Landowner told to demolish his shed due to area being home to rare bats

A house in a forest built from plywood with a surrounding campsite and black roofing and an outside toilet
Stephen Windsor has ignored requests from the courts and council to take down the structure as he believes it should not require planning permission (Image credit: SWNS)

A landowner ignored requests from the courts and his local council to take down a shed and composting toilet he built on a reservation for bats.

Stephen Windsor, 64, built the shed and composting toilet in Quarry Woods, Box, Wiltshire, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but never gained planning permission for the project.

He claimed the development was a retreat for disabled people to stay and relax, but he has now been ordered to remove the structure and surrounding campsite, although he has vowed to keep fighting to keep the development.

Land is home to rare bats as well as being an SSSI

Stephen started the project to transform a piece of land in Quarry Woods into an accessible woodland and a 'haven' for people with disabilities. 

He built a tool shed with a compostable toilet as part of this effort after buying the land in 2021, that also includes a campsite/sitting area. Additionally, he set up a tree nursery as part of the project.

However, the land is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the presence of rare bats, so it has strong environmental protection.

Why has it been ordered to be torn down?

As previously mentioned the home is a SSSI due a rare bat population in the woods, but planning permission was also never sought for the development.

Complaints were submitted to the council over the shed and project from the 'Friends of Quarry Woods', a community group that serves the interest of the woods. The group raised concerns that people were living in the shed and that other could move onto the site.

In a statement a spokesperson for the group said: "We are pleased to see that Wiltshire County Council are taking the strong legal protections of this site seriously, and hope they continue to do so for other sites across the county.

"The woods are hugely important for wildlife (including rare and protected bats) and for our community's wellbeing.

"We hope they will be safeguarded and appropriately managed for future generations."

Wiltshire Council told the landowner to remove the buildings because they were in a conservation area and because he failed to gain planning.

After he ignored this request on February 16, at Salisbury Magistrates' Court, he was found guilty of not following an enforcement notice.

Then, on July 28, he lost an appeal in the crown court and was told to pay the council's costs of £1,700 and the council is now seeking a High Court injunction to force the shed's removal.

Councillor Nick Botterill said: "We are passionate about protecting Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that fall within Wiltshire and our enforcement officers will take any action necessary to protect them.

"At this time Mr Windsor has still not complied with the enforcement notice and has in fact carried out further unlawful development on the site.

"As a result, an application for a High Court Injunction has been made, which if successful, will order the defendant to demolish the two buildings and remove the material."

An overhead shot of Quarry Woods, Box, Wiltshire

Stephen built the project on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the presence of rare bats, which partly promoted the council to remove the structure (Image credit: Google Earth)

Landowner claims project shouldn't need planning

The landowner has continued to ignore the council's and court's requests to tear down the shed as he does not believe the project needs planning permission.

He claims that planning permission for the shed and campsite is not needed as they are not attached to the ground and there are exemptions for portable sheds under planning rules in certain scenarios.

He said: "We're appealing and will take this all the way, I'm not going to stop because the council can't get away with this.

"It's going to be a beautiful thing and it is in keeping with the woodland, there's no water, electricity or gas and you can't see it from more than 20 metres away.

"I think it's disgusting that the council would do this, I'm totally stressed all the time over this and just gobsmacked."

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.