Uproar at council chief’s beauty-spot home

If you want to build your dream home in an idyllic spot overlooking a pristine beach, first try joining the local council. Even better, be the chairman.

[All sounds very familiar but is this really “normal” for Cornwall? – Owl]

Ben Webster, Environment Editor, The Times, Saturday

That is the suggestion of conservationists in Cornwall, who are bringing a High Court challenge against Chris Wilton, a parish council chairman and farmer, and the permission he has been granted to build a house at Rame Head overlooking Whitsand Bay.

Rame Head, to the west of Plymouth, is an area of outstanding natural beauty, which normally makes planning permission out of the question.

Mr Wilton has won approval for his plans by arguing that he needed to build an “agricultural worker’s dwelling”. Campaigners say that a home of potentially six bedrooms, three bathrooms and double garage is “certainly not a normal agricultural dwelling”.

More than 250 people, including a visitor from Canada, have given £11,000 for a legal challenge over the decision.

A High Court judge ruled this week that there were grounds for a judicial review into claims by the Rame Protection Group that the county council had breached its duty to give adequate reasons for its decision, and failed to demonstrate that the home accorded with its development plan.

County councillors, who have the final say on the proposal, voted seven to six to approve the home, despite the officer for Rame Head area of outstanding natural beauty and the principal planning officer recommending it was refused because of the negative impact on the protected landscape. New homes in open countryside in Cornwall are permitted only in “special circumstances”, including when a farm worker has to live in a specific location.

Rame Protection Group said: “If this is allowed, there will be nothing to stop any farmer who owns a plot of land in a beauty spot using this case as a precedent to secure permission to build in any of Cornwall’s beautiful locations, regardless of protective landscape and environmental legislation.”

Mr Wilton expects the home to cost £120,000 to build but the group said that it could be worth up to £1 million. The group claimed that Maker with Rame parish council had shown “favouritism” to Mr Wilton by not holding a public meeting before expressing support for his plans.

Mr Wilton, 46, said that campaigners were motivated partly by envy. “Unfortunately it stems from jealousy … the location has lovely views.” He claimed that most were green campaigners who resented he had voted against a proposal for the parish council to declare a climate emergency. He said the council was not allowed to consult the public owing to coronavirus restrictions.

Maker with Rame council said it had “reached an unbiased decision on the application as the councillors felt the impact to the AONB was minimal”.

Cornwall council said that the decision would be “robustly defended”.