White Stuff boss tennis court row 'eroding trust in planning'

  • Published
Aerial image of siteImage source, South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption,
Sean Thomas has been told to take down the garage, shown on the left, tennis court and skate park or face legal action

Campaigners have accused a council of dragging its feet over a millionaire's "eyesore" tennis court, skate park and garage - all built without permission.

Last September South Hams District Council ordered Sean Thomas, founder of the White Stuff store chain, to take down the additions to his Devon home.

But no action has been taken, which conservationists said would "erode trust" in the planning process.

The council said it was talking to Mr Thomas "to try and resolve the issue".

Image source, South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption,
The council wants the land restored to its "former condition", as shown here

Mr Thomas built the additions at his luxury riverside home near the beauty spot of Salcombe without planning permission.

A retrospective application was rejected last September by the council, which ordered its enforcement team to start legal action "with regards to returning the land to its former condition".

Since then discussions have continued, according to the local authority.

"We are in communication with the owners to try and resolve the issue," it said.

Image source, South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption,
Conservationists fear retrospective applications could be used "to get planning approval by the back door"

Conservation charity The South Hams Society said the council's "failure to act" would "send the wrong message and erode trust in the planning process".

The charity said it was also concerned that if nothing was done, retrospective applications would become "planning approval by the back door".

The skate park, tennis court and garage were branded an "eyesore" in a "unique and iconic landscape" by West Alvington Parish Council.

"The overall impression is that the owners have no respect for either the landscape in which they are privileged to live or the law," it said.

Mr Thomas said: "Discussions are continuing."

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