A GUESTHOUSE owner has started a petition against a government policy after claiming a planning decision forced her and her husband out of retirement.
Anne and David Strobel own the Cleeve House Hotel in Mortehoe, which they have run together for 17 years.
But the pair, who are in their sixties, decided two years ago it was time to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
They enlisted the help of a North Devon Council planning officer in 2011 to discuss splitting their guesthouse into three dwellings – one for themselves, one to rent as holiday accommodation and one to sell to cover the cost of the development.
Anne said: “We were over the moon with the plans as it meant we could stay in our beloved home. We spent almost £5,000 getting the plans ready.”
But when the pair submitted their plans to the council last year, they were told they would have to provide one of the three dwellings as an affordable home, losing them £180,000.
Anne said: “If the plans were for a plot in other areas of Devon, we would not have to lose the money, it is unfair to people who have worked hard all their lives.”
She added that the process has caused them the maximum damage possible.
“We wrote to all of our guests to tell them we were retiring, and now we have had to un-retire and have lost two years of goodwill.
“I don’t understand why we weren’t told about it before submitting the plans.”
The pair have since appealed against the council’s decision, but it was denied.
Mike Kelly, from the council’s planning department, said: “All applications received by the council are determined against the same set of policies. The applicant appealed against the council decision to the Planning Inspectorate and the appeal decision confirmed the council’s view that a contribution towards affordable housing should have formed part of the application.
“Council officers are always happy to meet applicants to discuss their application.”
Anne has now set up a petition against the policy, which received more than 100 signatures in its first week.
To sign Anne’s petition, or read more on her story visit www.cleevehouse.co.uk.
What is the affordable homes scheme?
Affordable Homes are part of a Government scheme to help first time buyers attain an affordable mortgage on new build properties in their desired areas.
According to the planning inspectorate, in all areas of North Devon other than Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, South Molton and Braunton, any site capable of delivering more than one dwelling would be required to provide an affordable home.
The policy (HSG7) explains this is because of the limited opportunity in rural areas to provide affordable housing where there is often high demand.
Alternatively, the developer would be required to make a financial contribution towards another development.
All planning applications are currently determined against the policy as set out in the North Devon Local Plan adopted by the council in 2006.
The council are currently working on a new draft Local Plan, and all policies, including HSG7 are out for public consultation.
North Devon Council encourage members of the public to provide their comments and opinions all draft policies.