Round one to the owners in Battle of the Barn

PUBLISHED: 09:39 23 January 2009 | UPDATED: 09:22 13 July 2010

A family fighting to stay in the home they renovated from scratch won an important initial skirmish yesterday, but will have to wait until next month to discover if they will win the bigger battle.

A family fighting to stay in the home they renovated from scratch won an important initial skirmish yesterday, but will have to wait until next month to discover if they will win the bigger battle.

Steve and Lorraine Kinsey's attempt to stay in their dream home, as reported in the EDP on Tuesday, has also prompted an urgent review of North Norfolk District Council's planning policy for barn conversions in the countryside, which was described by one councillor yesterday as “out of step with the rest of Norfolk”.

The Kinseys, who have ploughed almost £500,000 into creating their dream home from a listed former potato store, feared they would be made homeless after their “naïve” view of planning law and their trust in advice from an estate agent and chartered surveyor left them without permission for a permanent home.

Instead White's Farm Barn at Happisburgh, which they have lived in for a year and a half, only has consent to be used as a holiday let, meaning they would have to move out unless they can persuade the council to alter the permission.

Yesterday the east development control committee at North Norfolk District Council heard that the current district wide policy, which prevents residential conversion in certain parts of the countryside, meant the Kinseys should not get permission to stay.

But committee members agreed there may be a possibility of an exception because of personal circumstances and earlier precedents where listed barns have been allowed to become permanent homes, albeit where that permission has been granted before conversion.

Addressing the committee, Mr Kinsey said the family, including two children at home and two older children living away, felt “totally misled” in the advice they had been given by an estate agent, who was also a professional chartered surveyor.

“This is not just a barn conversion, it is our love, our passion and our beautiful home,” added Mr Kinsey.

Several members of the committee said they were left in a difficult position by the situation, having sympathy with the Kinseys as a family settled into a community, but also fearing setting a precedent by going against policy.

Sue Arnold said there were many similar situations in north Norfolk where people were living in houses which only had holiday let permission and where the issue only came up when those properties were put up for sale.

Peter Wilcox said the rule in question - Policy 29, which deals with the 'reuse and adaptation of buildings in the countryside' - was “out of date”.

“It needs to be reviewed as soon as possible,” said Mr Wilcox, “it is out of step with the rest of Norfolk.

“What a minefield this policy is, I would like to see it blown out of the water.”

The committee decided to support the Kinseys by a vote of six to none. Because it is contrary to policy, the case will be further considered by the joint development control committee on February 19.

After the case, Mr Kinsey said he was delighted at how the meeting went and hoped for further support when it was discussed again.

A separate vote was taken asking the council's local development framework working party to review Policy 29 “urgently”.

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