A COUPLE who want to produce rare meats, elephant garlic and mushrooms on agricultural land near Fordingbridge are launching an appeal to the secretary of state after being refused permission to live there for three years.

Sophia Fletcher and Nick Crowe have been allowed to keep their access into Puddleslosh Lane, but were denied permission to stay on site in a mobile home, pictured.

Their application to live on the rural spot prompted scores of protests from residents, who said it could open up the floodgates to anyone wanting to live on agricultural land.

The pair are keeping goats, chickens and quail at the site, and have moved containers there to house the operation. Once the elephant garlic has been harvested they also intend to grow Christmas trees.

The local community has broadly supported their farming activities. However they saw red when a large mobile home was moved onto the site in February, and the hardstanding area and new access was installed without planning permission.

A temporary stop notice, a subsequent stop notice and two enforcement notices were issued over the hardstanding and the mobile home, but the pair appealed.

Councillors on New Forest District Council’s planning committee heard there was little evidence such an operation could be a commercial success.

But they voted to allow the couple, who call their business C&F Gourmet Foods, to retain their access, hardstanding and turning area at Sequoia Farm.

Miss Fletcher told the Journal: “Agricultural land that is free from constraints is relatively rare in the New Forest – if it is not National Park, it may be in the green belt or an area of outstanding natural beauty – so I was delighted to find Sequoia Farm to set up my new gourmet food enterprise.

“My background research suggested the district council was committed to the encouragement of new agricultural enterprises and the dwellings needed to serve them but I have been sadly disappointed by the way that I have been treated at Puddleslosh Lane.

“If I cannot get a three-year consent to help establish my business in this part of the district, heaven help other young farmers who may seek to set up in much more sensitive locations.

“My planning consultant believes the council has behaved unreasonably in withholding temporary consent for a mobile home on this land, so I have instructed him to take the matter to the Secretary of State, to get a more balanced judgement.”

Martine Browne, who lives near the site, said: “I support any agricultural use of the land. However, this does not give anyone the automatic right to live on the land.

“This couple were wholeheartedly supported by Marl Lane residents when they first moved their business onto the land, until the mobile home was moved in, and since then it seems that at every turn they are flouting the planning laws and relying on retrospective planning applications, rather than applying for permission before the event, like most law abiding citizens would do.”