THE owners of five unauthorised luxury homes facing demolition have broken their silence on their ordeal. Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter, reports.

PLANNING chiefs last week served an enforcement notice on the owners of each home at Grundy Fold Farm, near Horwich, stating their properties must be knocked down within six months.

An appeal has put an immediate pause on the proceedings, but the homeowners, who have until now kept their own counsel, have decided to tell of their nightmare.

A spokesman for the homeowners, says public perceptions they are looking to profit from the mansions — sited off Chorley Old Road — are wide of the mark.

He said: “The Grundy Fold saga has caused immeasurable distress to our families over the last 18 months with no end date

“We have used our own finances and mortgages to fund our homes throughout the build process, contrary to perception that the builds were funded by the developer.”

He added that the homeowners had been left in an “extremely vulnerable position” by Bolton Council planning committee’s decision to twice refuse retrospective planning permission for the homes, followed by an enforcement notice on August 3.

He said: “The planning application and build was carried out by the developer who believed it was lawful.

“Despite each homeowners’ best endeavours and due diligence undertaken via solicitors, architects, building control and chartered surveyors, we cannot believe it has got to this complex stage.

“It goes without saying we are in an extremely vulnerable position given the enforcement action.”

Grundy Fold Farm homes 'have to come down' says planning chief

But he said the group had not given up hope of resolving the matter despite the difficulties posed by the long-running saga.

He said: “Given the severity of the situation, we have taken independent advice from planning consultants in the hope that a solution can be found.

“There is a lot of emotion that surrounds this development, but very little sympathy on how vulnerable this has left us as innocent parties given all the advice we had been given.

“We are facing the harsh realities and committed to work in accordance to the process ensuring the developer meets their commitments.”

Sparkle Developments — the Westhoughton firm behind the scheme — has been accused of “arrogance” for building the houses in a way which strayed from the original plans agreed by council officers.

But the homeowners say they have found themselves in the middle of an impasse between the council and developer, having investing “significant amounts of money” in what they hoped would be homes they would spend the rest of their lives in.

What next for Grundy Fold Farm planning saga?

The homeowners’ spokesman said the group had not initially realised the “gravity of the situation” or expected matters to get to a point where demolition notices were served.

He said: “Ultimately parties have sold their existing homes to fund the development of their new lifetime homes.

“We are all in a state of despair, everyone is living in temporary accommodation as everyone thought they would have moved into these properties over a year ago. From an emotional aspect it’s very difficult.”

The nightmare scenario the homeowners find themselves in has its roots in discussions Sparkle Developments held with Bolton Council planning chiefs in 2014.

The two parties came to an agreement as to how the site could be developed in an acceptable way and planning permission was granted in August of that year.

But when Sparkle Developments built the homes, it did not stick to the agreed plan.

The mansions were built bigger, in different places and facing in different directions to the initial scheme, before planning permission was officially applied for.

A retrospective application was then rejected by Bolton Council’s planning committee in June 2017.

But despite refusing the scheme as it stood, councillors said they were hopeful a compromise could be found that would stop the homes being flattened.

That compromise, which involved alterations two of the homes, went before the committee at the end of May this year.

But it was again refused after members said it had not gone far enough.

Sparkle Developments director Ian Holden said there was a misconception that the site was a “pretty working farm” when it had a history of industrial commercial use.

He told the committee that changes had been made due to a geological fault line at the site.

And he said alterations to the 2014 plans were made on the basis of a verbal agreement with Bolton Council’s former head of planning — and they continued with them on this basis, unaware he had left the authority.

But members of the planning committee cast doubt on the credibility of the claim.