West Dorset Council criticised over “incongruous” beach chalet

West Dorset District Council failed to spot gross error in plans for a replacement beach chalet at West Bexington

West Dorset District Council failed to spot gross error in plans for a replacement beach chalet at West Bexington, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin. In her report, issued today she says its failure “to recognise the true extent of the proposed development at the planning stage has resulted in a building which is incongruous in its setting on the Heritage Coastline and within the designated area of outstanding natural beauty [AONB].”

She adds “The principal injustice for the complainants in this case and with which I am concerned is a wider sense of public outrage at the building now permitted in this area of special amenity value.”

Two residents complained that the Council erroneously granted planning permission for a wooden chalet on the sea front at West Bexington which is not in keeping with its surroundings and is detrimental to the AONB where it is situated and the scenery of the heritage coastline.

The Council validated an application for planning consent for a replacement chalet bungalow situated in an AONB on the Heritage Coast, which is also defined as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The beach hut purchased and demolished to make way for this new development was one in a line of 14 dating from the 1930s, regularly spaced and parallel to the coast.

It was later found that information provided by the applicant was inaccurate, but the true facts about the comparative size of the development did not come to light until it was well underway. Now constructed, the chalet stands out from others in the row.

The Ombudsman considers that, if the Council had confirmed its planning officers’ error of judgement sooner, it would also have considered the legal status of the planning permission far sooner and whether it should be revoked on the grounds that it was fundamentally flawed.

She finds maladministration causing injustice and the Council has agreed to take the following action:

  • to provide a formal written apology for the errors made and to give an explanation of the steps it has taken to avoid a repeat of these errors, to all those who directly complained and to the parish council
  • to make a public statement, and
  • to reserve £3,000 towards countryside projects in the West Bexington area of the AONB, with suitable projects to be agreed with the parish council.

Report ref nos 09 000 635 & 09 012 752

Article date: 19 October 2011