Fashion boss bids to save ‘eyesore’ tennis court

Image copyright South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption Sean Thomas has been told to take down the garage, shown on the left, tennis court and skate ramp or face legal action

A millionaire businessman who built a garage, tennis court and skate ramp without planning permission is fighting to stop them being flattened.

Sean Thomas, founder of the White Stuff store chain, faces legal action to remove the “eyesore” at his beauty spot home in Salcombe, Devon.

He said he hoped landscaping would make the additions acceptable to the council after it launched enforcement action.

But South Hams District Council said its “position remains the same”.

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Mr Thomas, who founded the fashion and lifestyle brand White Stuff in 1985, built the additions in 2016 at his home, which overlooks Salcombe estuary in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

He put in a planning application for the ramp, the court and the two-storey garage after they were built but that was turned down by the council on 4 September.

It ordered the enforcement team to start legal action “with regards to returning the land to its former condition”.

Image copyright South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption The council wants the land restored to its “former condition”, as shown here

The decision followed objections from West Alvington Parish Council, which called the scheme an “eyesore” in a “unique and iconic landscape”.

“The overall impression is that the owners have no respect for either the landscape in which they are privileged to live or the law,” it said.

Mr Thomas said he was proactively working with council officers and another application “to reflect the additional substantive landscaping measures” would be submitted shortly.

He said he and his family shared “local opinion that this is a beautiful and highly valued landscape” and “we remain hopeful of a satisfactory outcome for all concerned”.

Image copyright South Hams District Council/Apex
Image caption The additions have been called an “eyesore” in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Didi Alayli, chair of the South Hams Society, said she was “fairly sceptical” about Mr Thomas’s attempt to stave off enforcement action.

“The… refusal of this retrospective application was rightly firm and unequivocal,” she said.

“The South Hams Society would expect to see enforcement action against the whole scheme.”

The council said officers were due to meet Mr Thomas, but it was “too early to say what those discussions will lead to”.

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