The owner of a rural Asfordby Hlll building who has twice tried unsuccessfully to get planning permission to use it as a home has been left ‘devastated’ after it was destroyed in an arson attack on Friday night.
Alain Bonamy bought the barn-style former pump house, off Melton Road, for £65,000 seven years ago after the previous owner had converted it into a dwelling without the borough council’s approval.
He applied for retrospective planning permission for the property and for change of use, but Melton Council refused both applications because of the building’s isolated location, and the lack of access to it, and a subsequent planning application for a permanent track also failed after he was told he used the wrong form.
We reported last year how Mr Bonamy, who lives with his family in London but who wanted to relocate them to the property and set up a smallholding on the eight-acre site, was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the situation after squatters and drug-takers moved into it, costing him money to evict them through the courts.
Two crews of firefighters were alerted at 11.04pm on Friday to tackle a blaze at the building but they were unable to prevent it being burned down.
Mr Bonamy told the Melton Times this morning (Monday): “It’s devastating that this has happened.
“I cannot understand why anyone would want to do something like - I am so upset about it.”
He says he reiterated to the council, in his various applications for planning permission to use it as a dwelling, that by leaving the property unoccupied it was vulnerable to being broken into.
“I told them something like this would happen if no-one was living in it,” he added.
“The fire brigade apparently had to carry their stuff for half-a-kilometre to the property because I was not allowed to make the track leading to it into a proper access.
“The council had a nerve to say the building would spoil the landscape because it has already been converted into a five-bedroom home and if we had been living in it I’m sure this fire would never have happened.”
Melton Council said last year that it has been involved in lengthy correspondence with Mr Bonamy over his quest to attain planning permission for his property and that decisions on his applications, like those from every other applicant, are decided purely on planning grounds according to the council’s policies.
The property was originally built as a barn in 1900 and has planning approval for light industrial use.
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: “We were called just before 12.30am in the early hours of Saturday morning to reports of a barn being set on fire on Melton Road, Asfordby Hill.
“The fire service said it was believed to be caused by deliberate ignition.
“If anyone saw anything suspicious at the time of the incident we would ask them to call us on 101.”
Firefighters spent more than two hours dealing with the blaze and investigators found that it had been started deliberately.
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said: “A call was received from a passer-by to a fire seen in the distance, but they didn’t know what was involved.
“An appliance was sent from Melton Station to investigate and, upon arrival, crews called for a second appliance and confirmed this was a disused barn involved in fire.
“A barn measuring approximately 10 by 20 meters was fully involved in fire.”
Crews extinguished the fire using two hose reel jets using a portable pumping unit fed from a river near to the barn.