The secret house in the valley: Family who built home in the woods without planning permission can't be evicted because nobody noticed for more than FOUR YEARS
- Building, electrics, plumbing and other work began on house six years ago
- District council could have taken action if it found the family had concealed their home
A couple who have spent four years living in a house they secretly built in the woods without even their neighbours knowing have been allowed to stay.
Daniel and Jessica Brown have been living in the house concealed behind trees near the village of Westcott, Surrey, since 2007.
The couple did not seek planning permission to build on the the site, which lies within the green belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected by strict development restrictions.
And 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.
But becasue they did not actively conceal the home from the authorities, the council is unable to take any action to evict them.
The House in the woods owned by Daniel Brown that avoided notice by the authorities for over four years
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'