Devastated employees watched on in horror on Wednesday night as councillors ruled a business must shut down or move.

Agriculture and equipment rental business Energy Generator Hire Ltd has been operating out of Hill View Farm in Moreton Road, Kimblewick, without permission from Wycombe District Council (WDC).

And when retrospective plans to officially allow the business to continue were put to the council’s planning committee on Wednesday, councillors refused to allow them to carry on.

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It means the business – which one councillor said has become a “victim of its own success” will now face having to move elsewhere or shut down completely.

Energy Generator Hire Ltd provides equipment to music festivals and outdoor events and after experiencing huge success, the business has expanded on the farm – including into neighbouring fields.

Neighbours living near the farm have complained that the narrow, single-track country lanes to and from the site are not suitable for the huge HGVs that operate out of the site seven days a week.

They also said the lorries are a hazard for walkers, horse riders and cyclists who regularly use the lanes and that the grass verges have been damaged by the huge vehicles, which often have trailers attached.

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The public gallery at WDC’s offices was packed with employees who work at the site and they watched on as their livelihoods were debated.

Ken Dijksman, agent acting on behalf of the applicant, said to councillors: “Your officers are recommending you make 35 people, many of them sitting behind me, redundant. This is a very serious issue you have to take into account.”

Councillors were torn on what they should do after heartfelt letters from employees at the business were sent directly to them before the meeting.

Cllr David Johncock said it was a “difficult one”. He said: “I would be one of the first to support rural diversification but im sorry to say it doesn’t meet planning requirements.”

Cllr Chris Whitehead added: “I have had very moving letters in support of this application but sadly none of them address the planning issues. It seems the applicant has a history of disregarding planning rule. It seems his strategy is to seek forgiveness afterwards rather than permission before.

“I think this business has been a victim of its own success. It is so huge it has spilled over into the next field.

“Would we give permission for this if it hadn’t already been built? I think not.”

Cllr Nigel Teesdale said it was “admirable” that such a successful business had been built up, but that it had “outgrown” its rural site, adding: “The only solution is to find another location.”

The application was refused, meaning the business now has up to 12 months to find somewhere else to go before the council will enforce its decision.