This isn’t just any old retrospective application but one in England’s first Natural World Heritage Site!
At the beginning of May, Owl’s attention was drawn to the latest retrospective application the Carters have made, in a catalogue of retrospective applications going back for years, during their development of Ladram Bay.
This is retrospective application 20/0297/FUL for the partial retention at Ladram Bay of a raised viewing platform including balustrade and storage areas.This raised viewing platform appeared without planning permission and was certainly seen by members of the public in the summer of 2018.
An enforcement notice was issued by EDDC on the 26th June 2019 seeking the removal of the raised platform, in its entirety. The notice took effect on the 01/08/2019 and a subsequent appeal was lodged.
Interestingly, the current application was lodged before the appeal was determined (a not unusual Carter practice).
The appeal was dismissed on 17 August 2020 and the enforcement notice was upheld for the removal of the platform in its entirety due to its unacceptable visual impact, lack of planning policy support given the location of the site in a designated World Heritage Coast, AONB and Coastal Preservation Area. The structure needs to be removed by the 17th March 2021.
Worth noting that it was within the power of the Inspector to allow the retention of part of the structure if she had found part of it to be acceptable. However, the appeal and Enforcement Notice upheld the removal of the whole structure.
The new application goes before EDDC’s Planning Committee on Wednesday 4 November 10.00 with a recommendation from officers to refuse.
In Owl’s view the matter is straightforward and one of fundamental principles. You don’t go developing the Jurassic Coast World HeritageSite, without seeking planning permission. Any permission granted would have to pass a very high threshold indeed.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not, given the prominent part the first two played in trying to keep the Tories in power in the “changing of the guard” debates), the local ward councillors: Alan Dent, Tom Wright and “Ingham Indy” Paul Jarvis support the development valuing the economic benefit above the consequential environmental damage.
The most authoritative and persuasive case for refusal and has been made by the World Heritage Site/Jurassic Coast Management Team, including these points [Owl’s emphasis]:
- As with the previous application regarding the deck, the principle stands that retrospective planning consent is incompatible with the World Heritage Site. Although this new planning proposal has a much reduced impact on the WHS, it is still asking consent for an existing structure.
- No methodology has been provided for removal of part of the existing structure. This must be done in a way that minimises damage to the cliff face. We recommend that a methodology should be provided and approved before any work is undertaken, including in the case that this application is refused and the related enforcement is upheld.
- We can accept that the combe leading down to the beach is an area of development, but the buildings currently diminish gradually seawards, providing a ‘soft’ transition from the caravan site out into the natural environment of the beach / coast. The timber structure, within this context, would make that transition abrupt, with a high, imposing structure running alongside the path right down to the shingle. Paragraph 6.3 of the LVIA states that the developments within the Combe are largely obscured when viewed from outside it, but we note that retaining a portion of the timber deck will permanently introduce a visible built structure into that view. It will also interrupt the natural sweep of the cliff line in the bay, compromising the way in which the character of the WHS’s geomorphology is presented. We recommend that advice is sought from relevant landscape officers regarding the level / significance of these impacts.
- Although this application repeats the assertions from the previous application and appeal that the deck provides valuable access and amenity for disabled persons, there is still no evidence provided that establishes this need, or, more importantly, that alternative approaches to answer that need have been explored and discounted. As stated in previous responses, we would support any desire to improve access to the World Heritage Site, but we question whether this timber deck is the most appropriate way to do that in this location.
- Following on from point 4 above, we remain concerned that the position of the deck means that users are being invited to dwell beneath what is a natural cliff face. The Geological Assessment appendix to the Planning Support Statement describes that the geology at Ladram Bay is susceptible to rock falls. The risk posed to users of the deck is obvious. Risk management is the responsibility of the landowner, and not within our remit. Our particular concern here is that any future rock fall above the deck could trigger a desire to stabilise the rock face in order to mitigate the risk to users. Such stabilisation would run counter to various different natural environment management policies at this site.