A FARMING couple from Sampford Courtenay who have built their ‘beyond organic’ farm up over six years from scratch have thanked local councillors and the community for supporting their bid to open a farm shop.

Gemma and Sam Bullingham own and run Taw River Dairy at Westacre Farm. Their herd of Jersey cattle produce rich milk which they both sell in bottles and make into ice cream. Before the covid pandemic, they had sold this at local festivals and events, but the lockdowns, which saw all events cancelled, put a halt to this side of the business.

Wanting to sell their produce direct from their farm to secure the future of their businessthey applied for planning permission from West Devon Borough Council to set up a farm shop in a field on the other side of the road from their dairy farm.

Councillors on WDBC’s development management and licensing committee meeting last week voted to support the couple and back their application, going against the recommendation of refusal by council officers. Gemma said she was “so pleased” at the news that they could go ahead with their plans.

“I know planning is a painful process anyway but the rejection from the planners felt so wrong and I was really grateful to have the enormous support from the community. It was brilliant that we had that support. Hopefully in the New Year we can get going,” she said.

The proposal was put before WDBC’s planning and licensing committee meeting on October 31 with officers recommending refusing the proposal on the grounds of it being in an “isolated” and “unsustainable” location with an “unfeasible” drainage system.

However councillors argued to the contrary with councillor for the Hatherleigh ward, Patrick Kimber saying: “[This will] allow a farm business to diversify and thrive in a more isolated location and I cannot imagine many farm businesses having a more suitable location than this one. As you know farms are generally away from towns and A and B roads. Just across the valley we gave the Arla Taw Valley Creamery, Vital Pet Group distribution centre and an industrial estate a few hundred yards down the road.

“This doesn’t feel isolated. In Hatherleigh, we have a farm shop a mile out of town and we regularly shop there which saves a much longer trip to the local supermarket and, if we approve this, I expect overall miles and private car use to reduce.”

Cllr Neil Jory, for Milton Abbot ward, added: “I find myself looking at this proposal and thinking that it’s something that supports our overall objective of helping farms diversify, helping rural businesses to prosper, and putting people back in contact with their food.”