'House in barn' must be demolished, inspector rules
A couple who built a £500,000 house disguised as a barn on green belt land have been ordered to pull it down.
Alan and Sarah Beesley won permission to build a hay barn at Northaw, near Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, but fitted it out as a home and moved in.
Four years later they applied for permission to use the building as a home but this was denied, sparking a long-running legal battle.
Now the Planning Inspectorate has ruled the barn should be demolished.
Mr Beasley said his family moved out of the house and started to "strip it down" last summer.
"It is one of those things," he said. "Life is too short to be bitter, you just have to move on."
The decision follows a long-running legal battle with Welwyn Hatfield Council.
In 2010, the Court of Appeal ruled Mr and Mrs Beesley could continue living in the house.
But the following year the Supreme Court overturned that judgement, criticising Mr Beesley's "dishonest" conduct.
Welwyn Hatfield Council subsequently issued three enforcement notices, which Mr Beesley appealed against.
Mr Beesley bought 22 acres (9ha) of open green belt land at Northaw in 1999, and was later granted planning permission for a hay barn.
In 2002 the barn was built, but was fitted out as a luxury house complete with three bedrooms, bathrooms. study, living room, garage and gym.
The couple and their family moved there in August 2002 and in August 2006 applied for permission to use the building as a house.
The council refused, sparking a dispute which went to the Supreme Court in 2011 when seven judges ruled the family had to leave the house.
The council subsequently issued three enforcement notices, which Mr Beesley appealed against.
But planning inspector Diane Lewis found in the council's favour, ordering that the barn and the accommodation inside be demolished and the area landscaped.
A spokesman for Welwyn Hatfield Council said: "The council welcomes the appeal decision on the 'house in a barn'.
"We feel the decision is the right one, confirming the council's commitment to the enforcement of breaches of planning control."
The barn has to be demolished by 27 November, the council said.