A MEON Valley farm's attempt to diversify has been rebuffed by planners.

Shady Oaks Farm at Durley wanted permission to use land as a store for caravans and motor homes.

But the planning committee narrowly rejected the idea saying it was contrary to policy and would open the floodgates to unsightly caravans parked across the countryside.

The applicants, Mr and Mrs C Reeves and Mr and Mrs R Reeves, sought retrospective permission for 22 caravans on site and up to 60 in future.

Planning officer Liz Marsden told the committee there was no reason why the store needed to be in the countryside and would "have a detrimental impact on the rural character of the area."

Planning agent Kim Blunt for the applicant, told the committee: "The caravan storage is important for the diversification of the smallholding. It would make good use of the unused land. There is a shortage of caravan sites for storage."

Ms Blunt said such stores had to be in the countryside as they were unviable in urban areas as land values are too high.

Ms Blunt said the parish council was in support as were local people and there have been no objections.

Jade Reeves, on of the applicants, said: "Locally there has been the loss of 700 caravan storage spaces due to housing development. Locally 6,000 houses have been built that don't allow of caravans.

"We don't want a very big site as we live in the countryside . We want this in support of running the farm, not as a replacement, but complimentary to."

The committee heard that one of the places where caravan parking had been lost was in nearby Colden Common.

Cllr Frank Pearson said: "I have concerns about the grounds for refusal. You never see caravans stored in built-up areas. They can only be stored in the countryside. The visibility issue can be dealt with by landscaping.

Cllr David McLean agreed. "This is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This site cannot be seen from the road. Why is our policy being used so strongly in this case? This allows the farm to diversify to carry on running."

Ms Marsden, the planning officer, repeated there was no need for a countryside location. "There is the potential to lots of fields across the district to be used for storage. They will be more difficult to refuse."

Cllr Jane Rutter said she had no objection if conditions over landscaping and maximum numbers were imposed.

She said: "We have to accept farming is a very difficult business to be in. We require farmers to be creative and to diversify. I understand this area was used for the storage of farm machinery. I don't see a huge difference."

But committee chairman Therese Evans stated: "This is against policy. I believe the planning committee are guardians of our policy."

The committee was split four each with Cllr Rutter, the deputy chairman, abstaining.

Cllr Evans used her casting cote to refuse the application.