'Loophole' copse house in Westcott ruled lawful

A family who built a wooden house in a Surrey copse have said they are "grateful" after being given official permission to stay there.

Horse trainer Daniel Brown, his wife Jessica and their three children have lived in the secluded house, off Logmore Lane, Westcott, since 2007.

Mole Valley council has granted a Certificate of Lawful Use because they have been there more than four years.

"Some people might call it a loophole but it is the law," said Mr Brown.

He said he bought the greenbelt land to keep and train horses 18 years ago and decided to build the house when rents in the area became too high.

"The job I do does not have a big income and we just wanted to stay in the area," he said.

The council was unaware of the existence of the house, which has plumbing and electricity, although post was delivered and the children attended school locally.

The family never applied for planning permission, but sought the certificate of lawful use last year.

"We have not led a hidden life - we do the school run and everything that any other family does," said Mr Brown.

"We have done something that is according to the law. I did know the loophole existed, but I didn't know we would get this far."

The council received 10 letters of support for the family and 10 from local residents objecting.

Objectors said granting the certificate would unfairly set a "dangerous precedent" because the house flouted planning and building regulations.

Councillor Simon Ling said the council was advised by its legal team to grant the certificate.

"Mr Brown produced evidence of having lived in it for four years in a completed state and we could not prove he had concealed it."

He said it was an unusual case and not likely to start a house-building free-for all.

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