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Travelling showman at loggerheads with council over oil depot plans

A TRAVELLING showman and his wife have said they are at loggerheads with Swansea Council about what they can and can’t do with 10 acres of reclaimed land on the edge of the Loughor Estuary.

Jo Furlong and his artist wife, Beth, said they purchased the privately-owned land on the edge of the Loughor Estuary, between Penclawdd and Gowerton, on the understanding that equipment could be stored there.

They contend that this storage planning use also enabled them to use some of the site as office accommodation without having to apply for planning permission to the council.

But the council said Mr and Mrs Furlong did need to submit a planning application, and that their failure to do so had led to an enforcement notice being served.

The enforcement notice said there had been an “unauthorised change of use from an established oil storage depot to provide a mixed use site for storage and office accommodation”.

The notice has also been sent to a handful of other people who rent storage space from the Furlongs at the site.

It requires all mixed storage and office use to stop, and the removal of storage containers and demountable buildings, which the Furlongs said were there when they bought the land.

The notice said it was likely that the council would have granted consent for the mixed storage and office uses, with conditions, if a planning application had been submitted.

Mr and Mrs Furlong have appealed. They said they didn’t feel they should have to apply for permission because they hadn’t – in their view – deviated from the existing permitted use.

“We are not opposed to applying (for permission), but we need to know what those conditions would be,” said Mr Furlong.

The matter is now due to be settled by a Welsh Government-appointed planning inspector but the couple, who bought the site in 2007, said they still wanted to avoid this.

“We hope that with the council’s attention drawn to the situation, it can be resolved,” said 39-year-old Mr Furlong.

He said he also felt there was a public interest in the site not being an oil storage depot – a scenario the council said it was not trying to create.

A council spokesman said: “Planning officers have attempted to work with the landowners previously to encourage them to submit a planning application for the site’s current use.

“This would allow them to continue what they are doing on site.

“They have failed to do so and as a result enforcement action has been necessary to formally recognise the unlawful use. This is now a matter for the planning inspector to consider. ”

The couple, who have three children, said the 10 acres of land had been formed from coal slag from the nearby Berthlwyd colliery.

At various times in the past they said it was a brick yard and railway sidings, and was also used by the Ministry of Defence.

The used to live there in a caravan before building a house from mainly recycled materials, which they were granted a retrospective certificate of lawfulness for.

Mr Furlong, who tours with a telephone box-sized “human” jukebox he owns and also a mobile movie venue called Sol Cinema, said: “We have given this site the best years of our life.

“We have put in an orchard, a community garden and an apiary, which is a run by a local beekeeper.”

Mrs Furlong, 37, said they had also leased a strip of their land near the main road – the B4295 – to cycle charity Sustrans at peppercorn rent, and that there was support locally for what they were doing.

The land is adjacent to a wetland site of special scientific interest, special area of conservation and special protection area.

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