Couple who spent £22,000 on garden forced to return it to a WASTELAND

Couple who spent £22,000 renovating their overgrown garden are forced to return it to a WASTELAND after failing to get planning permission

  • Adam and Barbara Keatinge spent £22,000 enhancing their large garden 
  • After parting with the sum of money they were unaware of planning permission
  • West Lothian Council said they had broken rules and should return it back to its original wasteland state 

A couple who used their life savings to transform wasteland into a garden have been ordered to return it to its original condition.

Adam and Barbara Keatinge spent £22,000 on the land next to their house and set about transforming it into a private area for their family to enjoy.

The couple, who have lived in the detached property in Livingston, West Lothian, for eight years, erected a fence and landscaped the garden.

They paid £22,000 for the plot in February last year believing they would not need planning permission for any work.

But they were left stunned when West Lothian Council said they had broken rules and should return it back to its original wasteland state.

Adam and Barbara Keatinge spent £22,000 on the land next to their house and set about transforming it into a private area for their family to enjoy

But a lack of planning permission meant they had to completely un-do all of the hard work

The devastated couple appealed the decision to the Scottish Government in a bid to save their project.

But they have now lost that fight after officials sided with the council and set a three month deadline for work to be completed.

Mr Keatinge, a linen firm manager, had pleaded for the order to be lifted and said the situation had placed him and his teacher wife under ‘considerable strain’.

He said: ‘Our solicitor informed us that they had dealt with the sale of two of the adjoining plots at the top of our estate that had been converted into extended gardens and that as our change of land use was the same then planning permission should not be required.

‘We invested a significant amount of money into the purchasing of the land and associated fees.

‘A further investment was the erecting of the fence and the landscaping of the ground within to turn the land into a usable private garden space.

‘In total with the purchasing of the land and the further landscaping and planning application fees, we have invested all of our savings, £22,000, into this plot of land.

Scottish government officials sided with the council and set a three month deadline for work to be completed – the couple now have three months to remove the fence, reinstall the original fence and return the land to its original condition

‘We are a young family of six and this investment was made, not for any financial gain, but in the best interest of the needs of our developing family.

‘Obviously we are now seriously concerned that this application will not be approved and the worry of losing our hard savings has put our mental health and relationship under considerable strain.’

Mr Keatinge added: ‘We have found the whole episode very exhausting.

‘Considering a supermarket have just bought and built on one of the so called public open spaces just down the road from us.

‘It seems to us that it is one rule for those that don’t, and another rule for those that do.

‘We now have three months to remove the fence, reinstall the original fence and return the land to its original condition.

‘It has cost us a lot of money and time for a strip of land that is 200 square metres of waste land and being used as a dumping ground.’

In their notice to the couple, West Lothian Council said: ‘The change of use and erection of the fence is not supported and was refused planning permission due to the impact on the integrity of the open space/woodland.’

West Lothian Council said they had broken rules and should return it back to its original wasteland state

Government reporter Sue Bell issued a written ruling detailing her reasons for backing the council.

She said: ‘I note the measures the appellant states they took to investigate the planning requirements for the land, including discussions with other homeowners who had undertaken similar works and a solicitor.

‘Nevertheless, it is the planning authority who is best placed to comment on the circumstances in which planning permission will be required.

‘They ordered the couple to remove the fence, reinstate the original boundary and return the land to its original use and condition.

‘I have not been provided with any evidence that the appellant held discussions with the authority about the planning requirements, prior to erecting the fence.

‘Since purchase of the land, the appellant has sought and had refused, planning permission to change the use of the land to garden ground. Therefore, he should be in no doubt that his use of the land as private garden ground does not benefit from planning permission.

‘I note the financial investment that the appellant has made in purchasing and enclosing the land and the different financial circumstances in which he now finds himself. However, that does not justify an ongoing unauthorised development.’

Mr and Mrs Keatinge now have three months to complete the work.

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