‘Flintshire Council has turned dream into nightmare’

Reporter:

Hayley Collins

PLANS to transform a derelict building into a dream family home are hanging in the balance.

Rik Pinchin bought the Grade II listed Bryn Awel Farm in Pentre Halkyn in 2008 and had visions of transforming the Georgian property into a family home and bed and breakfast, but is now facing financial ruin before any work has even begun.

For the past two years he has been embroiled in a bitter battle with conservation officers at Flintshire Council.

Mr Pinchin, a security engineer, had originally applied for planning permission to restore the building, but was advised by structural engineers that it was beyond repair.

He then reapplied for permission to demolish the farmhouse and build a near identical house on the land.

Despite being recommended for refusal by Flintshire Council’s planning officers, members voted to grant planning permission in May.

The resolution is now being considered by building guardian Cadw and the Welsh Assembly Government which can either ratify the decision or recommend the application is considered at a public inquiry.

WAG is now requesting more building reports and evidence, but Mr Pinchin, 35, who has already spent thousands of pounds on planning drawings, surveys and structural reports, says he cannot afford to throw any more money at the project.

“What they don’t realise is every time they want this information it costs me a lot of money,” he said.

“I’m just a self-employed, working man and for me to keep forking out for this extra information is hard going.

“I’m not a businessman or a developer, I’m just one man trying to build a family home.”

Mr Pinchin says the situation is making him ill.

He added: “I’ve now been signed off work with stress and I’ve got to go for an ECG. This is what the council is driving me to.

“I feel like I’m in a war and all I’ve got is a penknife and the other side have got a great big machine gun.”

Built in 1796, the building became the Red Lion pub in 1907 before being used as a home until 1985.

It has now gone to rack and ruin and become an eyesore in the village.

Even the Georgian Group agreed the property was “beyond practical repair”.

Mr Pinchin has blasted Flintshire Council for dragging out the process.

“I totally realise there are protocols to follow when dealing with planning, but in a time of cutbacks, spending reviews and possible job losses in the public sector, it makes you wonder how Flintshire Council can justify the costs in dragging this case out for so long and the resources it must have used,” he said.

But Andy Roberts, the council’s planning and environmental strategy manager, said the council was merely following protocol.

He said: “While the facts of how the subsequent application was dealt with are correct, it should be noted that the local authority has no direct powers to grant permission to demolish a listed building, and that is why all such committee resolutions must be referred to Cadw, and not just in this instance.”

Mr Pinchin has enlisted the help of Brynford councillor Matt Wright and MP David Hanson to help fight his corner and says the support he has received from locals has been overwhelming.

He added: “I would just like to say thank you to everyone for all their help and support.

“Everyone now just wants to see the house come down and something nice in its place.”

The house’s fate is set to be decided at a meeting in December.

Mr Pinchin added: “If it goes against me then there’s nothing else I can do and I will have to leave the house and it will remain in that state for years to come.”

He has now launched a petition in Pentre Halkyn Post Office calling for the appeal to be supported.

See full story in the Leader

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