THIRTY lodge-dwelling residents who live among nature in South Lakeland could be left homeless following a forthcoming public inquiry.

Edward Steele, who rents Holme House Farm, at Skelsmergh, near Kendal, from The RJ Stephenson Charities, says he has built up a friendly and thriving community by building and renting out 19 lodges.

But he claims the trust, a Lancaster-based Catholic organisation, has ordered him to vacate its land by May 23 as he is in breach of his lease.

A public inquiry is due to take place on March 9 to decide the future of 15 of the homes, built without planning permission.

But Mr Steele claims that even a positive outcome for him at the public inquiry could be meaningless if the church trust follows through with its intentions. “Families would be made homeless,” he said.

“I have always made it plain that I would not kick people out, so the council or the trust will have to do it themselves.

“I’m just disgusted at the attitude of the trust. They haven’t given me a reason for this. “ Mr Steele’s grandfather took on the 38-acres of land in the late 1800s, building a home there in 1912.

Mr Steele began building homes 25 years ago for people who wanted to “live among nature and out of the rat race”.

Marie Matochova, who lives there with her two-year-old daughter Elizka, said: “I feel really bad about this because it is a nice community here.

“We are like a family living together in a small village, and lots of people would be left without a home.”

Fellow resident Greg Wilson said: “I think the council needs to look at its social housing programme.

"They are desperate for social housing in South Lakeland, but they are not prepared to help us by leaving us be.”

SLDC says the buildings, including seven storage units, would not normally have been given planning permission due to their location. There was also an environmental impact to consider.

The RJ Stephenson Trust declined to comment on the issue when approached by The Westmorland Gazette.