Willow Lane Alpacas in Flookburgh in row with South Lakeland District Council

A COMMUNITY has rallied round an alpaca farm threatened with closure after it became involved in a planning row with the council.

Anne and Russell Lomas, of Willow Lane Alpacas, are currently appealing two enforcement notices issued by South Lakeland District Council over the use of their land in Flookburgh.

The council has said the couple have breached planning control because they have changed the use of the land from agricultural to commercial without getting planning permission, after the couple allowed people to meet the alpacas last year.

Another enforcement notice applies to a septic tank and static caravan, as well as the erection of a stable on the land.

However, Mr and Mrs Lomas say that the use of the land has not been changed and that they are allowed to have the caravan on the field while they build a barn for machinery to do with the alpacas, which they say they have permitted development for.

The matter is currently being investigated by the planning inspectorate.

“Our business plan was to do walks around the Grand Hotel in Grange and do weddings at different hotels with the alpacas, but because of Covid, we weren’t able to,” said Mrs Lomas, 54.

“So we started allowing people to have picnics here with the alpacas and because it was so popular people can walk them round our field and meet and feed them.

“We got the enforcement notice for change of use, but it isn’t it’s actually diversification.”

The enforcement notice says the development has resulted in ‘an incongruous form of development which fails to respect the site locational context and is therefore detrimental to the character of the area’ and instructs the Lomases to ‘cease all commercial activity on the site’ within 13 weeks of the notice taking effect (from April 27).

“We just want to be left alone,” added Mr Lomas, 57, who is a self-employed builder.

The land was bought for the couple by Mrs Lomas’ father three years ago and they have put ‘everything’ they have into the business.

“We sold our house, I cashed in my pension, we’ve put everything we’ve got to set this up,” said Mrs Lomas, a former care worker.

“And there is nowhere local for rent if we were to get thrown off here so we would have no option, the alpacas would have to go.”

So far dozens of people have come out in support of the couple’s fight .

And the couple have appealed to residents to email their planning consultant directly, instead of registering comments on the appeal’s documents online, which are not seen by the inspectorate.

“My planning consultant has received about 40 emails of support so far,” said Mrs Lomas.

“It’s absolutely brilliant that a community can pull together and support something.”

SLDC have been approached for comment.

The Westmorland Gazette | News