Eviction threat hangs over man living in box

Herald Series: Craig Farmer inside his container home at East Hendred Craig Farmer inside his container home at East Hendred

ON the outside it is the kind of rusty shipping container you would expect to see at a port or riding on a ship, train or lorry.

But the inside of the steel container is home to father-of-one Craig Farmer. The makeshift house in East Hendred is equipped with plumbing, electricity, a door and windows.

The construction worker said it was a comfortable place to live, adding: “In winter it’s really warm and in the summer it’s really cool.”

He pays landlord Les Wells £40 a week to live in the container at a former caravan site off Reading Road.

But Mr Farmer is now facing homelessness as the conversion could be in breach of planning laws.

The 39-year-old said: “It’s not causing any problems to anybody. People don’t have to look at it.

“I have got a life, but by this being taken away from me, it’s just going to turn things upside down.

“It’s not like the council will take this away and give me something else. I will probably have to sleep and live out of my van.” William Pratt, 63, who used to live at the caravan site, said: “There’s no way you would think that was a home.

“But from the inside you would never know it was a container.”

He added: “If he wants to live there, then let him live there.”

Oxford was named the seventh most expensive town or city for tenants in the UK earlier this month – with an average rent of £891 a month.

And the city has about 6,000 households on the housing register waiting to be allocated social housing.

There are 3,323 people on the waiting list in the Vale of White Horse , 3,421 in South Oxfordshire, 2,121 in West Oxfordshire, and 4,023 in Cherwell.

The Oxford Mail reported in January that an Oxford shed had been advertised to rent for £450 a month.

Mr Wells, 49, who runs the Greensands Bed and Breakfast next to the former caravan site, has applied to Vale of White Horse District Council for a lawful development certificate to allow the home to stay.

He said he spent £7,500 converting it to create a kitchen/living room, a bedroom and a shower room.

He said: “I had nowhere else to put him and it’s bigger and more solid than a caravan.”

He added: “There is a serious lack of homes in the district. He has got nowhere else to go.

“It’s quite habitable, there are worse houses in Oxford.”

In 2001, Mr Wells was paid £1m for selling land to former Oxford United chairman Firoz Kassam for the development of the Kassam Stadium .

The council has yet to make a decision on the shipping container application.

David Rothery, a planning officer at the council, said Mr Wells needed to prove the container had been used as a home for at least four years. He said: “I have never come across a case like this before and I have got 27 years of experience.”

Frank Webster, director of property rental agency Finders Keepers, in Summertown, Oxford, said: “They’re not meant to be inhabited but obviously we’re very creative as human beings.

“I think it’s a very sad situation if we allow people to live in a shipping container.”

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