Seafront plans: a national concern

Last week s front page of the Budleigh Journal alerted readers to an amended planning application for the Longboat Caf� and demolition of the public amenity shelter on Budleigh Salterton Beach.

Last week's front page of the Budleigh Journal alerted readers to an amended planning application for the Longboat Caf� and demolition of the public amenity shelter on Budleigh Salterton Beach. I would like to draw reader's attention to several important points.

Because of its special geological significance and unspoilt character, the beach at Budleigh Salterton lies within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (WHS), unlike other beaches which are excluded. It is a Unesco requirement that such sites and their settings should be protected from intrusive development, especially natural sites. The issues of protecting our heritage in this case are not just local but national.

Despite EDDC's conspicuous failure to consult them last autumn, Natural England discovered the application, expressed "surprise and alarm" at the failure to consult them as a matter of course and made a robust objection to any significant development on the site.

Their objection cited interference with the SSSI, intrusion to the WHS setting and a strategic objection to significant development this close to the sea, given expected sea level rises within the lifetime of a building. The Jurassic Coast WHS Management Team also commented, drawing attention to EDDC's duty to protect the WHS as a priority.

There has been a lot of misleading information with regard to the level of support for the autumn application, which claimed to have both town council and local community support. Ray Gallop and I have read every letter and e-mail submitted, since they are all made openly available on the web. We believe the true numbers (amongst the duplication) are as follows: 230 (74%) letters were opposed to the application and 80 (24%) were written in support.

However, of those 80 supporting letters, 38 are on pre-typed pro-forma, which I believe were distributed in the caf�, containing such comments as: "We feel the design fits in well", from Sheffield; "Support and agree", from Cullompton; "Agree", from Taunton; "Just had a lovely cup of hot chocolate, hope all goes well", from Stourbridge. Is it right that these should be given equal weight to the other letters?

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The amendment aims to reduce the impact of the proposed building by removing the mezzanine floor. However, it remains a two-storey, 50-seat restaurant in which the upper floor and roof project over the pedestrian path. This remains a major development project falling well outside the "sustainable development" category allowed for within the WHS management plan.

EDDC have not required a topographical survey to be carried out, which would be accepted good practice for such a sensitive site. The perspectives and viewpoints used in the applicant's drawings shown in last week's Journal, in my opinion, give misleading impressions of how the building sits in its setting on the beach.

Visual inspection of the site shows the two-storey building with its projections will still obliterate the view of the cliffs under the War Memorial from any pedestrian viewpoint east from the Raleigh Wall along the promenade.

The building still projects above the skyline to the rear, obscuring the view from a significant part of Coastguard Hill, and its roof still dominates the picture postcard view west from the memorial. The two-storey projection will also dominate the view of the cliffscape when walking the other way from the Lime Kiln end.

In March, a new planning directive (2/2009) was issued, requiring all planning applications within a world heritage site that did not have the approval of the statutory advisory body (Natural England in this case) to be decided by Central Government.

It does not apply retrospectively, so, by treating this as an amendment rather than a new plan, the wider national perspective will be sidelined. To me, the bottom line is this: are we content to let EDDC be the first (and last) council in Britain to sanction intrusive development within the boundaries of our only mainland natural World Heritage Site unchallenged?

David Daniel,

7 Marine Parade,

Budleigh Salterton.