Pensioner faces losing her home after council orders demolition of her eco-log cabin

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Brigid Eakins, 66, believed she was allowed to build the home on her land near Tenbury Wells. (SWNS)
Brigid Eakins, 66, believed she was allowed to build the home on her land near Tenbury Wells. (SWNS)

A pensioner is facing losing her home after a local council ordered the demolition of her log cabin despite previously granting her permission to build it.

Brigid Eakins, 66, said she will be forced to live on the street after the local authority told her to tear down the eco-home in St Michaels, near Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.

The mum-of-three spent £59,000 of her life savings constructing the cabin from natural materials in 2014.

At the time, Eakins had applied for planning permission to build the cabin to replace her mobile home but was given a decision notice by the council saying she did not require it.

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Since then, Herefordshire County Council has made a U-turn, telling her the wooden structure is unauthorised and in breach of planning regulations.

Her appeal was dismissed by the planning inspectorate and a subsequent judicial review has also been rejected.

Brigid Eakins, 66, believed she was allowed to build the home on her land near Tenbury Wells.  (SWNS)
Brigid Eakins, 66, believed she was allowed to build the home on her land near Tenbury Wells. (SWNS)

The local authority has now ordered the languages teacher to knock down her home by January next year following four complaints from neighbours.

They claim the building at Redwood Orchard goes beyond what was originally approved - but Eakins claims she has stuck exactly to the original plans.

Eakins said she estimates the council has spent at least £75,000 of taxpayers' cash on the bitter dispute.

Meanwhile, she has been forced to fork out over £100,000 on legal fees during the battle to save her home.

Eakins lives off-grid at the 90ft by 50ft open-plan eco-cabin which uses a generator and inverter to make its own electricity for heating and Wifi.

Brigid Eakins has lived in the home for seven years. (SWNS)
Brigid Eakins has lived in the home for seven years. (SWNS)

She also treats her own wastewater from the toilet with a septic tank and is surrounded by hundreds of trees which she planted herself.

Eakins 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?

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“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.

Eakins said she built the home exactly the way it looks in the plans she submitted seven years ago, saying: “It is absolutely identical”.

She said: “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.

Brigid Eakins' home in St Michaels, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire. (SWNS)
Brigid Eakins' home in St Michaels, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire. (SWNS)

“The 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.”

Eakins says she has tried to readjust the application to suit the local authority but they failed to respond to her most recent application last year.

“I have begged the council for assistance but they have never replied to my requests," the 66-year-old said.

She said she has now spent her life savings and is less than a year away from being made homeless.

“I have owned this piece of land for 35 years and this is a really nice bungalow,” she added. “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.”

Brigid Eakins' home in St Michaels, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire. (SWNS)
Brigid Eakins' home in St Michaels, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire. (SWNS)

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.

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“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.

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