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  6. Illegal church finds salvation

Illegal church finds salvation

A church in the Devon countryside built without planning permission has obtained a certificate of lawful development after the local planning authority failed to take enforcement action within the prescribed period.

Tree surgeon and landscaper Paul Knights, 57, bought land at Stokeinteignhead near Newton Abbot in 1972 and now has 12 acres. Originally it was used for storage and growing Christmas trees.

Knights twice obtained temporary planning permission for a mobile home associated with the business but that has now lapsed, although he still lives there.

Construction of the iron-roofed Mount Olive Ministries church, for which permission was never sought but which now attracts up to 80 people for services, began in 2000.

Earlier this year the local planning authority, Teignbridge Borough Council, considered enforcement action over the church and the residential use by the family of the caravan.

However, the council left it too long before taking action and now both the caravan and the church have certificates of lawful development which means both are both can stay.

A spokesman for Teignbridge Borough Council said: “Unfortunately some of the development on this site slipped under our radar, partly because there had been absolutely no complaints about it. This may be because it can’t be seen from the nearby roads.

“With limited resources and a large rural area to cover there can be rare oversights. We’re constantly looking at ways to improve how we manage these issues, and hope we can make them even more unusual in future.”


Roger Milne

11 August 2011