Fenland Council under fire from Wisbech smallholder for agriculture condition “double standards”

A RETIRED Wisbech smallholder who has been trying to lift the agricultural occupancy condition on his home for 15 years accused planners of having “double standards” on the issue.

Vic Britain, 74, has wanted to lift the restriction on his bungalow and five acres of land in New Bridge Lane since 1993, allowing him to sell up and retire.

But when he made an application, which cost around �1,000 including agent’s fees, to remove it to Fenland District Council in 2005, they merely updated the existing restriction.

A spokesman for Fenland District Council said Mr Britain’s application did not meet planning policy requirements “which state clearly not only that the dwelling in question must be surplus to the management of the enterprise but also that attempts have been made to market it for a minimum of 12 months”.

The spokesman added: “There is no question of double standards being applied. Individual applications are determined on their own merits and there is a right of appeal against refusals. Mr Britain did not choose to exercise that right at the time.”

Mr Britain spoke of his alarm after reading in last week’s Wisbech Standard that ex-Fenland councillor Pop Jolley had successfully applied to have an agricultural condition on his luxury home lifted.

“The day I saw that in the paper I was a bit peeved,” said Mr Britain. “I think the council applies double standards.”

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Mr Jolley’s successful application boosted the value of his four-bedroom home, complete with 43 acres of land, by up to �135,000 after the council deemed there was no “justifiable reason” not to remove the condition.

Mr Britain, who has lived in his bungalow with his wife for more than 20 years, said: “I and a lot more people in this area know full well that farmers don’t build mansions for workers to live in.

“If 45 acres didn’t justify keeping the restriction then why do my five acres still need it?

“I believe the way that my wife and I have been treated is nothing but blatant discrimination. To impose this condition is to render our home to the price of a heap of brick rubble.

“They have tied me up in a knot and now I’m stuck. The attitude of the council has been atrocious. They haven’t treated us right. I reckon they have a black book there and I’m in it.”

The council spokesman said in the case of Mr Jolley: “Our evaluation showed evidence of marketing over a sustained period at a price reflecting the occupancy condition that had been imposed.”

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