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Farmer and council settle in fight over refurbished worker's cottage

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 22, 2012

Bewley Cottage at Chardstock – the subject of the legal wrangling between East Devon District Council and farmer Robert Burrough

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

Robert Burrough, 62, turned the abandoned Bewley Cottage at Chardstock, near Axminster, into a home for a farm labourer without applying for planning permission. East Devon District Council objected and demanded he undo the £40,000 remedial work and restore it to a wreck and prosecuted him when he refused.

The legal stand-off 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.

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 be put to residential use. The local authority reserves the option of further action if it is needed."

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

Recorder Mr John Williams welcomed the compromise.

The saga started when Mr Burrough bought farmland which included the 200-year-old cottage in 1992. In 2000 he repaired the flint stonewalls 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 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.

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