Office plan would not spoil wood, says businessman

Rutland County Council offices in Oakham
Rutland County Council offices in Oakham
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A businessman has defended his plans to convert a barn into an office after criticism from a countryside charity.

John Leefe, who runs financial advice firm JP Leefe and Company, has applied to change the use of an agricultural storage building in a private wood off Stocken Hall Road, Stretton.

Mr Leefe also wants to build a small extension to house a toilet and tea preparation room.

A previous application on similar lines was approved in 1998, but work was never completed and a fresh application is now needed.

The plans have been criticised by the Rutland branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which says the converted building would spoil the woodland setting.

But Mr Leefe believes there are no problems with his plans.

He said: “We will not be destroying the wood and we will be converting a building that is already in use. We have planning permission for a building there.”

The wood, known as Stocken Lane Plantation, has been owned by the Leefe family since 1968. Mr Leefe said he had spent a lot of money planting trees and hedges in the area.

He also pointed out that having his office in Stretton would boost the economy of the village.

He added: “It would bring work into the village. I would bring clients to the pub or put them up in hotels.

“We need development in the countryside.”

Julian Lessey is one of Stretton resident campaigning against the plans. He said he had not spoken to Mr Leefe, but added: “There is no reason why you should have an office in the countryside at all, let alone in a conservation area.”

Rutland County Council has yet to make a decision on the plans.