East Herts Council denies obstructing workshop traders at Crumps Farm in Sawbridgeworth
Small business owners based at a Sawbridgeworth farm claim they are being hampered by “ridiculous obstacles” being put in their way by council planners.
Traders who have set up workshops at Crump’s Farm in West Road say issues which have cropped up include signage, replacement of windows, roofing and a gate at the front of the property.
But a spokesman for East Herts Council defended its actions, saying that because the farmhouse on the site was a grade II listed building, materials used must be “in keeping with the historic buildings”.
The dispute came to a head when Vicki Cowell, of Vicki’s Floral Designs, was told to take down a sign which had been on the side of the building for 18 months. She claimed it was within the stipulated height restriction and that bigger signs were allowed on other buildings in West Road.
“We would just like the same clarity and equality with other businesses in the area,” said Vicki. “They’re putting ridiculous obstacles in our way and there’s a lack of communication.”
The council denied that it was not supporting the businesses.
The spokesman said: “Work was carried out at Crump’s Farm at the risk of the owners as they did not have planning permission. We have tried to guide them through the process, but as parts of the buildings are listed this means any materials used must be in keeping with the historic buildings.
“We are committed to supporting local businesses in order to grow the local economy and encourage business into East Herts. Since 2018 we have supported 18 businesses through our business rate grant initiative, which offers those businesses looking to expand or move into East Herts the opportunity to receive a discount of up to £10,000 on their business rates.”
The issue surrounds curtilage, a planning law which restricts work which can be carried out within the boundary of listed buildings.
Crump’s Farm owner Bill Wood, who bought the farm two years ago and gained consent for a change of use from agricultural to business, disputes the fact that the workshop buildings fall within the curtilage of the farmhouse.
Frustrated Mr Wood said: “I bought the farm when it was derelict and decided to turn the stables into workshops.”
Melanie Rich, of Enchanted Bridal Boutique, also claimed the council was being obstructive.
“They mucked us about with the roof – Vicki was in there for a year with just tarpaulin for a roof.” After double-glazed windows were put in, the council made them replace them with single-glazed ones.
Vicki added: “We’re bringing business to the area. When we’ve done business we send customers to the local pub.”