A MODERN addition to Lyme Regis’ iconic seafront cottages has won planning approval from the district council, despite concerns over ground stability issues.
West Dorset District Council has given permission for 1920s seafront bunglow Cobb Gate, between The Alcove and Mollie’s ice cream kiosk on Marine Parade, to be demolished and replaced with a three-storey house.
The existing house – currently used as a holiday let – is within the Conservation Area. It sits above ground level with steps leading up to the property from Marine Parade.
The proposal would see the entire building demolished and the site excavated to create a new ground floor level with Marine Parade, providing disabled access.
The three-storey house would include double doors leading directly off Marine Parade with an en-suite bedroom, wet room, storage and lift on the ground floor. The first floor would comprise of an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area and an en suite bedroom suitable for a wheelchair user, while the second floor would have two further en suite bedrooms and a balcony.
Owners of neighbouring properties have voiced concerns about the instability of the land and the effect building work will have on nearby traders, and Lyme Regis Town Council also recommended refusal of the application “in the strongest possible terms”.
The town council’s response said the application lacked “critical supporting information”, in particular any expert geotechnical advice about the potential impact of the proposed excavation of material on neighbouring properties and the need or otherwise for new or reinforced retaining structures, ground piling or ground anchoring.
It added: “Given the history of ground movement and slippage in Lyme Regis, particularly in the seafront area, the town council finds this lack of supporting information completely unacceptable and wishes to object to the application as it currently stands in the strongest possible terms.”
The town council also raised concerns about the general design of the property, in particular the incorporation of a new ground floor with doors opening directly onto Marine Parade, which is council-owned.
Members also expressed concerns about the potential impact on neighbouring businesses during the construction phase, in particular the impact of noise and dust on adjacent commercial food premises, and the wider impact on access along the seafront area during the construction phase, which could last up to 12 months.
Neil and Maria Hamlin, owners of the neighbouring grade II listed Alcove, said that excavating the site could cause severe damage to their own property, and could also damage a fast-running spring underneath The Alcove.
Great problems for traders
They said they would be unable to trade during the building work due to noise and dust pollution, and that the possible closure of Marine Parade or a bridge over it to allow public access during the works would cause “great problems for traders”.
They added: “To bring the property down to Marine Parade level will involve massive excavation over a considerable time. Any land movement would undermine all these old buildings, the result could be catastrophic for Lyme Regis.”
Peter Fortnam, whose family company owns Ross House – otherwise known as 8 and 8a Broad Street to the north of the bungalow – added: “The planned excavations to take the site down to the level of Marine Parade and probable piling will be of a scale to potentially trigger movement causing possible catastrophic damage to the surrounding buildings.
“The piling would cause significant vibration affecting the often fragile structure of historic grade II listed buildings, Ross House being of traditional stone construction with timber frame upper elevations dating from 1650. Many of these structures would have little in the way of foundations.”
Mr Fortnam also expressed concerns about water springs in the area and the visual impact of the proposed building, as well as the large increase in the number of rear-facing windows and the installation of a balcony, which he said would impact on the privacy of neighbouring properties.
In addressing concerns about land movement, West Dorset’s Technical Services team commented: “Existing sea defences constructed in 2007 should remain effective and provide suitable protection against coastal erosion for between 60 to 100 years with an effective beach management plan in place.
“In addition, slope stability measures constructed as part of the same scheme will substantially mitigate the risks that currently identify the site as falling within a high risk zone depicting cliff top recession.”
The report suggested that further details, particularly relating to the method of demolition, foundation design and the impact the proposed new dwelling may have on slope stability, be requested before construction starts and this was included as a condition of the planning approval.
West Dorset’s conservation officer raised no objections to the plans, commenting: “The proposals, I believe, if undertaken with high quality materials and craftsmanship, should enhance (or at least preserve) the character and setting of the conservation area, World Heritage Site and setting of neighbouring listed buildings.”
District and county councillor Daryl Turner also said he had no objections outside the conditions of the planning approval. No response has been published from district councillor Cheryl Reynolds.
The application did not go to West Dorset’s Planning Committee and was instead approved by delegated powers of officers, taking into account views of the committee chairman and ward members. It was also not considered in public by the town council’s Planning Committee, as there was limited time to give a response, so members agreed to recommend refusal in private.
The application and approval will be discussed further at the town council’s next Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 5 and the deputy town clerk is seeking an urgent meeting with the applicant to discuss their concerns.
Councillor Brian Larcombe, chairman of the town council Planning Committee, issued the following statement: “Lyme Regis Town Council recommended refusal of the application and in doing so we expressed our concerns for the land stability at the rear of the proposed demolition and new build.
“The town council, and no doubt residents, are very aware of land stability issues in Lyme. There was an absence of any land survey data and plans for the retaining construction that would be necessary given the new depth and degree of cut back into the ground at the rear (which backs onto the rear of properties in Broad Street).
“We also had concerns about the duration of the build (we were told it could be up to a year) and the impact on the Marine Parade and Cart Road during this period. There is the potential for public access issues on both of these and no details were provided of the degree of ingress onto them. We had nothing of the plans for removing the huge amounts of spoil from the site or the intended storage of equipment and materials, all of which is likely to impact on the immediate area, adjoining businesses, and access routes to the site.
“We also had concerns for the building design that proposes bedrooms to the front at ground level, immediately abutting the parade with bedroom windows at eye level, at the very narrowest point of the parade’s length. While some of these concerns may be regarded as not being grounds for refusal of planning permission we do believe they are highly important and the absence of the details needed to address these and other serious concerns led to our recommended refusal.”
The full plans, comments and decision can be found on West Dorset District Council’s website at https://bit.ly/2FTYCMR