Raised seating area unacceptable at world heritage beach

A raised platform and balustrade providing a sitting out area adjoining a shop associated with a holiday caravan park at a Devon seaside bay was refused for harm to the World Heritage Site and the landscape and scenic beauty of the area of outstanding natural beauty in which the appeal site was located. An enforcement notice for its removal was also upheld.

The main issue in the appeal was the visual impact of the raised platform on the character and appearance of the area. The inspector noted that prior to the introduction of the timber structure, the striking red sandstone cliff-face itself was entirely undeveloped as the shop itself was confined to a small combe. The cliff’s natural profile was uninterrupted in views from the South West Coast Path and, as an even more prominent component of the view, from the beach. The inspector also noted that as the appellant’s landscape visual appraisal recognised, the construction of the platform had extended development into the landscape of the cliff face, beach and foreshore of the bay; a previously undeveloped area which had a strong sense of naturalness, was of high landscape value, and had little capacity to accommodate change of this type.

The inspector considered that from the coast path, at all of the points from which the beach could be seen, the timber structure was also visible, and its built form intruded upon, and formed a jarring contrast with, the otherwise undeveloped natural profile of the cliff face. The intrusion of this man-made structure into the previously undeveloped cliff face diminished, the inspector opined, rather than conserved or enhanced, both the natural beauty of the AONB and the undeveloped character of this part of the Coastal Preservation Area, thereby conflicting with the adopted local plan policies aiming to protect these heritage assets. 

In terms of the WHS, the inspector held the development partially obscured the exposed geology of the cliff face in short-range views from the beach and long-range views from the South West Coast Path and obscured a sea stack in public views from the coast path. In doing so, it impeded the appreciation of these internationally important natural features. This, she, concluded, was at odds with the aims of the World Heritage Site Management Plan. The inspector could see no mitigation methods for improving the appearance of the platform, which she held was unacceptable in principle, especially as there had been no supporting evidence provided towards its justification for social or economic reasons.

Inspector: Jessica Graham; Written representations

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