British family outwits the planners

Not exactly spoiling the area

A family in England who built a home in the woods without planning permission which remained undetected for four years have won the right to stay there. . As a result they were able to avoid zoning laws (planing regulations) which prevented them from living there had the local Board (council) found out about it.

DailyMail.co.uk is running a story about Daniel and Jessica Brown, together with their three children, have been living in the house concealed behind the trees near the village of Westcott, Surrey, without the authorities knowing.

I is a case study in successful evasion of the restrictions on building homes in remote rural locations, which would-be off-gridders should study carefully, and apply in ways that suit themselves. But there is also a downside. The Mail story dwells on the fury of local residents who had been befriended by the Brown family.

They felt betrayed and misled by the family who pretended they lived elsewhere for four years.  In the UK local residents who are often hoodwinked by incoming off-grid communities.  The incomers have little choice. If they were open and honest about their intentions they would quickly be thrown off the land.


But Mail readers commenting on the story were largely in favor of the Brown family. “The construction of their home wasn’t even noticed by the people who are outraged by its existence!” said one.  “How regularly do these people visit this area of outstanding beauty if they didn’t notice a house there for over 4 years? Their lives must be very empty if they need to complain about such things to keep occupied :-)”

The case highlights how laws which are framed to prevent travellers setting up disruptive communities on green sites also prevents low-profile, low-impact individuals and communities from fulfilling their dream of living close to nature, harming no-one.

The District council could have taken action if it found the family had concealed their home. Regulations state that The Browns, who moved into the woods off Logmore Lane in September 2007, cannot now be forced to move out given the length of their stay.

Mr Brown, a horseman, has owned and looked after animals on the land at Three Cornered Copse for 18 years.

Building, electrics, plumbing and other work on the house started about six years ago and was carried out with the help of relatives and friends, and completed in August 2007.

They did not seek planning permission for a site which lies within the green belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected by strict development restrictions.

Councillors and some neighbours are furious but other neighbours have backed the Browns and say they are ‘country folk’ who deserve to stay in the area.

Mole Valley District Council has accepted it is powerless to take action and, following legal advice, it has granted the Browns a certificate of lawfulness to continue living there.

The council could have taken action if it found sufficient evidence that the Browns had concealed the home. But the Browns have lived in the home with their three children and even had bills sent to their new address

They failed to register for council tax, were not on the electoral roll and even those living in the nearest homes to the site did not know they were there, one of whom said Mr Brown had ‘soured’ their friendship.

The Browns submitted evidence of their own to prove they had been there since 2007, including confirmation of leaving their previous home in Abinger, plus insurance and bank documents, medical and school correspondence and phone and utility bills which had been sent to the new address.

A TV licence is registered to Three Cornered Copse, equestrian events have been held there and friends confirmed they had visited for dinner and birthday parties and sleepovers.

But 10 neighbours wrote letters of complaint to the council, apparently enraged that the Browns have managed to fox everyone.

Richard and Carolyn Smith wrote ‘We would like to erect a house in one of our top fields. Can I now assume we will be able to do that and sell our present property without gaining permission from the council? Obviously it is a planning ‘free for all’ in Logmore Lane.’

Work on the house was carried out by a host of helping hands including friends and family

Jennifer Cordeux wrote ‘Every neighbour I have spoken to was under the impression Mr Brown and his family lived in Abinger. I was completely unaware he had taken up residence on his land.

‘I ride, walk and drive past his land several times a week and it was never apparent he had erected a dwelling in the copse. There has never been any evidence of the family actually living there. You cannot just buy a field and build a house on it.”

Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said he was ‘personally disappointed’” with Mr Brown.

‘It’s put us in a very difficult situation. We’ve known Dan for a number of years. We’ve always got along well with him. Perhaps we didn’t really know him.

‘We feel somewhat let down. We were not expecting to be made mugs of, that’s what it feels like.’

But as one Mail reader wrote:  “It complies with the law, which is actually for once a very logical one- if you haven’t caused any harm or disruption to anyone else for a long period of time, then there is no cases against you!” he said.  “Plus, the house looks a damn site less of an eyesore than most would in an area- the fact you can barely see it shows that it has been sensitively built for the area! People are just peed off that they view them as ‘getting away’ with something. It doesn’t seem like its been done for financial gain, so it isn’t really comparable to the examples given by their opposers. Good on them”


Other people in the area, and one person from Luxembourg, wrote confirming the Browns had been there since 2007. Their contribution to the community and charities was praised and even an objector called them a “nice family”.

Supporters Diana and Barry Hitchcock wrote ‘They are country people, living a simple and hard-working country life. We need to keep people like Daniel and Jessica in our midst.’

Another supporter described Mr Brown as ‘an appropriate link for Mole Valley with its rural character, agricultural heritage and tradition of horse husbandry’.

Mr Brown and his wife, a teaching assistant, released a statement saying ‘We understand the objectors’ point of view, but are cheered by the fact there were more that supported us.

‘We are grateful to the council for enabling us to go on living and working in the community we love and caring for the piece of land that means so much to us.’



8 Responses

  1. (My website is down at the moment) Andy Hawkins is exactly right. Here I am, kids grown up and left home, no wife, just me and the dog in what is essentially a family home. Due to the stupid buy-to-let, second homes and holiday homes crazes I cannot move to a smaller home because they cost the same amount. Or if they are in a coastal location they cost even more. So I cannot buy a piece of land and put a small home on it because of all these ridiculous laws UNLESS I emigrate. Why do I have to emigrate just in order to downsize? After all that rubbish about how the countryside would be spoiled by unsightly cabins and chalets – our ‘professional’ ‘architecturally approved’ ‘building regulation compliant’ new homes are built on land that is prone to flooding. Anyone trying to start a smallholding is absolutely HATED and DESPISED by the people around them. A friend of mine wanted to build a barn to go his land of 7 acres – a smallholding raising alpacas and keeping chickens. A farm nearby objected to the design of the wooden walls of the barn and the planning office INSISTED therefore that the walls be made of vertical planks with gaps between them. The problem with it was apparent when the first snow flew straight inside the barn. MORONS. I am a woodworker but I cannot buy a wood and go and live in a home in it because… because of what? The UK is the land of ‘How Things Can Not Be Done’, and ‘Will Not Work’. It has become an awful place to live, stifled by regulations. The ‘Planning Office’ is the worst joke ever. Educated, overpaid, snobbish zombies. You will not get any sense out of them. Unless you have lots of money and brown envelopes. Yuch. Canada, France, many more, tick, tick, tick.

  2. If you want to SEE for YOURSELVES the truth of your IMPRISONMENT just go look at google Earth and see how everyone’s crammed into the citys and towns and a vast wilderness that is empty. (apart from fields of Monsanto’s “RAPE_SEED” & that name is the truth, they know it RAPES LAND. The farmers report no worms & bugs in the soils of RAPE_SEED plantation)
    Also for the doubters, there used to be an axiom, ‘that if you could not discribe what you saw with your eye, then in fact, you are not seeing what is actually there.’ So even those who want to prentend to themselves, (because its more comfortable for them) don’t bother prentending to me.
    I know your what these above posters did not say, the truth of the PATHETIC BRITISH PUBLIC. PATHETIC.

  3. In agreement with what these peeps above have said, and to add that the Daily Lies Mail should be regarded for the Government Mouth-Piece it really is. It’s a tool of the rich to continue to keep people paying to live on the planet they’re born on. Without a doubt in eternity, it is the diseased will of the gloominated who maintain the domination of the entire planet with MASS-MURDER on going since I was BORN HERE, + 40 now, with endless trees MURDERED too, to print the lies on the corpses of those trees, giving AIR TO BREATHE that the BLOODY DAILY LIES Mail continues to spew out.


  4. Good for them, it’s Big Brother Syndrome all over again . They own the land and want to live in a low impact way and this needs to be encouraged, instead of huge ugly housing estates all over the countryside.

  5. Good on them. Gypsies do it illegally, make loads of mess and intimidate neighbours and get away with it. A family who live there quietly should be able to do the same, especially as they obviously cause no disruption. The complainants must be both blind and uninterested in their communinity to have overlooked the family for that length of time. And I bet their houses are more of an eyesore than the one in the woods.

  6. Here’s a link to the story:
    It is very surprising that no-one ever walked up one evening and found then living in what was supposed to be no more than a workshop.

    This is not an example of living ‘off-grid’ but of successful defiance of strict zoning laws, without which the whole of SE England would be suburban sprawl from London to the sea. I’m not surprised the neighbours are a bit upset.

  7. I agree with Andy. I was born and have lived in the England all my life, but find that the vast majority of people have problems with their attitude in general, ESPECIALLY when it comes to things that do not concern them. Visiting other countries is refreshing as it shows that the English and their attitude are an exception and not the rule.

  8. I lived in the UK for most of my life and while I understand the lack of space makes some rules necessary I find the rules they have are overly restrictive. Planning permission is king and having permission to build alone can take $10,000 plot and make it worth $100,000. But the attitude of people is what blows me away even more. They got their panties in a bunch because someone did something that has had absolutely zero effect on them. Makes me glad I moved to Canada

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