Couple must demolish house that's just 18 inches too wide

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A couple in Norfolk have lost an eight-year battle to keep their home. They have been at loggerheads with the council since they moved onto a field in 2006. They ignored a ban against building on the site and went through the courts for five years until they got permission to keep two mobile homes there.

However, when they put the homes in - linked them to form a single large property, and built a conservatory - they overstepped the maximum width allowed. Now a court has ruled that the home should be torn down.

According to the Daily Mail Rodney Wilson (70) and his partner Pat Wenn (75) went to court twice in order to be granted permission to build on the site in Walsoke, Norfolk. They were eventually granted permission because Wildon's nomadic existence before moving onto the land qualified him as a gypsy, which meant he could build a 'mobile home for persons of gypsy status'.

However, after building an enormous £250,000 property from two static caravans and a conservatory, they found themselves facing the ire of the council again. They argued that the mobile units are allowed to be a maximum of 22 feet and 3 inches wide each. The couple's were 24 feet wide. In 2012 the council voted for 'direction action' to remove the property.

The couple appealed the decision all the way to the High Court, but at that stage the judge lifted the original 2006 injunction which stopped the council from demolishing the property.

The Fenland Citizen reported that the council ruled this week that: "Implementation and execution of direct action to comply with part of the enforcement notice, the removal of the unauthorised park home, will now be carried out to remedy the ongoing breach of planning control." In other words, they will tear the property down.

High price

They are not the first couple to find that playing fast and loose with planning regulations comes with a very high price.

Sometimes the owners take real liberties. When Syed Raza Shah, a beauty salon owner from Barton-le-Clay in Bedfordshire got permission to extend his bungalow in 2011, he built a seven bedroom mansion three times the size of the home he had permission for - complete with two extra stories and a turret. Last year the council ordered that the £2 million home should be demolished.

In February 2013, farmer Robert Fidler was ordered to demolish his home. He had built a mock castle in 2001 and kept it hidden behind a haystack until 2006. His cunning plan was to exploit a rule which means that if no-one complains about a property for four years, planners can't subsequently take action. However, when he applied for retrospective permission the council refused, and after a six year legal battle, the courts ruled the home had to be demolished.

However, on other occasions, breaches of regulations seem to be enforced regardless of whether they are really causing any harm. Last month we reported on the case of the retired police detective who had renovated a dilapidated listed property in a National Park, but hit problems with the staircase. The original fell apart when the couple started work, so he replaced the staircase with a different style - twisting in the opposite direction. The couple fought for 16 years to be allowed to keep it, and eventually had to put the house on the market to pay their legal bills.

In October last year it was the turn of Daniel and Lorna Newman, who had set up home in a tiny wooden cabin on a smallholding. Over 1,000 local people signed a petition urging the council to let the couple stay in their eco-home, but they were ordered to demolish the sheds.