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We win our legal action to protect coastal path from bad development

Becky Collier
By Becky Collier
24th May 2024

We stepped in to help when many local residents objected to plans for an over-scaled house on the South West Coastal Path.  This beautiful location is on the Heritage Coast and within Exmoor National Park.

Since the 1920s, there has been a modest timber bungalow next to the coastal path in Bossington.  It is in a poor state of repair and has not been occupied for almost ten years.  To get to the site, you have to cross a ford and along a track which also carries the Coast Path from the National Trust car park in Bossington.

track with hedge and wooden hut
existing wooden hut seen from track | Penny Kelham

Inappropriate design and scale

A London based architect has purchased the bungalow and submitted a planning application for a replacement building with stepped roofs. The new design was 9m longer on the seaward side than the existing building and was 1.5m taller at its tallest point. Planning Officers from Exmoor National Park recommended that it should be refused planning permission. They were unhappy that a small cabin in the woods was to be replaced by such a prominent dwelling with a greater impact on the tranquil landscape at this sensitive location.

However, Councillors at the planning committee voted to approve it by a small majority.

Taking legal action

Exmoor National Park’s own Replacement Buildings policy requires scale and mass to be similar to that of the existing building.  In our opinion, the decision by Councillors went against their own policy.

Having worked closely with many local people, we knew how upset the local community were about this decision. Many local residents were horrified at the prospect of this large, new building in such a tranquil place.  This is right next to a National Coastal Trail, on a Heritage Coast and in a National Park.  If this area cannot be protected by planning policy, then nowhere is safe!

So we decided to take legal action. Working with a solicitor, we issued a legal pre-action letter advising that we were prepared to request a judicial review. Very quickly, Exmoor National Park had to accept that its decision was unlawful.  The decision to grant planning permission has now been quashed by the High Court.  This means the development cannot go ahead.

Hugh Williams, Chair of CPRE Somerset said :

‘CPRE Somerset is a small charity, but we feel it is important to speak out when our finest landscapes are threatened by bad planning decisions. We are grateful for the financial support we received from local objectors to help fund this action’.

To find out more details of this case, look for case ref 6/29/23/006 on Exmoor National Park Planning

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a wooden hut in the trees
side view of existing wooden hut Penny Kelham