‘permanent’. The LA (New Forest District Council) refused permission.
Appeal Decision (APP/B1740/W/16/3152221) dated 19th January 2017, was in front of Ms H. Butcher who dismissed our efforts and refused us permission to stay and to continue our worthwhile work. Ms Butcher refused to grant us more time to complete the goals and objectives of the project (funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and us). In her Decision Notice there are three mistakes two of which are fit for legal challenge in the High Court. We are financially unable to take this step.
This illegal decision by the Inspectorate along with the litany of mistakes and ill-judged opinions running through the document leaves us no option than to sell the field in order to re-house ourselves.
With that goes the jobs of nine rural people; all our human and monetary capital together with that of the Prince’s Trust; all the infrastructure, the chicken houses, the mobile milking bails and sundry non-reusable equipment.
With it goes our connection to the land and our proven ability to wrestle a quiet living from it, producing very well liked fresh milk (company turnover £125,000).
With it goes all the hard learned skills and knowledge gained while spearheading this brand new farming project.
Our supporters, customers, well-wishers, local Agricultural Colleges, journalists and farming pioneers look on in complete astonishment.
They ask how can a government be the Lord High Executioner of such a worthwhile innovation.
Our business could not be greener nor more sustainable nor more carbon neutral. It provides the exact profile that the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is seeking to encourage (ref: his speech at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, Jan 4th 2018).
The government and the Local Authority pay lip service to the rural economy and encourage us in their ‘marketing’ literature and their wordy brochures; but when it comes down to it – when the future success of Maple Field Milk C.I.C and Maple Field Farm depends on a planning decision, we get a big NO.
On no account has common sense or even legality been applied to the passage of this dispute and certainly no mercy.
Our Human Rights have been totally breached and we have become Internally Displaced Persons in our own country.
I ask for this case to be reviewed at the highest level possible, between us as human beings, rather than the out-of-reach High Court.
This is not right.
N. J. SNELGAR