Bell on ... How to bypass country rules

This year's Homebuilding and Renovating Awards has been won by a pig farmer in Wales.

Or has it? Thirteen years ago our winner moved out of his two-bed urban home and pitched a caravan on 14ha of open countryside he had bought.

The local planners didn't give this chap a shoe-in, nor did some of the locals who presumably suspected fowl intentions. Our winner did in fact toy with poultry but settled for pigs and persevered with the holding until eventually the planners were advised that it required a constant presence.

Permission was granted for a house and our winner built a handsome oak-framed property. This home, now valued at £400,000, is presumably covered by an agricultural occupancy condition and, hey, why should pig farmers not live in style?

Established on his new demesne, our self-build champion decided to establish a business designing, supplying and constructing timber-frame buildings, operating it seems from home. It is reported he has now "wound down the pig business to concentrate on his new company".

There are many who genuinely want to farm and are not given an inch by their local planners. Some take low impact to the limit and go underground. Others would settle for little more than a bender in a wood. Many more aspire to a small terraced house yet know that even this is beyond their means. Will this case help or hinder them?

Perhaps our erstwhile pig farmer has done us all a favour. Here is someone who has built his own home, seeks a sustainable lifestyle and has created employment. We are short of affordable homes and jobs but the last time I looked we have plenty of countryside, and pork.

Graeme Bell is a vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association and erstwhile manager of a county council farms and smallholdings estate.


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