A businessman who built a holiday cabin with a tiki bar, pergola and hot tub in the grounds of his Colne Valley home could be ordered to demolish it.
Simon Murphy, of Mulberry Brook in Manchester Road, Slaithwaite, had permission to build a cattery but his business hopes were scuppered by the pandemic.
So instead he turned the wooden cabin into a holiday let and built a decked area with a pergola, a hot tub and a tiki bar, an exotic Hawaiian-style cocktail bar.
Last summer he was almost fully booked with tourists flocking from across the UK, Europe and even Japan.
However, a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Huddersfield area planning committee was told, Mr Murphy didn’t have planning permission and his garden was in the Green Belt where development is severely restricted.
Mr Murphy, who had also created a new driveway for the cabin directly onto Manchester Road, then applied for retrospective planning permission for the holiday accommodation and other facilities along with the new access and electronic gates.
Councillors on the planning committee at Huddersfield Town Hall took a dim view of the plans and refused permission.
Council officers said the development had “urbanised” what was previously an open and green garden and caused “significant harm” to the Green Belt.
Councillors backed the officers’ recommendation that enforcement action be started to clear the site.
Mr Murphy, speaking at the meeting, told councillors how he had secured planning permission for a cattery but “Covid destroyed the business overnight as no-one was able to go on holiday.”
He said he lost his job in April 2020 and the family had a static caravan in the Lake District. They re-sited it to their home during the pandemic so his step-daughter and her family could isolate there.
They then used the cabin for short-term holiday lets and every weekend between July and September was booked up, along with most of August.
“Guests came from across the UK and Europe and even Japan,” he said. “They had never visited the Kirklees or Huddersfield area before and were surprised at what we had to offer.
“We realised there was an opportunity for us as a business but also the local economy.”
Mr Murphy said he promoted local businesses and estimated that a family of six could spend around £600 in bars and restaurants and at leisure activities during a two-day stay.
“There’s a chronic shortage of holiday accommodation in the Colne Valley that supports a family of up to eight individuals on a reasonable budget,” he added.
The committee also heard from Mr Murphy’s cleaner – a mum-of-five from Deighton – who told how she was the sole breadwinner for her family and how Mr Murphy had given her new confidence and a feeling of self-worth.
“If I was to lose this job it would be very upsetting and create financial pressures at home,” she said.
Mr Murphy said he, a handyman and the cleaner would lose their jobs if planning permission was refused.
Councillors can’t be swayed by emotion and Kirkburton Tory councillor Bill Armer said the development caused “quite substantial harm” to the Green Belt.
He was puzzled about the tiki bar and asked: “I have never been afraid of showing my own ignorance. Can someone tell me what a tiki bar is please? It doesn’t look like something you find in the Colne Valley.”
No-one replied so Clr Armer added: “It’s obviously some exotic species. Not to worry.”
Clr Donna Bellamy (Con, Colne Valley) was in favour of the development and said the Colne Valley had a “desperate need for holiday accommodation and it’s becoming more and more of a tourist destination.
“It does support local businesses and residents and it does send people down into Huddersfield. Essentially it’s creating jobs all over.”
Clr Bellamy said the Colne Valley had the Marsden Jazz Festival which attracted visitors from around the world and they needed places to stay.
She was, however, concerned over the new access and road safety on Manchester Road.
Clr James Homewood (Lab, Ashbrow) also questioned why the new access was needed and Clr Harpreet Uppal (Lab, Ashbrow) added that she too felt “a bit torn” over whether to support the plans.
In the end councillors voted 7-4 – with one abstention – to refuse the application and seek enforcement action.