The husband-and-wife team of developers behind a small housing scheme near Highworth have been ordered to knock down three half-built houses.

Nigel and Sharon King are in the process of turning farm buildings in Eastrop Farm on Shrivenham Road into eight homes.

Three are conversions of older barns, three are conversions of modern farm buildings and two are renovated workers’ cottages.

But Mr and Mrs King have been told to take down the three homes built on the site of the modern farm buildings after failing to get permission to keep and complete them last week.

Mr King said: “We received the enforcement notice from the council. We got three copies in separate envelopes, all sent by recorded delivery, all with handwriting on saying: ‘Important, this communication affects your property’.”

Mr King said previous discussion with Swindon Borough Council enforcement officers had led him to believe they did not want the buildings to be demolished.

He added: “They’ve taken no time, and the absolute pleasure, to get out the refusal and the enforcement notice, totally contrary to all the other dealings we’ve had with them.

“This will have a huge negative and financial impact on many people and families, not just us.”

The issue is that Swindon council planners say the demolition of the barns – with parts of them re-used in the new houses – was never given consent.

They say the Kings were given prior consent to convert the modern barns into houses. But demolishing them means the new buildings – even if they use some of the original materials – are not conversions but new buildings.

The Kings, according to the council’s planning department, never applied to put up new buildings and therefore the three houses do not have any planning permission at all.

The council received permission from the planning committee to take enforcement action if this application was refused earlier in the year.

Mr and Mrs King say the barns were in such poor condition they could not just be converted in situ, but that much of the original material has been used.

Another factor put to members of the planning committee as a reason to refuse the permission to keep the three buildings is that would be out of keeping with the rural nature of the site, surrounded by farmers’ fields.

That has bemused not only Mr and Mrs King but also many residents and Highworth Town Council.

They say the permission granted for a 250-home estate on the same fields just 100m away from the site means the impact of their eight houses on the local landscape would be negligible.

Mr and Mrs King can appeal against the decision to refuse them consent or are able to put in a new full application for permission for the three buildings in question.