Niton garages may have to come down

By IW Mar 30, 2022

A controversial development in Niton, which led to the Isle of Wight Council being heavily criticised by a national watchdog, has been refused planning permission, despite being partially built.

Retrospective permission had been sought by Martin Cotton at Bridge Cottage for the retention and completion of two garages for domestic purposes — one built in 2019 and the other started in 2021.

The site, on the edge of Niton, is part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and council planners decided the ‘large garage structures’ would result in a ‘significantly harmful impact’ on the landscape character. Planning rules say there must be a specific local need for development.

Agent, Norman White, said the buildings were to house a significant collection of classic cars and motorbikes.

However whilst planners ‘noted’ the hobby, they said the garages appeared commercial in nature and were of ‘excessive size and scale’. They determined the garages did not protect or enhance the special qualities of the AONB, and would have a significant adverse effect on the SAC and SSSI.

Mr Cotton can appeal the decision to the government’s Planning Inspectorate, otherwise the structures may have to come down.

A complaint about the way the council dealt with developments at Bridge Cottage was made by a concerned resident to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), with an investigation launched at the end of 2020.

The watchdog determined the council had committed errors and given wrong advice.

An LGSCO inspector said the council’s failures were significant. He said: “If we cannot rely on the council as the local planning authority to be aware of the position and importance of protected land, then it is a matter of serious concern … to ensure that it remains undisturbed.”

The Isle of Wight Council accepted the findings and apologised for the mistakes it made. It agreed to review procedures, provide additional staff training and pay £300 to a charity of the complainant’s choice.