Anxious wait for barn home family
A family at the centre of a barn conversion planning row face an 18-month wait to find out if they can keep their dream home.Steve and Lorraine Kinsey spent �500,000 buying and renovating a showpiece barn neighbour Happisburgh - a DIY project charted and watched by millions of TV viewers on Channel 5's Build a New Life in the Country reality show.
A family at the centre of a barn conversion planning row face an 18-month wait to find out if they can keep their dream home.
Steve and Lorraine Kinsey spent �500,000 buying and renovating a showpiece barn neighbour Happisburgh - a DIY project charted and watched by millions of TV viewers on Channel 5's Build a New Life in the Country reality show.
But they have fallen foul of planning rules which say remote barns should only be used for holiday homes rather than permanent housing.
Despite earning the sympathy of councillors the couple were today refused permission to make the barn residential, but were offered the olive branch of an 18-month delay before enforcement action is taken against them - while a review of the controversial policy is urgently carried out.
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After the decision, which reduced Mrs Kinsey to tears, she said: 'It was a huge shock and I was upset. But we are being positive about it. Things could have been worse and we have got 18 months while the policy is reviewed.'
The Kinseys bought the barn for �136,000 in 2004 - but with a planning permission for holiday accommodation only - after being advised, verbally rather than in writing, by an estate agent there would be no problem in changing it to a full time home.
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After spending a fortune on conversion they move in during July 2007 - then applied to get the holiday-only condition lifted. North Norfolk District Council's east area development committee backed the move, but because it went against policy the final decision rested with a joint committee, which took a different view.
It voted 14-3 to refuse the permission, while supporting an urgent review of the policy and delaying enforcement action for 18 months.
During an hour long debate members heard that Mr Kinsey was regarded as a key worker, as a member of the local lifeboat crew, and that there had been 20 letters supporting the couple, whose 10-year-old son is settled at the local school.
But former local councillor Sue Willis warned the meeting that allowing the switch would result in a flood of other applications from barn owners - and that any policy change should be done through the review rather than 'on the run' with a single application, even though it was a 'very sad story.'
Cath Wilkins said there were 600 other barns with holiday restrictions in the district, and other families in similar circumstances, so the council needed to be consistent and look at the policy issue through the review.
The council is hiring extra staff to do it quickly and a public consultation on proposed changes likely in September.
Various councillors said the Kinseys had been na�ve in accepting the verbal advice about planning. Peter Willcox said he was sorry for the couple who were 'fall guys' and urged the public to play their part in the review of a policy to make it 'suitable for this century ' when there was a shortage of housing and demand from people wanting to live in the countryside.
Mr Kinsey told the committee the family moved to Happisburgh from Stoke having fallen in love with the place and the property. 'We felt we could achieve a dream home and would not have bought it if we felt it would jeopardise the family.'