Dispute over Outwell dog breeder leads to war of words between supporters and objectors
They may be known as a man’s best friend.
But the prospect of more than a dozen dogs being housed and used for breeding at a residential home has led to a bitter row among neighbours that involved petitions and a war of words between supporters and objectors on West Norfolk Council’s planning portal.
The dispute began last summer after Erika and Chris Jones, the owners of the property in Basin Road, Outwell, were reported to the council for constructing the kennel buildings in their garden without permission.
They said they were in the process of submitting a planning application at the time, and they have since applied retrospectively to be allowed to run the dog breeding business from their home.
But the bid led neighbours to protest against their plans.
The root of the objections stems from concerns it would lead to disruption due to noise from the animals and visitors, with the parish council arguing it was an inappropriate location for the site.
It led to a petition being circulated in the village, which gained about 100 signatures of opposition.
But Mr and Mrs Jones have since attacked this, arguing it misled the public by describing the business as a ‘dog factory’ – they say there will only be three litters at a time and that they are a responsible and ethical small dog breeder.
West Norfolk Council’s planning portal became a battleground between those in favour and those against.
Locals submitted 18 objections due to fears it would disrupt their peace and quiet due to dogs barking loudly and that it would spoil the countryside environment.
Conversely, more than 100 supporters wrote to the authority in defence of the couple’s breeding business, with some attacking locals for their backlash, calling them troublesome NIMBYs.
The flurry of supportive letters followed West Norfolk Council’s decision to defer the application last month due to a lack of information surrounding the number of puppy litters to be allowed at the site, with many claiming to be former customers of Mr and Mrs Jones.
The matter came to a head this week when it went before planners, where the validity of the supporters was called into question.
William Smith, a vocal objector, spoke to members during which he claimed he had suffered personal attacks and insults on the planning portal and argued many letters of support were “false correspondence”.
It is understood that someone had even pretended to be an RSPCA officer to voice their support.
Meanwhile Mr and Mrs Jones urged councillors to approve the bid, arguing they had 20 years of experience running an ethical business and highlighted the measures they had undertaken to prevent disturbing neighbours, such as acoustic fencing.
Cllr Chris Crofts, who represents Outwell, said he had received lots of complaints from locals already about noise from the business and said it was unacceptable to have an operation like this in a residential area.
He also highlighted that many of the supporters did not live in Outwell and had no direct relationship with the village and warned there were future housing developments to be built in the area that would likely be affected by the site.
“This will regularly cause distressing disturbances for neighbours,” he said.
But other members took a different view.
Cllr Michael de Whalley argued small-scale breeding businesses like this should be encouraged rather than unscrupulous puppy farms.
Cllr Simon Ring added that since there were other industrial premises a short distance away, to say it was a residential area was “obtuse”.
As a compromise, it was proposed that Mr and Mrs Jones could be given a 12-month trial period for the business. During this time frame, the effect on locals will be assessed before it is considered for permanent approval.