Living in a house made of shipping containers and surrounded by alpacas, pigs and chickens, Dan and Stacey Bond have built an idyllic life for them and their daughter from scratch.
But with no planning permission for their unconventional home and glamping site, the future of the family's off-grid lifestyle in the Kent countryside is uncertain, as Rhys Griffiths reports...
After enduring lockdown and watching his daughter grow bigger by the day, Dan Bond realised life in a converted double-decker bus was no longer sustainable for his young family.
The solution to their dilemma was to build an unconventional house made from shipping containers on a patch of land they owned on the outskirts of Folkestone - the only hitch being the lack of planning permission.
Now, following a council ruling ordering them to demolish the property, Mr Bond fears his off-grid dream could be over and his family made homeless.
The 37-year-old says he only learned the authority was set to vote on the site's future when contacted by KentOnline, and invited us along to see it for ourselves.
Arriving at the Hoad Meadow Alpaca Retreat, the gate slowly opens before there's even been a chance to ring the bell, revealing a gravel driveway and the land on which the family-of-three have set up home.
Mr Bond walks forward with a welcoming smile followed by a firm handshake, king of his own shipping-container castle, a man resolutely doing it for himself and his family here in Swingfield Minnis, just yards from the traffic thundering along the A260 between Folkestone and Canterbury.
Along with wife Stacey, 31, and four-year-old daughter Eva, he has lived on this piece of land since leaving their double-decker dwelling in April 2022.
The plot is now thriving, with animals in well-kept enclosures and upcycled facilities for campers who visit the site for stays during the summer months.
But because the couple have not been given planning permission for the camping or their two-storey shipping container home, Folkestone and Hythe District Council is now set to take enforcement action which could turn their dream into a nightmare.
"What do the council want? Do they want to give us a house? It's just insane," Mr Bond says as we talk in the living room-cum-office on the top floor of their unconventional abode.
"We're trying to be eco-friendly, we're trying to be sustainable. Even if we did go on the housing list, we're not going to get a house.
"Unfortunately that's just the way it is, isn't it?
"So we've tried to do our best and we can't afford anywhere else, so we've done this and this is what we've got.
"Within two weeks [of moving in] we had the planning enforcement officer at the gate asking exactly what we were doing.
"This is the right thing for me and my family and the best life for my daughter to be brought up in."
The Bonds have spent about £40,000 on the container house, solar panels and electrics which allow them to live comfortably on the site.
In the surrounding field they are keeping alpacas, pigs, chickens and goats - as well as growing their own vegetables. They have created from recycled material the facilities necessary to allow people to camp on the site for £25 a night.
It is a lifestyle they say they could never afford if they looked to purchase a more conventional property, and in the midst of a housing crisis the family say are just trying to stand on their own two feet.
"We've got a 40ft shipping container and a 20ft one on top," Mr Bond says.
"We've got two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and then the living room upstairs.
"Everything is upcycled. We try to avoid buying anything new because it's just not in the ethos of the place.
"There's not enough houses as it is - we're fortunate we could get the land in the first place.
"I think there should be more opportunities out there for youngsters to work a sustainable life. We've got our vegetable plots, we've got our meat, we've got everything here we're growing and producing, just trying to be as self-sufficient as we can.
"It's just such a nice place to bring up a four-year-old. It's just trying to do everything for you and for your family and give them the best.
"Something like this is just very unobtainable.
"We're not in masses of open countryside. It is a quiet little cul-de-sac - it's not out in the middle of nowhere.
"We have never got a handout for anything. We've done everything off our own backs - we've paid our way.
"You try and provide for your family and try to give your best - that's the way forward I think. Just because it's a bit alternative doesn't mean that it's not right."
In 2018 the couple applied for planning permission to build a subterranean eco-home on the site, but this was refused on the grounds that it would be "unsustainable development in the countryside".
Mr Bond argues it is unfair to restrict development on the site, which sits close to a main road served by regular buses and is bounded by other homes just metres away.
He says he has tried to communicate with the council over his plans, but as a dyslexic he struggles with the paperwork and there are also costs associated with submission of applications.
The couple have succeeded in obtaining retrospective permission for the driveway and a pond, but the rest of the facilities on the site - including a solar array and a prison van housing the chickens - face being torn down and removed.
At a planning committee meeting last Tuesday councillors voted unanimously to approve the officers' recommendation that enforcement action be taken against the family.
A report put to the committee states: "The breaches of planning control that have taken place on the site are the change of use of the land to a mixed use of residential, tourism and operation of a car accessories business; the installation and siting of various structures, equipment and paraphernalia associated with those uses, the erection of timber fencing and gates and the laying of hardsurfacing.
"The residential and tourism uses are considered to constitute unsustainable development in the countryside, result in the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land and be detrimental to the character and appearance of the countryside and the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Landscape Area.
"It has not been demonstrated that the uses would not result in harm to occupants of the site from contamination or that the additional overnight accommodation would not result in harm to internationally designated sites.
"The tourism use is also considered to be detrimental to the amenity of nearby residents."
Following the vote at the meeting an enforcement notice will be issued "requiring the use of the land for residential and tourism uses to cease and the removal of all associated buildings, structures and paraphernalia".
Referencing the planning saga in Jeremy Clarkson's recent Amazon show chronicling his attempts to gain approval for businesses on his land, Mr Bond said: "It certainly does chime, especially with the amount of people that are against you when all you're trying to do is bring in people to a nice place, to view it and see it and all the rest of it.
"Otherwise it's not a viable place, is it, if you've got no income to bring into the animals?
"I don't mind conditions as long as we get to have people to enjoy the place, and that's all you can really ask isn't it?
"I'd like to think [the councillors are] all pro-business and they want people to come to the countryside and all the rest of it, to the county and to Folkestone."
If attempts to secure retrospective planning permission for the site fail, the family fear for their future.
"Well, the problem is where do I go? Where do I put my family? Because we wouldn't have anywhere else to live," Mr Bond said.
"So what can we do? Are they going to give us a house?
"I very much doubt it. They're the ones who are basically making us homeless.
"I don't know what we'd do. It's an unbearable thought to be honest. It's very hard. All you're trying to do is provide something for your family - that's all you can ask for.
"To uproot everything that you've put it into it, it's unbearable."