A FAMILY from Great Harwood fear their farming business could be put at risk after an application to convert a disused barn into a home for their son was turned down.
Hyndburn Council's Planning Committee rejected the request submitted by Richard and Pam Ireland, of Heys Farm on Dean Lane, on the advice of Lancashire County Council.
The couple applied for permission to convert the barn into a home for their son, Mark, 23, a farmer, and his fiancee, Eleanor Mallett, 20.
They argued that Mark, who also operates his own pedigree farming business from the site, needed to be on hand 24 hours a day in order to care for the farm's 1,400 sheep and more than 20 cows.
But the application was rejected after the committee heard Lancashire County Council's land agent did not feel there was any need for a worker to be readily available at most times, except during the 10-week lambing period.
Speaking after the committee meeting, Mrs Ireland, whose husband and son are the only two workers at the farm, said: "We can't be a viable business without our son here - it is going to make things very hard for us.
"The man who came from Lancashire County Council didn't really ask us a great many questions and that makes it difficult to prove the need. We just don't know what they want.
"We feel we are being penalised because if we had applied for this 10 years ago, it would have gone through. It is ridiculous and we are going to fight it."
Mr Brent Clarkson, development control manager for Hyndburn Council, told the meeting: "New houses in the countryside are usually not approved - the only exception is if there is a genuine need for an additional worker on the farm.
"As we have no expertise on this matter, we always seek the views of the county council. Their officials visit the farm and give us their reaction, which we invariably follow.
"Based on the number of animals at the farm, another farm worker unit is not justified. Having accepted that, we then looked at the rest of the policies, and it falls within our current policy not to approve any new dwellings."
Councillor Janet Storey said: "I have great sympathy with the applicants and I do have my doubts about Lancashire County Council on this.
"I have spoken to the NFU and it has grave reservations about the way these interviews are carried out. I just wish we had the expertise within this council."
All but three committee members voted to reject the application on the grounds that the property was in the green belt and it went against the council's current freeze on new house building.