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Sarratt wedding venue owners treated 'unfairly' by district council
The owners of a Sarratt estate used for weddings have criticised the way they have been treated by Three Rivers after an application to keep a marquee, which can house more than 300 people, was rejected.
Years of feuding with the district council have left owners of the Micklefield Hall, Anna and Jamie Rankin, feeling despondent and unfairly treated.
The pair have been running events from the 350-acre Sarratt Road estate for 15 years.
In 2002, the couple began talks with the council about saving the estate’s Tithe Barn, which dates back to the 16th century.
Applications to renovate the dilapidated barn were thrown out. Consequently, the couple took the case to appeal.
In 2009 the pair was successful and won the public inquiry, including costs against the council.
However, a condition was put in place that the marquee, which has been used for weddings, would have to be taken down - much to the couple’s annoyance.
Mr Ranking said he and his wife have encountered obstacles at every turn in their discussions with the council.
He added: "The council has just stood in our way every time and I just really don’t know why.
"We have received no complaints in the past five years and the reason we’ve had the application turned down was nothing to do with noise or traffic, it was adverse impact on the Green Belt.
"What really grates is that there are farms nearby which put these great big marquees up every weekend and play music which goes straight across the area. It’s not fair.
"We believe the decisions the council has made are misplaced and it’s a shame and pity. I really think they need more balance in their decision making."
Weddings are not the only events held at the venue, many charities also hold functions there free-of-charge.
Kevin Snow, spokesman for Three Rivers, said the planning permission which was granted in 2009 at appeal sought to limit the impact of the use on the Green Belt and nearby residents by restricting the number of events to no more than 57 days a year with a maximum of 200 guests in the barn.
Currently, wedding receptions and events can be held in the marquee for 28 days a year with up to 320 people.
However, Mrs Rankin said they sometimes would require more space for larger weddings, particularly Jewish and Asian occasions which are traditionally bigger affairs.
Mr Snow said: "We need to balance the interests of local businesses alongside the interests of their neighbours and impact on local amenities and the Green Belt.
"The conditions were placed by the independent planning inspectorate. The district council refused an application last year to remove previous conditions which limited temporary events outside of the barn.
"We refused this for the same reasons above as highlighted by the planning inspectorate in 2009 at appeal."
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