A DISTRAUGHT property developer has been told she could be forced to tear down three half-built luxury homes.

Swindon Borough Council's planning committee turned down an appeal by Sharon and Nigel King to keep the houses on on land at Eastrop Farm, off Shrivenham Road

Modern farm buildings have been demolished on the site south of Highworth.

The decision was made despite the local ward councillor speaking strongly in favour of the application to allow the pair to continue with construction.

The whole scheme is a small development of eight houses – three converted from modern barns, three from older farm buildings and the renovation of two farm workers’ cottages.

Ms King said: “We started work in good faith last year. The footprint is the same as what was there.

“This site has been an eyesore for a long time, and we are building high quality homes.”

Councillors on the committee had been recommended to refuse permission for two main reasons.

Officers said because the original modern barns had been dismantled before some parts had been put back up, the nearly completed houses were not conversions of the barns, for which there was permission, but new buildings – and there was no permission to build them.

Officers also objected to the idea of the new buildings being built on the site surrounded by fields, saying they would affect the rural landscape.

This last point baffled supports of the scheme.

Highworth ward councillor Steve Weisinger said: “The town council is unanimously in favour of this – it thinks it is a good proposal.

"This committee has recently given approval for a 250-home development very nearby. Why mark this down? What detrimental impact would these three houses have?”

His colleague Vijay Manro echoed that point about the development nearby, saying the Eastrop Farm scheme could not impact on the rural setting with 250 houses to be built so close. Further development across the Shrivenham Road also in the pipeline.

He added: “We need more houses to be built.”

But most of the committee was unmoved.

Peter Watts said: “It’s very unfortunate but it seems the applicant has had poor advice.

"They had permitted development to convert the barns, but if these are new buildings there isn’t the permission.”

After the motion to take the officers’ advice and refuse permission was passed by seven votes to four, chairman Matthew Courtliff said the applicant was still able to appeal against the decision, or put in an application for full planning permission for the nearly-completed homes.