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Critics brushed off.

Byline: By Linda Wicker

A farmer who was accused of spoiling the view in what Ruskin described as one of the loveliest scenes "in the world" has won a court appeal to paint his barn bright red and blue.

Sheep farmer Thomas Wharton was told to `tone down' the paintwork on his steel and timber hayshed after he daubed one wall in 30 foot high stripes.

But the angry stockman, who picked up his paintbrush after a quarrel with local planners, refused and took his case to South Lakeland Magistrates' Court.

And the court decided the stripes should stay ( to the dismay of South Lakeland District Council.

The blot-on-the-landscape barn is part of Mr Wharton's farm at Kirfit Hall at Casterton, Cumbria, in the famously idyllic rural landscape known as Ruskin's View.

The scene was immortalised by the 19th century painter JMW Turner, and described by John Ruskin himself as: "One of the loveliest scenes in England therefore in the world. I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine."

Mr Wharton was accused of spoiling the view when he painted the stripes as a protest after being refused planning permission to convert the barn into accommodation.

At the time, South Lakeland District Council was unsure about whether it had any powers to compel Mr Wharton to tone down his barn.

At a meeting of the planning committee in February, members were told that, under section 215 of the 1990 Planning Act, they could force Mr Wharton to re-paint his barn as it was damaging visual amenity.

The committee considered "that the amenity and character of the area as a whole outweighed any infringements over the enjoyment of the individual's personal property rights", and Mr Wharton was told that he must paint the offending barn either green or grey to blend in with its surroundings. Mr Wharton was warned should he fail to comply with the order within 28 days, he could find himself in front of magistrates.

But the defiant sheepman said at the time: "They'll be lucky, lambing starts this week, I don't know when they expect me to do this."

He then took the case to appeal.

During the appeal, South Lakeland District Council planning officer told the court Mr Wharton had been ordered to repaint the barn green or grey to fit in with its surroundings, after sightseers had complained the barn was unsightly.

He explained that ordinarily, planning permission to paint the barn would not have been necessary, but for the council section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act provided a "remedy" for situations "where planning permission would not be needed, but where the actions of an individual were still causing an unattractive sight".

He cited the example of a neighbour leaving rusting motorcycles in a front garden.

Appealing on Mr Wharton's behalf, Martin Gillibrand contested this.

He said: "The act does not give any power to restrict painting to a building.

"The council is seeking to bring this section into its armoury and it is very important it should not be allowed to do so.

"What it means is that the council would be allowed to interfere in everybody and anybody's life.

"That has nothing to do with planning control."

The magistrates decided Mr Wharton did not need to repaint the barn.

The farmer was surprised at the decision, and said: "It was not the result I was expecting."

Barry Jackson, South Lakeland planning officer said he did not think the council would pursue the case, but if the SLDC councillors wished to pursue it, the council would appeal.

Curator at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, Vicky Slowe said she thought Ruskin might have liked the barn's new colour scheme.

She said: "I know there was a huge furore when the barn was first painted, but for Ruskin, colour was an almost sacred thing and I think he may have seen the good in this."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 22, 2004
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