Loddon Mill Arts’ appeal for backing

A couple who run a small number of successful arts events from their Norfolk home each year say they now intend to submit a planning application for the venture after a wrangle over red tape.

Andy and Katherine Walter have put on comedy and music nights in Loddon for over a year under a temporary events notice obtained from South Norfolk Council, which allows them to run 12 events a year.

The events have proved a big success and the couple, who have links to the London music industry, often attract big-name acts to Loddon Mill Arts.

But the Walters were shocked when the district council informed them they may need planning permission as running the events could constitute a change of use of the building.

Last week they met officials from South Norfolk Council to discuss the issue and this week Mrs Walter said the couple would now be seeking planning permission for change of use.

The couple added: “The meeting discussed the ways forward for us to continue running events at Loddon Mill Arts and, although frank, was positive and helpful for us and the council.

“The best way forward to enable us to continue running events will be to obtain planning permission for the running of ‘occasional’ events from our house and we intend to submit an application in due course.”

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The couple have called for the regulations to be made more transparent and said they were not told they might need planning permission until last November.

They have taken up the issue with communities secretary Eric Pickles and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The couple have been inundated with letters of support and are asking people to continue sending their messages as they try to secure planning permission.

Among the letters of support was one from playwright Euan Macpherson who wrote: “South Norfolk Council should be doing all it can to encourage independent, artistic self-expression.

“Not only is this good for the vibrant culture of the local community but it will surely also be good for the local economy (albeit in a small way).

“At times of forthcoming economic hardship, the initiative and independent endeavour of individuals should be encouraged.

“The Edinburgh Festival began because a few individuals got together in the post-war era to do something to brighten the life of the city. While Loddon Arts may not achieve that level of success, it is still something that should broadly be encouraged.”

A South Norfolk Council spokesman said the authority had a routine meeting with Mr and Mrs Walter to discuss when and where planning permission would be required for their activities.