The owners of a forest nursery are devastated after a complaint made to the council 'threatens their livelihood' and risks closure of the school.

Monika Brown and her husband Michael have been running Evergreen Forest Nursery in Clitheroe since 2017.

The nursery allows pre-school children to learn through engagement with nature outdoors - growing, foraging, cooking their own food, and caring for the animals and 20 beehives on site.

The couple purchased the 22-acre site five years ago, which they claim came with a purpose-made flat.

Lancashire Telegraph: Evergreen Forest Nursery students learning about growing vegetablesEvergreen Forest Nursery students learning about growing vegetables

However, as the couple don't have planning permission to live on the site, national guidelines state that the couple are staying there unlawfully.

Due to the strenuous working hours that come with maintaining a forest, Monika and Michael find it easier to stay overnight since their work continues until late at night and starts very early morning.

Monika said: “We’ve been staying overnight for five years, and we’ve never experienced any problems. We’re very respectful and after the children finish at 3pm, there are no loud noises.

“I’ve put my life into this nursery and creating a special, positive environment for the children. We don’t stop working because we can’t - we have to maintain the trees, chop wood, carry out risk assessments for their safety and everything else so it takes a lot of time.

“It’s just easier to stay here, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have enough time to do anything and we wouldn’t have the outstanding nursery we’ve built.”

Their neighbours, who Monika said lives about a one minute walking distance from them, complained to Ribble Valley Borough Council that the couple were staying overnight.

Monika added that she can’t understand why sleeping overnight on land that she owns would affect anybody else.

The couple say they do not want to carry out any extra building work on the land because it would require planning permission.

Monika has worked with children for almost 20 years and says her work is what she is most passionate about.

She said: “We spend every hour of our lives working to build our children’s futures. I hope our approach inspires more nurseries and parents because this is the way we should be teaching children.

“But we need support, we can’t do it if we can’t stay here. I don’t know what will happen.”

A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “The building in question has planning permission for use in the operation of the nursery.

“However, it is currently being used partly as a house, for which it does not have planning permission.

“A retrospective planning application for a live-work unit at the site is live and will be considered in accordance with our planning policies and national planning criteria in due course.”

You can sign the petition to Keep Evergreen Forest Nursery Open here.