In February 2014, the Waterside caravan park submitted a planning application to change the us of the part of the site that they currently use for touring caravans and tents. Their proposal is to fill this part of the site with 28 large high-specification "tents" - see the Weymouth & Portland website for details. There is apparently no legal definition of the word "tent"; in this case, although the proposed structures will have canvas sides and roofs, they will be on timber bases, will have high quality fittings and furnishings (including fitted kitchens and shower rooms), and will effectively be permanent structures.

Recent view of the "tents" that were erected some time ago

The Sutton Poyntz Society committee considered this application and decided to oppose it, on the grounds that the proposed tents will cause visual damage when seen from nearby hillsides in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Jordan Valley Areal of Local Landscape Importance (ALLI). The following is the text that the Sutton Poyntz Society submitted to the Planning Authority:

The Sutton Poyntz Society opposes this application.

We disagree with the applicants' assessment of the visual impact of their proposal on the local environment, including especially parts of the Dorset AONB and the Jordan Valley ALLI. We believe that there is, taken as a whole, a negative impact because the proposed structures will be in place year-round, unlike the present situation where the site in question is completely or nearly empty for at least half the year. The applicants have therefore only provided a partial assessment of the visual impact; the application documents observe that the proposed tents are less visible from a distance than the touring caravans, but omit to point out that for a significant part of the year the fair comparison is between a field filled with these tents and an empty (or almost empty) field. We submit that a complete assessment, including the low season and closed season, will conclude that the overall visual impact of the proposed tents is worse than the impact of what is currently allowed.

The Sutton Poyntz Society is submitting this objection because the proposal goes against its own policy; policy 3 in the Society policy document is concerned with preservation of views from the hills and AONB around Sutton Poyntz.

We submit that, because it causes visual damage to the AONB and ALLI, this application contravenes several Borough Council policies in the present adopted Plan. Policy N11 requires proposals to "conserve and enhance the natural beauty of landscape" in the AONB; Policy N12 requires proposals to "cause no significant harm to the intrinsic landscape quality" of ALLI's; finally, and most important, Policy TO16 states that changes to existing sites will not be permitted unless they have "no adverse impact on the special character" of the AONB and ALLI's [N.B. We believe TO16 is the appropriate policy, but TO18 also requires proposals that cause visual damage to the AONB or ALLI to be rejected].

We observe that the NPPF (paragraph 115) requires that "great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty" of AONB's "which have the highest status of protection". The Dorset AONB Management Plan (Policy PD3b) seeks to "Protect the quality of uninterrupted panoramic views into, within and out of the AONB". The draft new Local Plan (Policy ENV 1) specifically references this AONB Management Plan, and also states that "Development which would harm the natural beauty of the Dorset AONB, including its characteristic landscape quality and diversity, uninterrupted panoramic views ..., will not be permitted".

Finally, the draft new Local Plan (Policy ECON 7 on camping and caravan sites) demands that schemes "should not, individually or cumulatively, harm the landscape character" and that proposed extensions should be part of a long term plan to "improve the quality and appearance of the site and reduce its visual impact on the landscape".

We therefore submit that this proposal offends against existing Council planning policies and also against policies in the draft new Plan, and should therefore be turned down.

We also spoke at the Planning Committee hearing, but the Planning Committee decided to permit the development.