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Father writes in support of 'off-grid' family facing eviction from their own land

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: July 12, 2011

  • Dinah and Stig Mason with sons Yosse, 8, and Dahli, 9, and Moo the dog at their lorry home MARCUS THOMPSON EXMT20110614F-003_C

  • Dinah and Stig Mason at their smallholding

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The father of a man whose family is fighting to remain on land in Willand says it is time Mid Devon District Council showed flexibility and left them to get on with their lives.

Brian Mason has written to Cllr Peter Hare-Scott, the authority's leader, in support of Stig and Dinah who want to live a carbon neutral lifestyle at Muxbeare Orchard.

The couple, now living in a tent away from the site, have transformed what was a neglected, overgrown four-acre plot into a smallholding boasting chickens, a 400 sq m allotment and an orchard since 2009.

But the couple, who have two young boys, Dali and Yosse, face eviction as planners say the site is solely for agricultural use and they are not permitted to live there in a converted horsebox.

Brian, an area highway manager for Hertfordshire County Council, who supports legislation that prevents unlawful development, said: "However, there comes a time when a piece of land that has lain neglect for many, many years on the very edge of the community, can be put to some good use and provide a loving home for a family who are desperately trying to avoid the poverty trap and dependency on the state."

Stig and Dinah, 34 and 35 respectively, lost an appeal against the council's refusal to allow them to live on and work the land a year ago.

They are now in the process of appealing a rejected planning application to build a "low impact" dwelling made mostly from organic materials on the site.

Brian said a barn, situated adjacent to their Bedford truck home, has had its roof re-laid and is now used as a watertight storage area for produce and wood used for heating. Electricity is supplied by solar panels and a small turbine but the site is connected to mains water.

Brian added: "It is now time that the council used a bit of flexibility and allowed them to get on with their chosen life, which includes their involvement with the community.

"My son works the land with his family and takes care of their accommodation, cooking, getting the children to school, while his wife works as a carer in the community. This way, he releases the job he could have to somebody else in the area. The alternative is to be a burden on society, costing all of us more in taxes."

An injunction to leave the land within 28 days from June 1 was served by a County Court judge and the council says Stig and Dinah are not permitted to live on the land but they can continue to take a crop.

A planning inspector supports their eviction and dismissed Stig and Dinah's appeal.

A spokesman for the council said: "We will continue to seek to uphold the resolution of the planning committee to stop the breach of planning control.

"I can confirm that a planning enforcement officer made a visit to the site on Monday, July 4, but I am not prepared at this stage to give any further details about what further action the council may take."

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  • sijoh  |  October 07 2013, 1:55PM

    I wish Stig & Dinah the best of luck with their right to live on their smallholding. The irony is that if they proved it was a viable agricultural or horticultural business, they would get permission to live on the land. What is the difference? My view on cases like this is that each case should be assessed individually, & planning permission granted to a named person. When that person ceases to live on the property, it has to revert to undeveloped land. This stops speculative building as the ground can only have the value of agricultural land. I have seen mobile home parks come & go & the land revert as if the park had never been there. Once a house or a housing estate go up, the change of use and the change to the countryside is forever.

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  • Colin Jones Website Design  |  July 15 2011, 6:51PM

    From what I can see on the Google satellite image, the orchard abuts a substantial looking property with several vehicles and a swimming pool. It's not like they are taking over an open field in the countryside with noone living nearby. They are a few metres from the M5 and a couple of hundred from an industrial estate - hardly an area not previously destroyed by progress. I say let them live on and improve their small piece of England and wish them all the best with it.

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  • LEPRACHAUN7  |  July 12 2011, 8:34PM

    The countryside is not for peasants.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  July 12 2011, 12:40PM

    I hope Brian has some luck with this one, as the planning department at Mid Devon District council are a law unto themselves. They have recently allowed a caravan, to be placed on a farm in the middle of open countryside, where the son of the farmer is supposed to be working full time. This is not the case, however,as the son works for other farmers from his own living accommodation which comes in the catchment area of Exeter which is some 20 miles away. The son is only ever at his father's farm Friday/Saturday afternoon. It is not what you know but who you know!!! as the MDDC were informed about this but chose to ignore the information? GOOD LUCK.

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