AN animal lover from South Tyneside could be fined £20,000 – unless he demolishes a shelter for his horses.
Norman Keenleyside built the structure off Follingsby Lane, West Boldon, after his five Welsh Cobs and four Shetland ponies suffered during last year’s harsh winter.
But Mr Keenleyside, 66, a former Jarrow haulier, who says he has “horses in his blood,” later received a letter from South Tyneside Council, saying he had 28 days to pull the shelter down – or face a fine of £20,000.
The shelter was constructed on green belt land – and without planning permission.
But Mr Keenleyside said the shelter is almost “invisible” from the road, and believes other local structures are far more visually obtrusive – including local business complex The Quadrus Centre.
Acting on a tip-off, the council instructed Mr Keenleyside to flatten the horse shelter. He said: “All I wanted was to provide some shelter for my horses, who had a terrible time in the snow last winter.
“The council told me you cannot build on green belt land, even though it is an open-fronted shelter with no foundations.
“They said to put in for retrospective planning permission, which would probably take time and see me through the winter.”
But following a council site visit, Mr Keenleyside was told retrospective planning permission would be refused because of green belt policies.
He added: “From where we were standing, I asked what the large building about two or three miles away was.
“They replied it was The Quadrus Centre.
“I asked if that was green belt and they said, ‘No, but it used to be,’ so I guess it’s one rule for one and one for another.”
Mr Keenleyside “cannot believe” that a small field shelter for the welfare of his horses has sparked such controversy.
He said: “On a field across the road, which is Sunderland, people are building.
“I understand that some other people in South Tyneside have put in for stables and field shelters and have been turned down because of green belt policies. So on behalf of myself and all the other horse owners in South Tyneside, I ask the council to show some care and understanding for these animals and allow people to build shelters when it doesn’t cause a problem to anyone.
“If anyone would like to help in this matter, please lobby South Tyneside Council.”
Coun Geraldine White, a Fellgate and Hedworth ward member, said she and fellow ward councillors Linda Hemmer and Steve Harrison plan to arrange a site visit to the horse shelter site.
She added: “We have sympathy for Mr Keenleyside, but we are bound by green belt policy.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The council investigated and found that the horse shelter had been erected without Mr Keenleyside having first obtained planning permission.
“As this is contrary to both national and local green belt planning policy, a retrospective planning application has been refused planning permission.
“Mr Keenleyside can appeal against the council’s decision to the Planning Inspectorate.”