West Dorset Council has issued a formal apology after a planning mistake resulted in the siting of an incongruous beach chalet on a stretch of coastline which has World Heritage status and is in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
As well as the apology the council has agreed to explain how it will ensure no repeat of the error. In addition the council will be spending £3,000 on countryside improvement projects in the locality affected.
This response has come in the wake of an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman which concluded that it failed to spot gross error in plans for a replacement beach chalet at West Bexington.
The watchdog concluded that the case constituted maladministration causing injustice the report said the planning authority’s 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”.
The Ombudsman also argued that if the council had confirmed its planning officers’ error of judgement sooner, it would have been in a position to consider the legal status of the planning permission and whether it should have been revoked on the grounds it was fundamentally flawed.
The watchdog’s report highlighted “public outrage” at the appearance of a building now permitted in this area of special amenity value.
Council leader Robert Gould said: “We would like to apologise for the errors made, and will learn lessons from this to ensure it does not happen again. We are still considering the report and have not made any decisions at this time about enforcement action regarding the chalet.”
20 October 2011