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A father-of-three who built a £100,000 treehouse without planning permission has revealed he has cancer and feared he didn’t have enough time to wait for officials to sign off his ‘dream project’. 

John Kitson, 42, built the luxurious one bed ‘Cornish Treehouse’ property in a secluded woodland in Morval, near Looe – a modern elevated wooden structure with WiFi available from £195 a night.

But he admits he didn’t get permission as an eye cancer diagnosis left him fearing it would take too long to get the green light.

John said he was ‘a silly bu***r’ but having an official plan would have also ‘limited’ his ability to make artistic decisions as work progressed. 

He said when the build started he didn’t know if he would be around to ‘see the end’ of it.

However John now sees that is no justification and regrets making life ‘difficult’ for the local planning office.

He is seeking retrospective planning permission but if the application fails he faces having to tear down the entire project – which he says will break his heart. 

John Kitson's Cornish Treehouse he built without planning permission in Cornwall - but he is now seeking retrospective permission

John Kitson’s Cornish Treehouse he built without planning permission in Cornwall – but he is now seeking retrospective permission

The luxurious one bed 'Cornish Treehouse' property is in a secluded woodland in Morval, near Looe

The luxurious one bed ‘Cornish Treehouse’ property is in a secluded woodland in Morval, near Looe

It is a modern elevated wooden structure with WiFi available from £195 a night - the interior pictured complete with a kitchen and sitting area

It is a modern elevated wooden structure with WiFi available from £195 a night – the interior pictured complete with a kitchen and sitting area 

The modern-looking bath room in the treehouse - John says it was his dream project and started building during the pandemic

The modern-looking bath room in the treehouse – John says it was his dream project and started building during the pandemic

The treehouse has mains electricity and running water and is rented out as holiday accommodation advertised as a 'cosy couples' retreat'

The treehouse has mains electricity and running water and is rented out as holiday accommodation advertised as a ‘cosy couples’ retreat’

John said: ‘Thankfully my cancer is not as bad as I thought, I thought I had a secondary tumour somewhere on my pancreas but thankfully I’m in the clear.

‘When I first got checked up I never thought it would be anything serious, but within days I was in London and then Liverpool for treatment.

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‘I admit it’s not relevant for planning, but from a personal point of view it focuses your mind a bit if the worst did happen.

‘I just didn’t want to wait, I didn’t want to f**k around waiting months for planners and not be able to see the finished build.

‘I think that as part of the urgency for wanting to get on with it – it’s a difficult area to talk about.

‘It puts things into context a little. There are more things to life and I didn’t know if I’d be around to see the end frankly when we started.

‘It’s a very weak justification and that doesn’t justify what I’ve done but it was the reason for wanting to get on with it.

‘I just fell in love with it and other people fell in love with it.

‘I don’t blame the planners for doing their job and I’m delighted people are being supportive. If the worst happens, it happens and I’m a silly bu***r.

‘If they make me tear it down I’ll have to comply but it will break my heart.’

John said he was 'a silly bu***r' but having an official plan would have also 'limited' his ability to make artistic decisions as work progressed

John said he was ‘a silly bu***r’ but having an official plan would have also ‘limited’ his ability to make artistic decisions as work progressed

A spokesman for the South East Cornwall Tourism Association, said: 'My personal concern is the safety aspect, we can't see any fire exits on this building yet it has a log burner. How safe is that?'

A spokesman for the South East Cornwall Tourism Association, said: ‘My personal concern is the safety aspect, we can’t see any fire exits on this building yet it has a log burner. How safe is that?’

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council confirmed 'the applicant has submitted a retrospective planning application to apply for permission so that it can be considered in the usual manner'

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council confirmed ‘the applicant has submitted a retrospective planning application to apply for permission so that it can be considered in the usual manner’

John, a Morval parish councillor, built the treehouse – that has mains electricity and running water – during the pandemic.

It is now rented out as holiday accommodation advertised as a ‘cosy couples’ retreat’.

John, a former suits salesman from Bristol, took over the family estate after the passing of his grandparents in 2009.

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He says that the plan was to pass on the costs of maintaining his estate’s ‘money pit’ 200-300 year old buildings on the site to vacationers – rather than existing tenants.

Morval estate hosts over 20 families, ranging from ‘farmers to pensioners’ according to John – including some who have lived on the site for over 50 years.

John said: ‘We wanted to raise an income to try and raise money without asking our tenants on the estate to pay for site maintenance, especially with the cost of living and various tree diseases we’ve had on site.

‘I just don’t want to pass those costs on to tenants. We looked at a wind turbine, but that would have annoyed all the locals and would have been far more disruptive compared to this treehouse.’

Despite not seeking planning permission, he claims that he did consult locals on the build – meeting no real opposition.

John admits he didn't get permission as an eye cancer diagnosis left him fearing it would take too long to get the green light

John admits he didn’t get permission as an eye cancer diagnosis left him fearing it would take too long to get the green light

He fell in love with the property and said other people have as well - and will be heartbroken if he is forced to tear it down

He fell in love with the property and said other people have as well – and will be heartbroken if he is forced to tear it down

He explained: ‘I spoke to my tenants before I started building, and explained what I planned to make. They didn’t have any issues with it

‘People here see it and see the effort, a lot of locals know people who worked on the treehouse.

‘I tried to use local businesses, like a former tree surgeon I know who made the bed and sink for the treehouse for example.

‘I genuinely believe in the sustainability agenda, and so we designed the treehouse to incorporate a lot of local wood that we had to fell due to a rather unpleasant tree disease.

‘It’s designed to give minimum possible impact to the local area and the environment, we used no concrete for example.’

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A retrospective planning permission application has now been published for the property and is visible on Cornwall Council’s planning portal with application number PA22/06132.

Locals have until December 2022 to comment on the build.

John added: ‘I’m just for a quiet life, I don’t want to put all these people in difficult positions.

‘I just hope Cornwall councillors understand that being a landlord is becoming quite difficult, a lot of people have sold up to people who then kick out locals and make AirBnBs.

‘It’s certainly a more profitable and low-effort option, but tourists should always be able to come here to Cornwall.’

John says he has the support of locals - but his official application will be determined by December 1

John says he has the support of locals – but his official application will be determined by December 1

John is now doing well but still has to have an MRI scan every six months to check the cancer hasn’t metastasised.

He promoted his treetop getaway as a glamping destination online but when the council spotted the ad they claimed it was an unlawful safety hazard.

One neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘I don’t know of anyone locally complaining about this.

‘You can’t see it unless you’re in the woods. It isn’t bothering anyone.

‘If they make me tear it down I’ll have to comply but it will break my heart.’

But local tourism bosses believe the structure is unsafe and should not be operating.

A spokesman for the South East Cornwall Tourism Association, said: ‘My personal concern is the safety aspect, we can’t see any fire exits on this building yet it has a log burner. How safe is that?

‘It can be as cutesy as you like. But it should still have to meet building regulations.’

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council added: ‘The applicant has submitted a retrospective planning application to apply for permission so that it can be considered in the usual manner.

‘The application is due to be determined by December 1st.’

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