A WORKING forge is under threat from the very planning policies that seek to protect it.

Planners have refused a unique application that will allow an artistic blacksmithing family to continue in business.

William Normandale applied to remove planning conditions on Penn House at Wheely Down Forge, near Warnford, in the Meon Valley.

He is taking over the business from his father Charles who is stepping back from the business he founded in the early 1980s.

The issue is that planning regulations ties Penn House to the forge but that tie prevents William from securing a mortgage which will allow him to extend the current tiny property for him, his wife and child. That will enable him to carry on living on site and provide the necessary security for the business.

Planning officer Sarah Tose recommended refusal at the planning committee, saying approval would technically mean a new dwelling in the countryside, which is against policy.

The committee voted by five votes to three to reject the scheme.

The Local Plan of the South Downs National Park seeks to nurture crafts in the countryside but also aims to deter unnecessary building of homes in the countryside.

Speaking afterwards Charles said he would need to speak to their planning advisors. But he added: "It is under threat now because William cannot live here and is going to have to move out. It could close us down, we don't know what will happen.

"I'm really disappointed. We can't quite believe the planners were being so pedantic. They had the opportunity to stand up and be counted and they walked away from it."

William’s agent Robert Lowe said: “Wheely Down Forge has an international reputation, that has been in operation for 38 years. The national park is fortunate to have it."

The application also had the support from the parish council.

There is no question of the property being sold off once it is extended. The Normandales say it is an integral part of the business.

Local ward councillor Hugh Lumby expressed his support for the Normandales. he told the committee: "I should also emphasise upfront the unique set of circumstances here, as we will see. Granting consent today will not be setting a precedent as I very much doubt these circumstances will arise again.

"I just want to start with a reminder of the first of the SDNP’s statutory objectives, “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage”. I believe this application is fully in line with that objective. There will be, as we will see no change, to its natural beauty and its cultural heritage will be enhanced by allowing the continuance of a great rural business. In addition, it allows us as a council to support our rural economy and help a family remain in the area without the need to provide it with additional housing. It’s a win-win for everyone."