A COUPLE in Mid Devon have been given permission to live in a field for three years with their 30 alpacas.
Despite objection from neighbours, the district council is metaphorically allowing them to bed down with the camelids while the pair build up their rural business near Tiverton.
Mr and Mrs J Holland applied to the council for a temporary rural workers’ caravan at Park Meadow, Pennymoor, as their breeding alpacas need constant monitoring.
They have been keeping alpacas since 2005 as a hobby business at their home in Gloucestershire, and now want to expand it to a commercial level in Devon, planners were told.
But 20 local residents and Cruwys Morchard Bishop Parish Council aren’t happy. They say the 11 acre site is too small for livestock and doesn’t warrant a dwelling.
They claim the entrance to the land is a very narrow lane and the proposal would mean larger vehicles coming in and out.
They fear the agricultural building will be a “significant visual intrusion” into the countryside.
Councillors on the planning committee were also concerned that proposed animal husbandry courses, which the owners say would be limited to four a year with four to six people particiapnts, and camping on site, could grow into a bigger business in future.
Cllr Rachel Gilmour (Lib Dem, Clare and Shuttern) said: “The last thing we want is a tourist destination that is being presented to us as an agricultural business.”
Cllr Frank Letch (Lib Dem, Crediton Lawrence) said he understood that alpacas were “robust” little things in which day-to-day rearing was not much of a problem, but officers said they often need human intervention when giving birth. Artificial rearing is common and the the process of getting alpacas to mate has to be managed.
The applicant, Mr Holland, said the plans were revised because of local concerns and a barn’s heigh had been reduced from eight metres to 4.5 metres.
Moreover, rooftop solar panels would instead be ground mounted and they would add trees and hedgerows, wild areas and bat and owl boxes to increase biodiversity.
“The increase in traffic will be very minimal,” he said. “By living on the site it means we do not have to move to and fro as often. We have been going there two or three times a day to keep an eye on them.”
He said he had secured land to rent some three miles away for non-breeding alpacas to overcome fears that the site wasn’t big enough.
Cllr Polly Colthorpe (Con, Way) said she had called the application to committee because it was “very contentious” and work had already started on site which had “raised eyebrows” locally.
She said one concern was highway safety arising from the reopening of an historical access onto the B3127 which the owners had done to get a caravan onto the land.
Officers, who recommended the plan for approval, said this access had since been closed up and a planning condition would be that it could not used with the enterprise.
The committee voted by five votes to four with one abstention to support the proposal.
Mr and Mrs Holland will be asked remove the temporary caravan and reinstate the land after three years or can apply for a permanent dwelling if they have been able to demonstrate that the enterprise has been successful.