AN ELDERLY couple face being left homeless after using their savings to build a chalet at their family’s farm without planning permission.

East Lothian Council refused to grant retrospective planning permission for the accommodation, which the couple have lived in for two years.

Now the family are appealing to Scottish Ministers to intervene, claiming the couple, who are 72 and 65, will be left homeless by the decision.

In their appeal, they state: “[They] used all their savings to move to the chalet and would have no home without the planning application being granted.

“The appellant acknowledges and regrets their mistake in thinking the chalet did not require planning permission, but the situation has taken its toll with considerable stress upon the family, particularly with all the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic with (both parents) being within the vulnerable category on account of their age and health.”

The chalet was built next to Hodges Farm at The Boggs, near Pencaitland, and thought by farmer Ian Hodge to be ancillary accommodation for his parents-in-law, who help look after their grandchildren.

He argued that the council’s policy, which is against newbuilds in the countryside unless it is for operational agricultural or business reasons, had been met because the childcare allowed him and his wife to run the 72-acre farm.

In an appeal statement lodged on Mr Hodge’s behalf, agents argued: “Whilst it is acknowledged that the chalet contains a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping accommodation, thus enabling it to be occupied as a separate unit, the appellant is of the view that the accommodation is ancillary to his own at the farmhouse.”

However, an officer’s report in which planning permission for the chalet was refused revealed that two enquiries about whether it would get planning permission were lodged in 2016 and 2017 with planners and the applicants were advised it would be against policy.

The retrospective planning application received 11 public objections, although the appeal to Scottish Ministers states the council is investigating the validity of some of them.

Refusing planning permission in May, the local authority planning officer ruled that the chalet was a newbuild in the countryside which had not demonstrated it met the operational requirements needed.

And it pointed to the removal of woodland as part of the build, which also included a shed/garage, which was against policy.

The planning officer’s report on the plans stated: “If approved, the proposed development would set an undesirable precedent for the development of new houses in the countryside of East Lothian, the cumulative effect of which would be the suburbanisation of the countryside to the detriment of its character and amenity.”

A site visit is to be carried out before a decision is made on the appeal.