A pensioner could be made homeless as council bosses ordered the demolition of her luxury log cabin, where she has lived for the last seven years.
Brigid Eakins used £59,000 of her life savings to build her eco-home in Worcestershire back in 2014 but she could be forced to live on the streets as town hall chiefs have demanded that she tear it down.
The 66-year-old applied for planning permission ahead of building the cabin, which is constructed from natural materials, but she was told she didn’t need permission because there was already a mobile home on the site, in the hamlet of St Michaels near Tenbury Wells.
But Herefordshire County Council has since performed a U-turn and told the mum-of-three the wooden structure is unauthorised and in breach of planning regulations.
The local authority has now ordered the divorced languages teacher to knock down her home by January next year following just four complaints from neighbours.
They say the building at Redwood Orchard goes beyond what was originally approved – but Brigid claims she has stuck exactly to the original plans.
She estimates the council has spent at least £75,000 of taxpayers’ cash on the bitter dispute over a property which cost just £59,000 to build.
Brigid, who is also a Cambridge University examiner, has also been forced to fork out over £100,000 on legal fees during the battle to save her home.
Brigid lives off-grid at the 90ft x 50ft open-plan eco cabin which uses a generator and inverter to make her own electricity for heating and Wifi.
She also treats her own waste water from the toilet with a septic tank and is surrounded by hundreds of trees which she planted herself.
Brigid said: “I’ve put everything into this house and now I’m facing homelessness. That’s how draconian and inhumane they are.
“I’ll be out on the street in the middle of winter. How can they force someone like me who has lived here seven years onto the street?
“I’m very frightened and not looking forward to Christmas because knowing you have got to get out five minutes after Christmas is not very nice.
“It’s just awful to think about.
“I thought I had permission to build the cabin, I did build it and then it all kicked off.
“All this is going to waste, which is a climate change nightmare, it is all going to be trashed.”
Brigid says she was given a decision notice by the council saying she could replace the mobile home with a log cabin in January 2014.
But they later issued an enforcement notice then an appeal was dismissed by the planning inspectorate and a subsequent judicial review was also rejected.
She added: “I have lived in the village for 35 years.
“I was in the mobile home for two years and and ran a language school over the road teaching English as foreign language for 30 years.
“Then I had an acrimonious divorce and I didn’t have anywhere else to live.
“At the time, I described it as a log cabin to make sure they knew it was a wooden structure and not anything metal.
“I said I just wanted to replace the existing mobile home where I had been living for two years which had a certificate of lawfulness.
“I was given this formal legal document dated January 23, 2014 that said ‘application not required’.
“I built it exactly the same as it looks in the plans I submitted in 2013. It is absolutely identical.
“Then they went to a public enquiry in 2016 after I had been living in it for two years. I just don’t know why they decided that.
“Originally there were four complainants over the course of application. Two of them aggressively asked to buy the land from me.
“One of the original complainants withdrew his complaint and we are now good friends and the other one lives a mile away.
“They council are treating me as collateral damage to cover up their mistakes in issuing an unlawful document.
“They refuse to admit that all of this is their fault, they shouldn’t have said I could build in the first place.
“They are asking me to demolish my home to cover up their mistakes.
“They council have said there were several complaints but in fact there were four and they have failed to mention there were dozens of letters of support.”
Brigid says she has tried to readjust the application to suit the local authority but they had failed to even respond to her most recent application last year.
She added: “I have begged the council for assistance but they have never replied to my requests.
“They have never discussed any of this with me in plain English for the past seven years.
“I don’t want to say how much I’ve spent on legal fees because I’m embarrassed but they run to six figures.
“I think they must’ve spent more than £75,000 of taxpayers money fighting me and I have paid council tax since 2013.
“I make no noise and have no objectors since 2013. The cabin is not overlooked by anyone in this very small hamlet.
“I will be forced to sell the land but to sell the land with a toxic enforcement notice on it will only be good for agricultural land.
“And then if you put cattle and sheep on it they will eat all the trees like walnuts and birches I’ve put in.
“Having spent my life savings, having been and still being on a raft of medication, I am less than a year away from being made homeless.”
The house itself cost £59,000 to build while the landscaping to make the land level cost a further several thousand pounds.
A well, generator, an oil tank to run it and a septic tank also cost a further five thousand pounds.
She added: “I have owned this piece of land for 35 years and this is a really nice bungalow.
“They could get a lot of kudos for allowing someone to do something as green on their own land.
“We are all being told to be green but I’m not being allowed to build a small eco-friendly cabin on my own land.
“It may well be too late for me but I want people to know what this council is capable of.”
Brigid said her local Conservative MP for Leominster Bill Wiggin has also been sympathetic to her case.
She added: “He has written to the council and has said he’ll do what he can for me because he agrees the house is identical to the plans.
“If the council has its way, I will have to demolish my home otherwise they will prosecute me for a criminal offence.”
A Herefordshire County Council spokesperson said: “The council has a responsibility to follow the adopted development plan and national planning policy aimed at promoting sustainable development in rural areas, and this has remained consistent throughout.
“The structure built in this location far exceeds the scope of the original plans, and has prompted several complaints from the local community.
“The council issued an enforcement notice for the unauthorised development.
“An appeal was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate and a subsequent Judicial Review was also refused at permission stage.
“The site should have been cleared by August 2019, but due to the pandemic the council extended the time period for compliance until January 2022.
“We would remind all applicants that they build strictly to the approved plans and notify the council should they wish to make changes before undertaking development.”