A LONG-running dispute over a strip of land on the outskirts of Seton Mains has gone to Scottish Ministers after the owner was ordered to return the garden to scrubland for a second time.

Two detached houses were given to go ahead to be built on the site, on the edge of Seton Mains, near Longniddry, 11 years ago and one is now complete.

Attempts by the landowner to gain permission to extend the gardens of the house to the edge of the private site have been rejected by East Lothian Council three times in the past decade, for encroaching onto agricultural land.

Now for the second time in four years, the local authority has ordered the owner to return part of the land, which he had been using as a garden without permission, back to agricultural land, even though it is hidden behind a high wooden fence.

The strip of land in dispute is within private land which has been surrounded by a 1.8m-high fence and cannot be seen from surrounding areas but the local authority said that did not change their view.

Planning officials said one of the conditions of allowing the houses to be built when they were approved in 2007 was that the land in dispute remained outwith the garden boundaries.

They say it is part of the established boundary of Seton Mains and any change would encroach onto the neighbouring field.

But in 2014, the landowner applied for a change of use from agricultural land to domestic garden retrospectively.

At the time, he was also told he would need planning permission for further changes including a fountain which had been placed on the site.

Both applications were rejected and enforcement action taken to have the fountain removed and the garden returned to open land.

Two years ago, another application was lodged to turn the land into part of the gardens, and again it was refused.

However, the landowner went ahead with changes to the land in question before applying to the local authority once more.

Now, East Lothian Council has issued an enforcement notice, but it has been appealed to the Scottish Government.

A council spokesperson said: “Although the applicant has enclosed the larger area of land that he owns, of which the application site is a part, in a formal and urban manner with 1.8 metres high close boarded fencing that in itself is not sufficient reason to allow for the change of use of the land of the application site to use as domestic garden ground.”

Rick Finc Associates, agents for the landowner, said enforcing the change would not benefit the landscape and dismissed local authority concerns allowing the gardens to remain the current size would set a precedent.

They said: “It is highly unlikely that the current use as domestic garden ground will lead to a proliferation of similar proposals in the area.”