The last breeder of dahlias in Britain has asked for permission to build a house at his nursery to help deter thieves.

Philip Godsmark, of Ryecroft Nursery, in Storrington, applied to Horsham District Council to build a three-bedroom, chalet-style house, which would allow him to live at the site.

Members of the planning committee south were told the nursery had been targeted by thieves in the past, with equipment and new varieties of dahlia tubers among the things taken.

In December 2016, 60 hand-reared turkeys were stolen from the nursery, shortly after they had been culled and plucked to fulfil Christmas orders.

The thieves knocked down a farm gate and also stole clothes and items of great sentimental value from farmer Mr Godsmark.

Councillors decided to give the farmer extra time for his application after officers initially said his application should be refused.

Officers said there was no functional evidence the house was needed or that the business was viable.

Councillor Nigel Jupp said the council should “celebrate and encourage” the business, while former farmer Councillor Kate Rowbottom said: “I think it needs an injection of good luck, goodwill and good everything and I think we ought to grant it.”

There was also support from the public.

Speaking in favour of the plan, Robert Schiller said Mr Godsmark was “renowned through the world for what he does”.

He added: “One of the reasons the business hasn’t been allowed to expand is simply because when your stock is stolen, when items and machinery have been stolen, you have little incentive to carry on.”

Councillors were keen to give Mr Godsmark every opportunity to provide all the information needed to prove his business was viable.

Several suggested giving temporary permission to see how things panned out but were told that was not what was being considered.

The application was deferred for more information.

Council leader Ray Dawe said: “We want to support a business but we don’t have the robust evidence enough to go for this particular application.

“If more robust evidence can be produced, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable for us to defer it and give an opportunity for this applicant to come forward again with that information, then we can make a further decision.”