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Farmer fights refusal for workers' dwelling on land

By Central Somerset Gazette  |  Posted: September 22, 2012

Farmer Martin Watts (left) with his alpacas and Street parish councillor George Steer

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A Glastonbury farmer has taken an unusual step to fight a planning decision.

Fourth generation farmer Martin Watts has just had his second application for an agricultural workers' dwelling on his land at Chasey's Drove, Glastonbury refused. Mr Watts has 200 dairy cows and 60 sheep. There is no house on his farm and he wants to be able to live there.

Mr Watts said he thought it very unjust that Mendip District Council gave approval for a similar application for an agricultural workers' dwelling within weeks to an applicant at Meare with three alpacas.

Mr Watts, who received the news that his application had been refused again last week, said: "I think the planning decision is very unfair. I was informed by my architect, who hadn't been able to get hold of the case officer at Mendip for over a month. "The council have not followed the proper procedure. If we have to we will go to appeal."

In a bid to get his application approved Mr Watts has just bought ten alpacas, which arrived at the farm on Monday. Mr Watts said: "Well if that's what it takes – if they got approval with three, ten should do it!"

It is nearly two years since Mr Watts made the original planning application for an agricultural workers' dwelling on his land. The latest application was registered on June 26, this year.

At a Mendip Cabinet meeting on Monday, September 10, Malcolm Higgins, who stood for election to his local council in the past, spoke on behalf of his friend Mr Watts and raised concerns about anomalies in the way different planning applications were being handled. He called for scrutiny into the whole procedure of how planning applications were being dealt with by the council.

Mr Higgins said that if a planning application did not hurt anyone and supports a local business it should be supported by the council. Council leader Harvey Siggs said he would pass Mr Higgins' comments over to the portfolio holder for planning Nigel Woollcombe-Adams.

Jennifer Alvis, a spokeswoman for Mendip, said: "Mr Watts' application took slightly longer than the other application referred to, which took eight weeks to decide, because, unlike this other application, Mr Watts' application was not seeking permission for a temporary dwelling. It involved a different type of enterprise and had to be assessed against a previously refused application for an agricultural workers dwelling on the site. Clarification had to be obtained from the Environment Agency during the application process and the application had to be referred to the chair and vice-chair of the planning board for consideration. The local authority approves agricultural workers dwellings for many different types of enterprises, including cattle farms, and as such there is absolutely no discrimination."

Street parish councillor George Steer said: "As a planning board member although I support Mr Watts' application I can't make the decision on it. On the evidence I've seen I would support his application if it were to come back to planning.

"I welcome Mr Watts' bringing alpacas to Glastonbury and showing the foresight to diversify."

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