Martin Clunes fights plans for travellers’ site next to his Dorset farm

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Actor Martin Clunes is embroiled in a planning dispute with his neighbours over a proposal for a permanent traveller site near his farm.

The Doc Martin star and other villagers close to his home in Beaminster, Dorset are objecting to the plans by Theo Langton and Ruth McGill.

The couple, who have lived in a 45ft by 16ft mobile home on land they own at Meerhay for 25 years, have applied for planning permission to continue living there permanently.

Martin Clunes has been a popular TV star for many years with shows like Doc Martin (Neil Genower/Buffalo Pictures/ITV)
Martin Clunes starred as Dr Martin Ellingham in Doc Martin (Neil Genower/Buffalo Pictures/ITV)

The recommendation is a blow to the Men Behaving Badly star and his neighbours who are opposed to the application.

Mr Clunes, 61, and his wife Philippa have lodged an objection to the plans along with several neighbours.

They say the proposals would intensify the existing travellers’ site and impact upon an area of outstanding natural beauty.

They also object to the lack of amenities on the site, such as electricity, water and sewage.

Their planning agent, Will Cobley, said: “Our clients have lived at their property for many years and are concerned by the proposal, which seeks to authorise and intensify a nearby traveller use on a permanent basis.

“The site is a wholly unsuitable location for a traveller site in an area of countryside and the Dorset area of outstanding natural beauty contrary to national planning policy.

“The permanent use of the land as a travellers’ site has been consistently rejected by the council. The current proposal seeks to continue and intensify the existing unauthorised use of the site.

“The site lacks basic services necessary for residential occupation on a permanent basis.”

Neighbours Diana and Robert Clarke are also against the application listing concerns about access to the site and the lack of amenities.

“The site is unsuitable for a travellers’ site in an area of outstanding natural beauty as it is contrary to national planning policy,” they said.

“The current proposal seeks to intensify the existing unauthorised use of the site.”

Martin Clunes and his wife Phillipa are objecting to a traveller site near their home in Dorset becoming permanent (Michael Stephens/PA)
Martin Clunes and his wife Phillipa are objecting to a travellers’ site near their home in Dorset becoming permanent (Michael Stephens/PA)

Local resident Richard Fodder said: “This proposal is generally inappropriate for an area of outstanding natural beauty and has specific challenges including access to the site and the lack of basic services required for permanent residence and the protection of the environment.”

In the most recent planning application Mr Langton, an artist, and Ms McGill were granted temporary permission in 2015 to use the land as a traveller site for five years.

And now the couple are seeking to turn it into a permanent private residential traveller site for their mobile home and an additional caravan.

Beaminster Town Council has withdrawn its opposition to the application.

Planning officials at Dorset Council are also supportive, highlighting an increasing need for traveller sites across the county.

“In sustainability terms the development already exists. It is relatively close to Beaminster which has a good range of services and is about one mile from the town.

“This application seeks to make permanent the use of this site for one traveller family.

“Historic concerns over the impact on the area of outstanding natural beauty have been substantially reduced by the landscaping/screening that has been carried out in recent years.

“The town council are supportive of this application.

“Given the context of difficulties identifying sites generally for gypsy/traveller families, coupled with the ‘low key’ presence and limited visual impact of this particular site it is considered that it would now be reasonable to permit this on a permanent basis for this particular traveller family.”

Mr Burden is recommending conditions are placed on the application which would mean the site would be used only by Mr Langton, Ms McGill and their dependents.

Were they to move away permanently they would have four months to remove all residential structures and return the land to its former condition.

The couple would also be limited to no more than two caravans being kept on the site for residential use.

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