The following press release was issued by East Devon Alliance this morning:
“Disgraced ex-EDDC councillor Graham Brown is at the centre of a new controversy over a planning application concerning his Ware Farm property in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) near Ottery St Mary. This is due to be discussed at Ottery St Mary Town Council this evening. (EDDC Planning Ref: 14/2032/CPE)
He is applying for the lifting of a planning condition on his farmhouse, built by him in 2000, which says it can only be occupied by a person “solely or mainly” working in agriculture. He is apparently planning to sell the property on the open market.
In an affidavit with the application, he swears that his farming business “quickly and drastically diminished between 2002 and 2003” to such an extent that for at least ten years his farming activities have been insignificant. For this reason he says he has occupied Ware Farm in breach of the condition in the planning permission granted in 2000. Because EDDC has taken no enforcement action, he claims that, legally, the condition should be removed. This would enable him to sell the farm without restriction.
But campaigners from the East Devon Alliance claim that Mr Brown’s sworn statement appears to be seriously misleading.
They say Mr Brown’s suggestion that his farming activities “drastically diminished” after 2003 lacks credibility. Evidence discovered by EDA shows that he claimed and received 222,922 euros in farm subsidies between 2000 and 2009.
In addition Mr Brown’s own figures for farm income submitted with his application reveal he earned over £850,000 from his land between 2004 and 2013. This would seem to indicate that he was running an agricultural business during this time.***
EDA point out that Mr Brown himself contradicted his claims in his affidavit that his farming activities were minimal, when he applied for planning permissions for new construction at Ware Farm citing agricultural necessity. EDDC planning records show that :
In 2005 (05/2000/FUL) a new access road to Ware Farm was approved after Mr Brown’s agent claimed it was necessary because the farm had “expanded” and “the nature of the farming enterprise causes many movements of increasingly large machinery”.
In 2012 (12/1880/AGR) an extension to an agricultural building was approved.
In 2013 (13/0819/ AGR) the re-siting of an agricultural building was approved as permitted development because it was considered “necessary for the purposes of agriculture.”
EDA question the figures for weekly working hours spent on farming given by Mr Brown. They seem to include only his own time and not the hours worked by two men said to have been employed by him.
Mr Brown claims in his affidavit to have virtually abandoned farming by 2013 but in the EDDC list of members’ interests for 2012/13 he describes himself as a farmer, and member of the National Farmers’ Union which he represented on the East Devon Business Forum until March 2013.
EDA chair Paul Arnott commented:
“If Mr Brown’s application is successful, the protection of the AONB from speculative development will be further eroded. This is an important test case and must be ultimately decided in public by councillors in EDDC’s Development Management Committee, not as is rumoured to be the Council’s intention, by an officer’s decision behind closed doors.”
*** Using Brown GP and Ware Farm as search terms produces this link
The story is also reported on the Western Morning News website: