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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Tipi row reopens, 11 years on
Brig Oubridge
Brig Oubridge attended Tuesday's hearing in Carmarthen
One of the longest running planning disputes in Wales entered a new phase on Tuesday when a public inquiry dating back to 1995 re-opened.

Former Welsh Secretaries William Hague, Ron Davies and Alun Michael have all been dragged in to the row over Tipi Valley in Carmarthenshire.

More than 100 adults and children live in the 'eco-community' at Cwmdu near Llandeilo.

But only one dwelling, a caravan, has ever been granted planning permission.

The whole situation is ridiculous
Brig Oubridge

Resident Brig Oubridge, who has lived there since 1981, first applied for a retrospective lawful use certificate to site a caravan and three tents there in 1993.

But his application was refused by the former Dinefwr Council although a public inquiry that concluded two years later found in Mr Oubridge's favour.

Subsequently various secretaries of state attempted to over-rule the decision although each time they were thwarted in the High Court.

After the last court hearing, in 1999, the dispute was referred to the Welsh Assembly Government to make the final decision on whether to grant retrospective planning consent.

'Complete absurdity'

Five years on and it has asked the man who conducted the 1995 public inquiry, Derek Thew, to re-open the hearing and report back.

If Mr Oubridge is granted permission for his caravan and three tents then other residents at the 160-acre site hope to be able to get similar planning consent.

The local authority, now Carmarthenshire Council, has argued against planning consent on the grounds that it represented a change of use from agricultural land to residential.

But Mr Oubridge said he had been living on the site for more than 10 years - the required period in law for a dwelling to be recognised as a lawful development.

"The whole situation is ridiculous," he said.

"I have already won my case three times over - once at the original inquiry, and twice in the High Court.

"What makes it a complete absurdity, is that the whole issue revolves around my living on this field for 10 years.

"By the time the inspector has completed another report, the argument will have gone on for a further 12 years since I first applied."

Tuesday's hearing at Carmarthen was expected to be completed in a day.

Mr Thew will then report to the assembly government at a date yet to be fixed.

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14 Apr 04  |  Wales

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