A FAMILY who run a horse sanctuary have vowed to keep it open, despite losing their five-year long planning battle.
Mary Hepworth and her family at Albert’s Horse Sanctuary spent years contesting a bitter planning battle with Barnsley Council after the charity put up stables on green belt land at Cawthorne without permission.
Now the family, who also run a charity shop in Scissett, have been ordered to pull down the 12 stables after their latest application for planning permission was refused.
They are now in the process of pulling the stables down.
But Mary vowed that the sanctuary, home to 40 unwanted animals including 21 horses, three donkeys, sheep, pigs, goats, cats and rabbits, will remain open.
She said “We are so upset but there is no way we are putting the animals to sleep – they deserve a life.
“We’ve been fighting for them for so long and have come so far that we’re determined to fight this to the end.”
The Hepworths built the stables but then applied for retrospective planning permission.
But the family’s application was refused on the grounds that the buildings constituted an “inappropriate development” on the land.
Last month the council began legal proceedings and the Hepworths face a battle against time to pull the stables down and get the animals rehoused before the court case on May 6.
The relocation to nearby land will run into thousands of pounds and the charity only has enough stable space to house animals most in need of shelter.
Mary said: “The owner has planning permission for four stables so we will be able to rebuild these, but we need new materials and have to re-site the water and electric.
“The work is going to run into thousands of pounds and it’s money we haven’t got.
“We’re having to tear down perfectly good stables to rebuild them, it’s heartbreaking to see the sanctuary looking like a bomb has hit it as we took pride in making it look nice.”
The family fear their horses, many of which are elderly and suffer from health problems like arthritis, will struggle to cope without shelter.
Mary said: “It’s really upsetting.
“Our priority is housing older animals like Molly who is aged around 30 to 40 and wouldn’t survive if she was left outside. We’re just having to leave the other horses outside and hope that they’ll be ok.”
Mary now plans to break the remaining stables she needs up into groups of four and apply for planning permission for each block.
She said: “What has happened to us seems so unfair. We’re such an asset to the community as we help the likes of the police, disability schools and mental health services. We love these animals to bits so getting rid of them and closing down is not an option.”
The charity desperately needs help, from food donations to materials to help get the stables up and running.
To help call Mary on 07721 327879.