Farmers may lose home after planning rule war

Battle: Timothy and Susan Edwards pictured outside Preston Magistrates Court
Battle: Timothy and Susan Edwards pictured outside Preston Magistrates Court
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A couple whose daughter has learning difficulties have told how they may lose their home, farm and livelihoods after unsuccessfully battling planning regulations in court.

Timothy and Susan Edwards fell foul of West Lancashire Council’s planning rules after staff found they were storing trailer caravans on a field at their cattle farm at Bannister House Farm, Marshes Lane, Mere Brow, near Tarleton.

The couple, who have three children, say they rely on the storage business to put a roof over their heads and care for Rebecca, 23, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and epilepsy.

The row over the fate of the caravans has been ongoing since 2003, with the couple claiming they should be permitted to run their business from the site.

The local council served an enforcement notice which has ended in a court case.

They each pleaded guilty at Preston Magistrates Court to two counts of breaching an enforcement notice - and now face hefty fines and a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

Today Mr Edwards, 55, said: “ It only started after we had made an application to do with a fisheries on the site. During a visit they noticed the caravans.

“We rely on the business to pay our mortgage and provide a home for our daughter Rebecca, who cannot live alone.

“It has cost us £20,000 in legal fees so far.

“We don’t make a lot of money from it. We have 2005 plated cars and haven’t had a holiday in eight years.

“Farming is a difficult trade to be in and we are always encouraged to ‘diversify’, but then this is what you get.

Susan, 59, who has lived on the farm for 16 years with her husband and daughter, said: “ We could lose everything.

“We think we are providing the public with a service. We still have 60 caravans there now - you can’t just shift them. Where will they go?”

The couple said they have had up to 150 caravans at one time, but argue the field is screened from view by high trees.

The offences they admit relate to a period between July 2010 and June 2013 when they breached a notice served by West Lancashire Council in January 2009, by using land for the storage, parking and siting of caravans and failing to remove all the caravans, vans and ancillary items and vehicles from the site.

The couple fall to be sentenced at Preston Crown Court on a date to be confirmed.

A spokesman for West Lancashire Council said: “The council doesn’t comment on ongoing court cases.”