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Reprieve for Devon eco home built without planning permission?

Planning inspector's landmark ruling could have implications across the country

A couple who built an ‘eco home’ in Devon without planning permission could be allowed to carry on living there after a planning inspector praised their “passion” for “living with nature”.

Jules Smith, 54, and Matthew Lepley, 34, who previously lived in a tower block in London, bought a 20-acre field in Devon and spent about £20,000 building their home from wooden crates, lorry tires and other unwanted materials.

They built the house themselves – without using power tools – and did not seek planning permission.

However Torridge District Council ordered them to remove the structure from the field in Beaworthy, Devon.

However Gareth Symons, a planning inspector, has now issued a landmark ruling that could have implications across the country if it is adopted elsewhere.

He said that building was in accordance with the new National Planning Policy Framework, which seeks to promote “sustainable development”. He also said tearing down the home could have a “devastating impact” on Ms Smith and Mr Lepley.

“First-hand evidence of this and from everything I heard it would be very difficult to flaw the passion the appellants have to achieve their ‘permaculture’ aim, a key part of which is living with nature on the land,” Mr Symons said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

“I am convinced about the genuineness and commitment of the appellants. They are not individuals who simply wish to have a house in the countryside.”

The couple could now be entitled to seek retrospective planning permission if their smallholding proves financially viable.