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PLANNERS have to decide whether to allow a timber cabin home in a field north of York – after it has already been built.

Lena Banks has just applied to Ryedale District Council for retrospective planning permission for three years for the two-bedroom property on land near Sheriff Hutton.

Speaking on her behalf, town planning consultant Marc Willis said she was setting up a business breeding falabellas – miniature horses – there and it was essential for her to be able to live on site to deal with foaling and also for security reasons, because they were very valuable creatures.

He said that to receive planning permission, she needed to establish her home was needed for a viable agricultural business, but she could not set up the business without already living on site. This explained why she had built the home and then applied for permission afterwards.

But neighbour Marcus Oxendale has said the property was in a field in the green belt and should be refused permission.

He also said it was vital local authorities did not look more favourably on a retrospective application than a normal one, simply because it might cost money to take enforcement action to get the development removed.

Julie Hepworth, chairwoman of the Ryedale branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said she was concerned that a “planning free-for-all” could develop if homes were built first and then planning consent sought afterwards, and added the CPRE was opposed to developments which could blight the countryside.

Gary Housden, Ryedale council’s head of planning and housing, said the authority had launched an investigation after receiving a complaint of an unauthorised development.

He said a retrospective application had subsequently been submitted, which would be considered on its planning merits in the same way as any other application. He stressed that it would not be treated any more or less favourably than a normal application just because it was retrospective.

He said building without permission was not that unusual and was not a criminal offence but, if permission was refused, enforcement action would be recommended for the removal of the unauthorised development.

The costs of this removal would ultimately be borne by the applicant, he added.