A Devon farmer has been ordered to return a run-down cottage he spent £40,000 making safe to its original state of disrepair.

Robert Burrough, of Chardstock, near Axminster, was told by his East Devon District Council that he had done too much to the 19th century building to count as repair work.

He was told by officials to apply for retrospective planning permission, which was subsequently refused.

Mr Burrough repaired the cottage’s flint stone walls and rebuilt the roof after acquiring the property when he bought the farmland in 1992.

He said he carried out the work to make it safer for walkers, horse riders and livestock.

Brian Friend, a rambler who regularly uses the footpath that runs alongside the cottage, took the case to the High Court to argue that the cottage should not be dismantled.

However he lost the case and is now seeking a judicial recview on the basis that returning the cottage to its original state would be a danger to the public.

Mr Burrough told the Telegraph he had only carried out “necessary” work and he had no intention of developing it.

He denied claims he wanted to turn the cottage into self-catering holiday accommodation and said he was merely trying to “safeguard” the building.

A council spokesman said: “There was no evidence that, if restored to its original condition, Bewley Cottage would be likely to become a danger to public health.”

“Our planning policy requires the owners of such buildings to allow them to revert back to part of the landscape and there are examples all over the country of buildings where this is happening.”