An eco-minded couple who set up home on their Dartmoor chilli farm without planning permission have told a public inquiry that the authorities should be supporting them, not threatening to demolish their property.

Phil and Kay Palmer established the business near Ashburton in 2007 and were granted permission by Dartmoor National Park Authority to erect an agricultural building on their eight acre plot at Rosebarn Nursery, Ausewell.

But by August they found that seedlings were dying, so to protect their business they left the Ashburton home they were renting and moved into the timber chalet, built at a cost of £12,300.

The five-room structure is equipped with a woodburning stove, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.

The national park maintains the couple failed to build the structure for which they had been given permission and had changed the location from that agreed and want it removed.

The Palmers have appealed against the decision.

The authority's head of legal services, barrister Christopher Walledge, told planning inspector Sara Morgan at the inquiry which began at Parke, Bovey Tracey, on Tuesday: 'No planning permission has been granted for residential use of the site', and claimed the Palmers' evidence in their case for being allowed to stay was 'riddled with contradictions'.

Mr Walledge said that despite trading for four years the business was not financially viable and dismissed claims that it was essential to have a round-the-clock presence on the site to safeguard crops.