Businessman’s dream home cost him his marriage – and could soon see him jailed

A businessman lost his marriage – and potentially his freedom – after his plans to build a dream countryside home turned into a nightmare.

Eddie McIntosh has endured more than 10 years of anguish because of a legal wrangle over planning permission for the lavish development.

And he could yet be jailed over the affair.

The farming entrepreneur set up his eco retreat in rural Powys, Wales, in 2006.

His planning dispute with Powys council has so far cost the local authority £62,000 in legal fees after a court case against Eddie held earlier this year.

Eventually, it will also eventually see the farmer go to jail if he continues refusing to pay the fine he was issued, Wales Online reports.

Now, the 53-year-old has opened up about the exhausting struggle for survival after being granted planning permission to keep his business only months after being told to tear it all down.

Eddie said: "It's been absolutely devastating. The amount of things I've had to go through – my wife and I have split, the business suffered, I lost the plot a little bit.

"I'm looking forward to getting back on track, especially considering years ago I was being nominated for best off-grid retreat and was on TV with Kevin McCloud."

In 2006 Eddie came across the 12-acre abandoned smallholding by accident.

He had recently sold a Grade-II listed building in Gloucester and with about quarter of a million pounds behind him, he was looking to "buy a lifestyle" in a rural setting.

Driving through Powys in his motorhome, he saw an auction sign for the property and decided to buy it.

His vision was to restore the land, establish a new smallholding and create an off-grid rural retreat offering education and alternative therapies for visitors.

But just as his vision started taking off, it was forced to grind to a halt after planning permission was refused.

Eddie said: "People look at me and think I didn't submit planning permission in the first place but I did.

"I submitted it and it kept getting rejected so I piled on as much pressure on as possible.

"The bizarre thing is that these people never wanted to talk to me in the first place. They never discussed my project, it was only ever enforcement and legal action."

In 2013, Mellowcroft smallholding received a planning enforcement notice demanding Eddie take down everything from his treehouse home to the recycling point and classroom for visitors.

The notice came only a year after his business had began to boom, and after featuring on Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home programme on Channel 4.

Eddie said: "It started just spiralling out of control.

"I have spent £20,000 on planning applications and enforcement notices.

"I wasn't trying to hide anything, it was in the media and on my website."

By 2016, Eddie's planning application had been turned down and told his appeal was equally unsuccessful.

Eventually, the planning inspector ruled the entrepreneur only had permission to use the site for agricultural purposes – meaning he would have to demolish the structures on the land and cease living in his home.

Eddie insists he did comply with the order by the October 2016 deadline, although he carried on living there, but thought he would be able to reuse some of the structures for agricultural purposes.

He was eventually charged with 18 offences under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, all of which he denied.

On February 28, a jury found him guilty of all charges following a four-day trial at Merthyr Crown Court.

He was fined £750 and told once more to stop living on the site – and remove all structures.

Eddie said: "I tried to represent myself and that went wrong but couldn't get legal aid.

"I am not going to pay the fine, I can't pay the fine so I have to do the 28 days [in prison].

"I'm not paying the costs on the moral principle that there was no charge to answer in the first place."

Last Thursday, five months after Eddie's appearance in court, the Mellowcroft smallholding went up in front of the Powys Council Planning Committee one last time.

On this occasion, it was for retrospective planning permission for agricultural purposes only.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the application for the existing welfare cabin, silver birch sap production and storage building, farm office, storage shed and hut was granted – meaning Eddie will no longer have to tear down the structures that he lost his fight in court for.

In total, a freedom of information request revealed Powys County Council's legal costs to bring the matter to court mounted to £35,000 – along with the £27,515 it had previously cost them in enforcement action.

Eddie said: "It's unbelievable to think [the council] have spent £62,000 and it's just come to nothing.  It seems like a ludicrous farce really.

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