A COUPLE who moved to Highampton to run a sustainable farm have abandoned their dream after falling foul of planners.

David Lines and Carolyn McAllister wanted to move off grid and lead a sustainable lifestyle on their smallholding at Highampton but did not have permission to live there.

They have now put the land up for sale and are looking for a new home for themselves, their 150 free range chickens, 74 sheep, two pigs, goats, ducks and dogs, after being taken to court for breaking planning rules.

They never had planning permission for the static mobile home where they lived at Hazelnut Farm and broke the law by staying there after they were served with an enforcement notice.

Lines, aged 49, admitted failing to comply with the notice and was fined £4,000 with £5,175 costs by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court. McAllister, also aged 49, denied the same offence and the charge against her was not pursued.

The judge told Lines: ‘The rules were perfectly clear. I am sure you were committed to your smallholding venture but the bottom line is that there is nothing special about you. Your life choices do not mean you don’t have to comply with the same rules as everyone else.

‘You seem to have been hanging on and hoping if you spent long enough in defiance of the law, you would engineer a position where you could have obtained planning permission. The bottom line is that you have to find yourself somewhere else to live. You have saved yourself the ordinary costs of living somewhere legitimately.

‘You have left this caravan on land where all your neighbours have had to stare at it week after week.’

Torridge District Council took the case to court after learning that Lines and his partner moved into the caravan at The Retreat a month after buying the land for £80,000 in July 2014. They were refused planning permission and the case went to a series of appeals before an enforcement notice came into force on January 19, 2017. They are still there.

Mr James Taghdissian, defending, said the couple moved to Devon with the intention of living a simple, self sufficient lifestyle, living off the land and making a tiny profit by selling produce.

They put in new fences and were trying to create a sustainable permaculture and made only £2,000 a year, surviving on benefits and a carer’s allowance.

He said: ‘Their plan is now to relocate with their livestock. It is hard enough to find somewhere to rent if you have a dog or a cat, let alone with 150 chickens and 74 sheep.’