A decision on whether to approve plans for a permanent travellers’ site next to the home of Martin Clunes has been postponed after the actor’s solicitors made last-minute objections.
The Doc Martin star and other residents in Beaminster, Dorset, are objecting to the application by Theo Langton and Ruth McGill, claiming the couple are not “nomads” and the proposals would set a “harmful precedent”.
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.
But now the decision has been postponed, with the matter unlikely to be listed for consideration for at least another month.
A spokeswoman for the council said the reason for the delay is a “technical planning issue” that had to be considered.
The 61-year-old Men Behaving Badly star and his wife Philippa have lodged objections to the plans, along with several neighbours.
They say the proposals would intensify the existing travellers’ site and have an impact on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
They also object to the lack of amenities on the site, such as electricity, water and sewage.
In a letter submitted to the council by Clunes’ solicitors, Kitson Trotman, they argue the applicants do not fit within the definition of “travellers” and that approving the plans for the permanent site would set a “harmful precedent”.
“All that is said in the officer report is that ‘The majority of the applicants travelling is to show and sell items at a variety of fairs gatherings and or festivals, often going from one to the next’.
“This is totally inadequate as no details are given of dates, frequency, locations, or otherwise.
“Many persons who live in permanent accommodation carry out the same or similar activities each year for a living, hobby or pastime, including travelling regularly to agricultural and equestrian shows and events or concerts, fairs and festivals too, and cannot possibly be classed as travellers.
“This is not a ‘nomadic habit of life’, which is entirely different.
“Without clear evidence the council would be acting unlawfully to class the applicants as travellers. Mode of clothing or hairstyle, or the form, type and location of residence is not relevant.
“The definition is clear and narrow. Given the policy consequences it must be applied strictly.”
“As it is a permanent building or structure it was unlawfully erected on the site.
“It cannot therefore be granted planning permission to remain on the site by the current planning application or treated as a mobile home.
“The grant of permanent planning permission for a proposal which is so clearly contrary to planning policy for a use in the AONB would be totally contrary to proper planning principles and policy.
“It would also set an unfortunate and harmful precedent which would undoubtedly be sought to be copied by others.
“This is compounded by the fact that the site has been consistently held by the council to be unsuitable for human habitation and for the erection of permanent buildings on the site.”
Planning officers at the council have recommended that the application is approved, stating: “Given the ongoing policy and research background of lack of available site options, coupled with the minimal visual impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is considered that the use of this site as a permanent base for this traveller family is acceptable.
“It is considered that the scheme is also acceptable in residential amenity terms.
“The development would also be acceptable in terms of highway safety issues.”