Tuesday 23 July 2024
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Alpaca farmer allowed to build home on farm and expand to more than 130 alpacas

The owner of an Ashfield alpaca farm will be allowed to build a house and live there full-time after councillors approved the plans for it.

Debbie Roe runs Felley Alpacas, on Felley Mill Lane South, Underwood, and has been expanding her business since the pandemic.

She had applied to Ashfield District Council to build a house on her farm so she can tend to her animals on-site 24 hours a day.

The farm is currently used to house 71 animals across 23 acres of countryside, including sheep, alpacas and llamas.

Horses, chickens and ducks are also kept on the land.

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However, she says there are plans in place to expand to more than 130 alpacas, run education courses and also employ local people on the farm.

In planning documents, she asked the authority to let her build a one-and-a-half-storey, two-bedroom home on the land to help her grow the business.

Documents show the home would have a kitchen, dining room, lounge and utility room on the ground floor.

Both bedrooms and a bathroom would be created within the roof area of the building.

However, the authority’s planning department had recommended refusal for the application over the potential impact it could have on the greenbelt.

This was without special circumstances being demonstrated, with the authority asking her to submit business accounts so she can “demonstrate the essential need to live on-site permanently”.

If she could prove the home is needed to improve the business, it may give the plans more weight when attempting to build on the countryside.

But, in papers, council officers said this documentation indicated the plans were “premature”.

They said the “enterprise fails to provide a reasonable return on labour and therefore is considered not to be financially viable”.

This, the council adds, is because the current “predominant income” for the business is alpaca trekking rather than breeding.

‘Alpaca trekking’ involves the public can visiting the farm to learn about the animal.

However, when councillors debated the plans on Wednesday (December 14), Ms Roe spoke during the meeting to explain how the home would help.

She said she has plans to expand the business and has been finding ways to develop it for the past three years.

She told the meeting: “The Alpaca Society and DEFRA all recommend, without exception, that with the number of alpacas I own, I should live on-site to be within sight and sound and prevent any fatalities.

“I pride myself on having a 100 per cent birthing and survival rate by following expert methods.

“Even with the challenges of Covid, my business has gone from strength to strength and I have earned within excess of an agricultural wage.

“I am in negotiations with a local alternative education provider to offer sessions for the most vulnerable and deprived young people.

“In the future, it’s my aspiration to employ local people as farmworkers through apprenticeships and beyond.

“There will be minimal impact by the build of the house.”

Councillors agreed with her points and felt it was unfair to turn down the plans.

Six members voted in favour of granting permission for the home and one councillor abstained.

Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the authority’s leader, said: “Businesses getting through Covid should be celebrated for surviving, however, they do it.

“I have just shy of one acre, two dogs and half a dozen chickens and geese, and I have to be there – they drive me nuts.

“I don’t know how you could possibly do this job without being there and it strikes me as a no-brainer.

“It’s clearly an evolving business where someone is trying to be on-site managing animals. None of us are experts in these animals.”

Ms Roe will now be allowed to build the home, but planning conditions will be placed on it so it can only be used by agricultural workers and their families.

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