A number of concerned North Cray residents are outraged over plans for stables to be redeveloped, but the landowners say they just want to be closer to their business. 

A planning application submitted to the council outlines an intention to demolish a stable block in Parsonage Lane and replace it with a three-bedroom house.

However, in a letter sent to the council by the North Cray Residents Association, a number of concerns have been raised including a claim that the proposed development does not meet the specific circumstances outlined in national planning policies with regard to protecting greenbelt sites.

The letter alleges: "What is being sought is not for the provision of facilities for outdoor recreation, nor the re-use of a building."

North Cray residents have claimed they are also concerned that if this application is approved, it would set a precedent which could potentially jeopardise the "openness" of the greenbelt land.

Their letter alleges: "The demolition of the existing stable block and its replacement by a new building in a completely different use (a residential dwelling) is a change of use that would undoubtedly lead to significant encroachment of the surrounding open countryside.

"This is because, if Bexley were to allow this change of use in the case of The North Cray & Sidcup Riding School, it would open the floodgate to similar applications from other equestrian premises in the Green Belt, ones that Bexley would find difficult to refuse if such planning permission were to be granted in this case."

However, co-applicant for the development, Joanne Whiley, whose husband runs the North Cray & Sidcup Riding School, said the couple refute these claims, saying they are just trying to build a "family home" to help the continuity of their riding school. 

"This is a family business that has been running for 60 years, started by my husband's grandfather and taken over by my husband's father.

"Now it’s come to the point where my husband's parents are in their 70s and that side of the business (the caring of animals etc) now falls to my husband.

"We are just looking to live on the site to allow the business to continue to run and not compromise our family's life," she said.

Mrs Whiley explained that life would "be much easier" if they were to live on the site as they have to provide care to their horses every eight hours. 

She also said they have always been open to residents about their development plans and they also would like to see the greenbelt protected.

"We proposed a single-story dwelling and it's designed to fit in where the stables are, behind where my husband's parents live.

"We've been approached by property developers before about building houses on the land but we don't want that, we want to protect the greenbelt.

"There is special circumstances here behind this plan," she said. 

A planning statement submitted by the applicants also states the development would not affect the openness of the greenbelt as it would just be replacing the current building and would not "encroach into the existing character of the area."

The planning application is currently still pending approval.