A COUPLE who had dreamed of farming alpacas near North Nibley have been told they have nine months to find somewhere else to live.

Emma and Rodney Bird, of Bird Farm Stancombe, have had their dreams shattered after their appeal against Stroud District Council’s decision to refuse them permission to live on their alpaca farm failed.

The couple’s second appeal against an enforcement notice issued by the district council for placing a caravan on site without planning permission was also unsuccessful.

Mrs Bird said: "It has been a bitter blow for us to lose our appeal to live onsite with our alpacas at Bird Farm.

"It seems some local pressure based on preconceived ideas of our intentions, and a wish not to set a precedent, has clouded a proper assessment of our low impact business which is showing great potential.

"The value of a small business contributing to the local economy, supporting education and community-based groups, has been completely overlooked, it seems in favour of big businesses, a bigger herd of alpacas and more land would suffice."

Mrs Bird said she and her husband were now actively seeking to relocate their farm but added they did want to stay local.

She said: "It is important to us to feel welcome and valued wherever we end up. A big thank you to those who have supported us and understood what we were trying to do here."

Clive Kirkbride, the independent inspector who decided the appeal after a one-day hearing in June, said the couple’s business had not been planned on a sound financial basis and there was no functional need to live on site.

In his decision Mr Kirkbride said: "I find that the three year business plan overestimates the likely income to be generated and underestimates the level of expenditure likely to be incurred to the extent that the appellants’ stated intentions would be unlikely to materialise or be sustainable."

He added: "I am not persuaded from the evidence before me that there is a requirement for the appellants to live on the land."

Philip Skill, head of planning at Stroud District Council, said the inspector’s decision confirmed the authority’s view.

He said: "The use of alpacas as a means to get erroneous permissions for dwellings in the countryside is well known to the planning fraternity and recent decisions have closed the door, and bolted it, against these abuses.

"The exceptions for rural workers were designed to assist genuine farmers to feed the nation."

The Birds now have until February/March 2013 to vacate the site and find alternative accommodation.