BEAR Lane residents, whose complaints about the expansion of a nearby caravan park fell on deaf ears were victorious this week - after a watchdog judged that the district council had mishandled" the case.
BEAR Lane residents, whose complaints about the expansion of a nearby caravan park fell on deaf ears were victorious this week - after a watchdog judged that the district council had "mishandled" the case.Residents complained about the way East Devon District Council handled a certificate of lawfulness of existing use for Pooh Cottage - which cannot be rescinded.Jerry White, the Local Government Ombudsman, found "maladministration causing injustice" - and because of the council's faults, 47 caravan pitches now have permission, instead of just five.EDDC refused permission for five caravans in 1987 because of highway concerns - but a licence was then granted by the Camping and Caravanning Club, to 2006, for up to five club membership caravans, with no van able to stay on site for more than 28 days. But when, in 2006, owners applied to convert the site into a 47-pitch holiday park, residents objected.Mr White said EDDC "failed to have adequate regard" to the information available to it - but did not say that the licence should have never been granted, though adding that the conditions imposed would have been different.He said: "The complainants have therefore been caused an injustice as it is possible they will experience additional noise nuisance and concerns about traffic safety. In addition, the quiet setting of their properties has been affected."Resident Claire Brownfield said: "We have benefitted from the quiet rural environment, with abundant wildlife..."It offered a welcome degree of privacy and security, we thought, living in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. This has changed in recent years. "Over the years, the traffic generated by the caravan site ... has increased. Bear Lane is a very narrow cul-de-sac..."We made no progress with our pleadings to East Devon District Council, and accordingly made a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman in 2008."It is a matter of some regret to us that the Certificate of Lawful Use ... cannot be revoked. The council says (it) ... contains conditions which enable them to control and manage the Pooh Cottage site to ensure there is no further 'intensification of existing use'. "The Ombudsman confirmed this and we are glad about that assurance." As compensation, Mr White recommended independent valuations of the three properties involved in the official complaint, on the basis of five caravan pitches against 47, and pay them the difference.He also said �250 should be paid to each and requested EDDC to draw up new guidelines for staff.A spokesman for EDDC said: "The council takes Local Government Ombudsman complaints and reports very seriously. "This matter will be reported to the council's executive board on April 1, 2009 and the chief executive's recommendation will be to accept the findings."The management of Pooh Cottage declined to comment.