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Family hits a brick wall with bureaucracy over ancestral home planners say never existed

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Owner Jayne Briggs at the site upon which council have declined planning permission

Owner Jayne Briggs at the site upon which council have declined planning permission

Stephen Hamilton

Owner Jayne Briggs at the site upon which council have declined planning permission

A Lisburn family have called planning chiefs "ludicrous" over objections to restore an ancestral home of 200 years.

Jane Briggs (86) can trace the ruins of the Ballymullan Road farmhouse back to her great-grandfather James Todd.

Her grandparents and parents also made their home in the historic one-and-a-half storey dwelling.

The building fell into disrepair in the 1970s, with the collapse of the roof allowing an ash tree to grow in the living room.

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The site upon which council have declined planning permission

The site upon which council have declined planning permission

Stephen Hamilton

The family wish to build a new home and incorporate the original stone walls as an outhouse or stables. But planners say that what remains lacks the "essential characteristics" of a home.

Ms Briggs' son-in-law Wesley Patterson told the Belfast Telegraph that she was "absolutely distraught" over the opposition to restore the property.

A previous application in 2012 also failed as the tree-covered ruins were not visible in aerial photographs.

Planners also ordered the owners to undo "extensive" repair work, including removing the tree from the living room, but the case was dropped five years later.

The decision on the latest application rests with elected members of Lisburn and Castlereagh Council's planning committee.

It is understood members have visited the site and will decide in the coming weeks.

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The site upon which council have declined planning permission

The site upon which council have declined planning permission

Stephen Hamilton

"It's been in the family as long as we can remember," said Mr Patterson.

"This old house has lots of character. The problem is that the planners are saying there's never been a house there but this is ludicrous. To visit it or to research old maps, you would know."

He added: "My mother-in-law is 86 years old, she's absolutely distraught at the way the planners are treating her and her son William over the application.

"By March, this process will have taken two years. These people are paid by the public purse, it's just ridiculous that they won't do anything and keep moving from one thing to the next."

Town planner Tom Wilson is representing the family.

He said: "The structure is sound enough to be kept and used so it would be a shame to lose it for any reason.

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Aerial pictures of the Ballymullan site produced to support the claim that the house only recently appeared

Aerial pictures of the Ballymullan site produced to support the claim that the house only recently appeared

"It's worth keeping and it only really has a use if they get to build a new house beside it.

"The objection from the planners is that the old building has had some repairs to it in the past, nobody disputes that. A structure of 200-odd years will have that. The planning office has already determined that the repairs are lawful because they were done so long ago, so there's no question of any of the work being unlawful or needing to be undone."

Mr Wilson said he was "hopeful rather than overly optimistic" that next month's planning decision would go their way.

Speaking in support of the proposal earlier this month, councillor Nicholas Trimble said a decision hinged on what councillors considered to be a complete wall. Council policy requires a building's external walls to be "substantially intact" with visible window and door openings to qualify for replacement.

Mr Trimble said: "To me, it's really going to that issue of what is substantially intact because everything else meets policy."

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