Family living off grid in shipping container with alpacas told to dismantle home

Dan and Stacey Bond with daughter Eva
Dan and Stacey Bond with daughter Eva (Image credit: Dan Bond)

A couple who built a sustainable home out of shipping containers on land with alpacas, pigs, and chickens have been told to demolish the structure because they don’t have planning permission.

Dan and Stacey Bond, who have a four-year-old daughter called Eva, built the home on a patch of land they owned on the outskirts of Folkestone, Kent, where they also offer camping facilities for tourists, after years living in a converted double decker bus.

Now they face an uncertain future after being told to remove the structures by the local authority.

Home built with shipping containers

The couple have succeeded in obtaining retrospective permission for the driveway and a pond, but the rest of the facilities on the site may be torn down and removed.

The two-storey shipping container home at the Hoad Meadow Alpaca Retreat was built out of recycled material and is powered by solar panels. It features a 40ft shipping container as the ground floor and a 20ft container on top. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room.

It cost £40,000 to build and has facilities for campers who visit the site for stays during the summer for between £125 and £25 a night.

The structure may have to be taken down

The shipping container home where the young family live (Image credit: Dan Bond)

Moved in after living in double decker bus

Car electrician Daniel and wife Stacey moved into a bus more than 10 years ago because prices in Kent meant buying was out of their reach.

Instead, the couple bought a 1991 Leyland Olympia for £3,000 and then spent £8,000 and four months turning it into a two-bedroom home.

It featured running water, mains electricity, a kitchen, lounge, bathroom and even a bar, but as their daughter got older they decided to build their unconventional container home and move in there instead.

In 2018 Dan applied to build a "subterranean eco-home" on the land, but the application was refused.

The pond was given planning permission

The pond was given retrospective planning permission but the shopping container home was not (Image credit: Dan Bond)

Planning officers visited within two weeks of moving in

Daniel said that within two weeks of moving in a planning enforcement officer arrived to ask what they were doing with the property.

He said: “I’m getting a bit overwhelmed and I think it’s unfair. A couple of neighbours are supportive and then there some who are instigating the problem.

“We bought the land, and while we shouldn’t be able to do whatever we like, we should be able to do something.”

Holidaymakers can camp at the site

One of the tents on the land (Image credit: Dan Bond)

Told to dismantle home

A spokesperson for Folkestone and Hythe District Council said the property was found to be detrimental to the character and appearance of the countryside and the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Landscape Area.

They added: “Mr Bond applied for planning permission to erect a dwelling on the site, which was refused in 2018. He subsequently constructed a biodiversity pond and hardstanding without planning permission, and applied retrospectively, which was granted in December 2021. At this point, Mr Bond – via his agent – advised us that he intended to use the land for agricultural purposes.

“Mr Bond moved onto the site, without planning permission, in approximately March/April 2022. He advised a council officer visiting the site in April 2022 that he would submit a retrospective application for planning permission for the further unauthorised development he had carried out.

“He was advised by the officer that although it was likely that enforcement action would be taken, this may be held in abeyance if an application were to be submitted.

“No planning application for the residential use of the site has been submitted in the year since Mr Bond occupied the site, despite assurances being provided that it would be. It is not therefore the case that planning permission has been refused for Mr Bond’s unauthorised use of the site, nor that Mr Bond was unaware of the prospect of enforcement action being taken.”

“In the absence of an application for the residential use of the site, we took the decision to take planning enforcement action requiring the unauthorised use of the site to cease and the unauthorised structures to be removed.”

The spokesperson says the enforcement notice has not yet been served, but will have a compliance period of a year, and Dan has the opportunity to appeal.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.