by Daniel Clark – Local Democracy
The founder of the White Stuff fashion and lifestyle brand has again lost his bid to keep the building, skate park and tennis court he built without permission in a Devon beauty spot.
South Hams District Council planners have refused the latest attempt that millionaire fashion boss Sean Thomas had made for the plans behind his house at Gerston Point in the South Hams.
Mr Thomas and his wife had acquired an adjoining strip of agricultural land and on that built a tennis court, skate park and garage without planning permission, on a site that is in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and alongside the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Two retrospective planning applications had previously been refused by South Hams planners, who had passed the application over to the enforcement team to commence formal enforcement action and serve notice.
Mr Thomas earlier this year applied for a Certificate of Lawfulness for the development on the ground that the time limit for taking enforcement action has passed, but on Friday, South Hams planning officers once again rejected that bid.
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the time limits for taking enforcement action in the case of operational development the time limit is four years, and the report of the planning officers concluded that on the balance of probabilities, the evidence submitted by Mr Thomas supported his claim that the skate bowl, tennis court and outbuilding were substantially completed more than four years ago.
However, the legislation says that an unauthorised material change in use of land will only become immune from enforcement action if it is carried out continuously for a 10-year period.
The report added: “The previous use of the land was for agricultural purposes. The land was purchased by the applicant in May 2015 and it is stated that it has been used for various domestic purposes in conjunction with the house prior to the engineering works and erection of the structures.
“The council considers that the operational development that is the subject of the certificate application is integral to or part and parcel of the unauthorised use of the land for domestic purposes, and as a result, the council may still legitimately enforce against it as part of the breach of planning control.
“The removal of the operational development is required to remedy the breach of planning control in the form of the unlawful change of use.
“The council has already issued an enforcement notice in relation to that unlawful change of use which also requires the removal of the operational development, and for these reasons, the application for the certificate is refused.”
The application had sought and failed to establish the lawfulness of the outbuilding, tennis court and skate bowl, with matters on the planning merits of the proposal not being considered at this stage.
The previous planning applications had, though, been refused on the grounds that the development still represents an unwelcome and incongruous intrusion into an undeveloped countryside location and the development fails to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and special qualities of the South Devon AONB.
The refusal of the Certificate of Lawfulness means that enforcement action is once again back on the table for the council to enact over the unauthorised development.
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