Barnstaple couple’s home heartbreak

Elderly couple staying in daughter’s garden fear for future after planners deny permission for their wooden mobile home

AN elderly Barnstaple couple are facing the heart-wrenching prospect of losing their second home in less than a year after planners ruled they were unable to live in a small log cabin in their daughter’s garden.

Harold Mack, aged 83 and his wife Betty, 77, have been living in a small chalet style mobile home at the house of their daughter Alison Hutchings and husband Raymond on the edge of Tawstock.

They moved there after seeing the trust-owned family home of Brynsworthy Lodge at Roundswell, where Mrs Mack had spent her entire life and the couple lived as tenants, demolished to make way for a new housing development.

Both suffer from arthritis and other medical issues, but with no space in their small bungalow, Ali and her husband decided to move her parents as close to them as possible by creating a snug home in their half acre garden, unaware they would be affected by planning rules.

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Now North Devon Council’s planning department has refused their retrospective application, saying it is considered unacceptable in an isolated countryside location, neither sustainable or suitable and contrary to a number of planning policies including the North Devon Local plan.

The family were not aware of the council’s decision until told by the North Devon Gazette and Ali said her parents were “very anxious” about what would happen next after she had to break the news to them.

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“I hate to see them so worried after going through it all with them at Brynsworthy and now facing this again, it all seems so unfair,” she said.

“We did not realise in our naivety that we were breaching planning laws. They were devastated to watch their family home being demolished but they are completely happy here and were hopefully going to be looked after as long as they needed it.

“I am here for them, which to my way of thinking is the best way you can look after your parents and we are all too quick these days to go and ship them off to an old peoples’ home.”

The planning application was supported by a letter from their GP at Brannam Medical Centre, which said the couple both suffered from generalised arthritis and as a result needed to live adjacent to their daughter, who would become their principal carer.

Their former home of Brynsworthy Lodge was a pre-war Elizabethan style house which had been owned by a trust of various family members, with Mr and Mrs Mack as tenants.

The mobile home is a modest wooden portable building, which Ali said was tucked away and not visible from the road, enabling the old couple to have their independence and her dad to enjoy the gardening he adores.

“It’s not encroaching on anything and was only going to be a temporary measure for as long as they needed it,” she added.

“The nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away, you can’t see it from anywhere and everyone around here has been very supportive, they can’t see what the fuss is about.”

The family plan to appeal against the decision but do not know what will happen if they are unsuccessful.

North Devon Council planning manager Mike Kelly said:

“We fully understand circumstances such as those raised with the application in question and in recognition of this we have a ‘dependent relatives’ policy.

“In this case, however, there were no discussions beforehand and we were faced with a retrospective application for effectively a new dwelling and garden in the open countryside which was contrary to the policy framework that guides decision-making.”

Mr Kelly said the council was willing to discuss other options with the applicants and their agents in recognition of their needs.

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