Until a year or so ago, Wildflower barn in Chatteris was an off the beaten track, rarely used left over building from a different agricultural era.
Not so today.
It has been converted to what its new owners describe as a “magnificent retreat” offering “eight spacious double bedrooms and four beautiful bathrooms”.
It can, says its advertisement on Airbnb websites “provide ample space for up to 18 guests”. Rates can exceed more than £1,000 a night.
Not everyone is happy, especially neighbour Ed Beswick who knew the barn had permission to become a two, and then a four-bedroom home.
Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine it had been turned into a top end Airbnb capable of hosting up to 18 people for short breaks.
“And Fenland District Council had no idea what had been built behind their backs,” he said.
The council is sifting various permissions for Wildflower Barn in Stocking Drove, Chatteris, and its considering what, if anything, it can or should do.
“Thank you for getting in touch,” a council spokesperson told me.
“I’ve spoken to our planning enforcement officers and can confirm that Fenland District Council is aware of the property and a potential breach of planning control, but it would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time.”
Mr Beswick is not impressed.
“Stocking Drove in Chatteris has always been known as a place for townsfolk to enjoy a stroll, run or cycle with the family on a lovely summer’s day, it being safe, easily accessible to the town and enjoyed by many for its peace and quiet,” he said.
“However, four weeks ago residents were disturbed by the beat of weekend party music into the early hours, lost cars u-turning in driveways causing security concerns and screaming of children during the day.”
He said it then transpired that “Wildflower Barn, a ruined barn that has planning permission to be converted into a 4-bedroom residential home has, it seems, been developed into a purpose built “Party Barn” business and is advertising itself on Airbnb as sleeping 18”.
He said courtyard wall hides a pool and “summer room” and claims both were built without planning permission.
“The barn was meant to be developed into 4 bed residential property, so neighbours were surprised when the ad appeared online and party guests started arriving,” he said.
“Concern has been raised with Fenland District Council; I’m waiting to see how they deal with the planning breach before taking further legal advice.”
He added: “When occupied, the ‘party barn’ effectively doubles the population of the Drove, which is causing fluctuations in the power supply and Anglian Water were reporting after several residents of the Drove complained of sudden low water pressure at weekends.”
Mr Beswick said local councillors had been approached for support and he was “looking forward to hearing from those not sitting on the planning committee”.
One recent, undecided, application for planning permission would allow for agricultural land adjacent to the barn to be turned into a residential garden, the erection of a garden room and relocation of the vehicle access. The application says it is part-retrospective.
Another neighbour, Stephen Mugford, has lodged his objection to Fenland planners.
“We do not object to the original 4 bed house planning permission, however, we note that additional unplanned building works have been undertaken to expand the property beyond the original approved plans,” he said.
“We were concerned to see the property has been advertised on Airbnb as a “stunning 8 Bedroom, 4-bathroom, barn conversion for 16+ guests at a significant weekly cost (with pictures of property and swimming pool),” he said.
“It appears as though the original intention was to develop the property as a business asset, expanding beyond planning remit and to obtain retrospective planning approval.
“The new ‘garden room’ may be additional accommodation for paying guests. Since planning rules may have been voided, we object to the retrospective planning changes.
“We are also very concerned that large uncontrolled house parties could also impact the environment, particularly noise and potentially our security.
“We note that planning approval for a different business along Stocking Drove was previously rejected.”
Wildflower Barn is owned by C Properties Ltd, a St Ives based company run by Steve Train.
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