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COUPLE WIN RIGHT TO FINISH RESTORING COTTAGE

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A couple who used their life savings to lovingly restore a 150-year-old Welsh cottage, only to be ordered by the lo...
A couple who used their life savings to lovingly restore a 150-year-old Welsh cottage, only to be ordered by the local council to return it to its former derelict state, today won final victory in their five year struggle to keep their dream home intact.

Christopher Dowson, 46, and his 47-year-old wife Katherine plunged everything they had into buying the then vandalised and partially burnt-out cottage in 1992, planning to build a new life as smallhold farmers working the property's nine acres of land.

Restoration work on the granite-built cottage was well advanced when in March last year their dreams were turned to ashes by an Arfon Borough Council's enforcement notice requiring them to restore the property to its derelict state.

The couple were left to live under a temporary corrugated iron roof by the council's order that all renovation works must cease and any works already carried out on the cottage at Bryn Melyn, Clogwyn Melyn, Penygroes, Gwynedd, dismantled.

The council insisted that the residential use of the cottage had been 'permanently abandoned' as long as 30 years ago and its renovation was 'tantamount to the creation of a new dwelling in the open countryside,' contrary to planning policies.

Mr and Mrs Dowson were faced with the prospect of having to return the cottage to an uninhabitable state with nowhere else to live. But the couple fought on to save their home, and, after a public inquiry in November last year, an Environment Ministry planning inspector overturned the council's order, ruling that the cottage had never been abandoned and the Dowsons had never needed planning permission for the renovation work in the first place.

In the High Court Gwynedd Council, which has now taken over from Arfon Borough Council as the area's planning authority, sought leave to appeal against the inspector's decision.

But Deputy High Court judge, Mr Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC, said he could detect 'no error of law' in the inspector's decision. 'I do not find the point raised by the local planning authority arguable and I refuse this application for leave.'

Mr Dowson, who had from Wales to attend the court hearing, did not have to open his mouth before the judge handed him victory.

And, after being prompted by the judge, Gwynedd's barrister, Mr Anthony Crean, said Mr Dowson's travelling costs and accommodation expenses in London -estimated at£200 - would be reimbursed by the local authority.

A jubilant Mr Dowson said later: 'I'm very very grateful that its all finally over. We will now replace our corrugated roof with Welsh slate and, hopefully, turn the derelict outbuildings into bedrooms.

'This dispute has been going on for three-and-a-half years; its been a bit different living under a corrugated roof all that time.'

He said of the council's order to return the cottage to a state of dereliction: 'I just could not believe they wanted the place to go to rack and ruin. Mr Dowson said he had spent£3,500 on legal fees to protect his home.

The couple have ploughed their£35,000 life savings into buying and renovating the cottage, and Mr Dowson said: 'If we had lost this case, we'd have been out on the street.'

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