A COUPLE who have been praised by relatives for opening their home to foster adults in need have spoken of a long-running row with planners which could cost them their home.
Five years ago Ginette and Robert Steel of Tickhill Lane, Dilhorne, decided to start caring for people at their property instead of them going into a nursing home.
But the matter has led to a longrunning row between the Steels and enforcement officers from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
Mr Steele, aged 58, said: “Eighteen years ago we lost our son from an accident.
“We decided we wanted to do some good in life after it took us 10 years to build our present home.
“However, five years ago, when we started to foster, our lives were turned upside down.
“Staffordshire Moorlands District Council enforcement officers visited us and said we had not got permission to foster because the building has an agricultural tie.
“They have taken us to court and it has so far cost us £29,000.
“While they were at our property they said some buildings had not got planning permission, but many had been up for years.
“We have now managed to get lawfulness use for our single storey buildings.
“However, we have been told to take down a timber shed.
“We wanted to apply for planning permission to keep the building and start a small farmers’ shop and tearoom, which would bring in some employment to the area and also help us.
“But we have been told that we could face a further £20,000 cost if we do not remove the building. Any more costs and it could force us to lose our home.”
Mrs Steele, aged 55, said: “We have felt threatened from the word go as no-one will discuss anything with us.”
Mr Steel has admitted that the situation had caused him to react angrily to enforcement officers visiting the couple’s home.
He added: “I am willing to take down some buildings even if they have been up for years to get a compromise to the problem, but no-one will talk to us about the business.”
However, Councillor Edwin Wain, who has the responsibility for planning and markets at the district authority, said he was now going to look into the whole issue.
Mr Wain said: “I will go and visit the property and talk to Mr and Mrs Steele to see if a solution to the issue can be found.
“After the visit I will speak to councillors and officers to see if we can move the matter forward.” Ward councillor Paul Roberts said he was also trying to help in trying to move things forward.
Mr Roberts said: “I would like something to be worked out to bring this issue to a an amicable end.”