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Thurston farm Field of Dreams planning dispute to become clearer in 'next couple of weeks'



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The fate of a Thurston farm and shop which is still set to face a potential £20,000 fine due to planning breaches will be clearer in the next couple of weeks as talks are ongoing to avoid court action and the penalty.

Following a planning inspectorate ruling on the Beyton Road site on September 17 last year, Field of Dreams Farm, owned by Mark Byford and his partner Sue Smith, are facing the hefty amount after Mid Suffolk Council council wanted the removal of facilities such as a portacabin, polytunnels and a 100 metre driveway leading from the farm's entrance on the 12-acre site, as they did not have proper planning permission for them.

But now with the original April 30 deadline passed, discussions between the two parties are ongoing and some actions to comply with the breaches are taking place.

Mark Byford with his partner, Sue Smith, on the driveway leading up to Field of Dreams Farm in Thurston. Picture by Mark Westley.
Mark Byford with his partner, Sue Smith, on the driveway leading up to Field of Dreams Farm in Thurston. Picture by Mark Westley.

Mark, who has run Field of Dreams for six years, said: "We have a contractor set up to tarmac our entrance, our portacabin is gone, the beds have been removed from our caravan on site, the old entrance has been blocked up and a hedgerow has been installed as requested by the council.

"I think all these actions we have already taken show willingness from our side and I hope with our continued discussions with the council we could all reach a place where we are all happy."

Supporters of the farm have inundated Suffolk News with letters and Mark said their own savethefarm.co.uk petition had been signed online and at the shop by more than 3,000 people.

The pair set up a petition to gain public support and it has more than 3,000 signatures. Picture by Mark Westley.
The pair set up a petition to gain public support and it has more than 3,000 signatures. Picture by Mark Westley.

He said: "The level of support we have had from people and the media helps make us feel we are not alone, are appreciated and makes all the tears we have shed over the last year about this worth it."

"We hope that this can be sorted so we can get on with growing our produce and do what we do best."

Mid Suffolk Council confirmed it was still working with Mark to ensure he complies with its requests whilst he continued with his business.

A council spokesperson said: "Prosecution is only ever used as a last resort and our preference is always to work to find a resolution before any formal enforcement action is taken.

"However, in this case, it has now been several months since an independent planning inspector ruled against Mr Byford’s appeal.

"We have a responsibility to ensure fairness for other businesses in the area that have conformed to regulations, as well as to local residents who have complained about the unauthorised development of this land over recent years.

"We should have a clearer idea of likely next steps over the next couple of weeks."

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