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East Devon observation post to become holiday let

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 4:39pm

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Image: Philip Halling

Brandy Head Range will be converted to a 2 bed rental.

A number of different types of targets including flags and mild-steel structures were placed out in the bay and Aircraft, including Typhoons, Hurricanes and Spitfires, would fly over land from Exeter and over East Budleigh seawards to test their weapons.

The utilitarian observation post still stands as a shell, having lost its roof, but has fallen into disrepair.

Sam Walker, the tenant of Stantyway Farm, had wished to convert the lookout into visitor accommodation, and his scheme for the diversification and use of the redundant building has been supported by land owners Clinton Devon Estates.

There had been 33 objections to the application, with just three letters of support. The objectors had raised concerns that it would set a precedent for further holiday development, walkers would feel they were intruding on holidaymakers, it would harm the quiet character of the place, and as it is a memorial to the RAF and a conversion would be sacrilege.

Supporters had said that it would be an imaginative reuse for the building, would bring income to the area and diversify the farm, and would save the building from future demolition.

East Devon District Council planners have granted the scheme planning permission under delegated powers.

Mr Walker said: “The building is dilapidated, vandalised and littered with glass and toilet paper – I am not sure certain people treat it with any respect at all. The Observation Post is only going to go one way if something is not done to save it.

“In my opinion, there is a clear precedent and an example to aspire to in the case of the Clavell Tower at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset. The Tower was disused and threatened with dereliction, and in its case the entire building was dismantled and moved back 20 metres from the cliff edge to save it. It now provides holiday accommodation through the Landmark Trust in order to pay for its upkeep.

“We are merely proposing to re-roof the Observation Post and put in doors and windows as near to the originals as possible. Some basic internal insulation is likely to be necessary to ensure it is habitable to modern standards, and we are looking at simple plain ply or fibreboard which would be in keeping with the architecture and original materials.

“I have spoken to many long-distance walkers who bemoan the lack of suitable and inclusive accommodation for serious hikers – some of them are even reduced to fly-camping in my fields. I am clear that what we would really aspire to offer is a Highland bothy-type experience to users of the Coast Path.

“Bothies only offer basic shelter, the Observation Post would be better than that but remain totally off-grid except for a cold water pipe. With 12 volt batteries and a solar panel, a woodburner and a bottle of gas, we can offer a slightly more comfortable experience, but the atmosphere would be rustic, respectful and available to those on a budget.

“Those who worry about people driving up there, taking mountains of luggage and a TV set with them, really do not understand the type of people we are seeking to accommodate – the same walkers who use the basic bench and shelter currently at the site.

“I have read objections that we are disrespectful to the history of the building. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the past eighteen months we have been in contact with various WW2 heritage organisations and are even now searching for some possibly surviving films of the RAF firing tests which we could make available to walkers through the use of QR codes on a better, updated notice board.

“We have found WW2 relics in the fields which we would hope to display and would also make the building available for exhibitions, talks and the village’s VE day commemorations next year.”

Devon County Council’s Historic Environment Team said: “We welcome a positive reuse for the building and that extension of the structure is no longer being proposed,” while Cllr Paul Jarvis, who represents the Budleigh and Raleigh ward, said: “While I may not personally like this application, I understand the idea behind it.”

Granting approval under delegated powers, officers said: “The new use would significantly change the character of the building and people’s interactions with it. Since the building has been derelict and uninhabited, walkers have only had other walkers to share the space with, and on many occasions, no one else at all.

“The retention of the building as an amenity, subject to the goodwill of the owner, and as a relic of the War is desireable for many reason, and compatible with the AONB and heritage. The proposal would secure the future of the building and retain and enhance seating and interpretation boards for walkers.

“For entirely understandable reasons, there is a view that the most sensitive way to conserve the history of the building and the surrounding landscape is to do nothing other than basic maintenance.

“Analysis of the proposal indicates that it would have acceptable impacts on the building having regard to its historic interest and on the surrounding landscape. However, there would be some loss of peace and tranquillity associated with the new use of the building which would be unavoidable.

“In mitigation, there would still be opportunities for walkers and holidaymakers to use the building at the same time, and in that sense, the proposal is welcomed.

“Moreover, the economic benefits of the proposals snot be overlooked, nor the benefits associated with conservaing a building of historic interest that would otherwise be likely to deteriorate further.

“At the heart of this there is a fundamental question about whether or not it is appropriate to introduce holiday accommodation into a tranquil and highly protected setting which people enjoy because of its isolation and natural beauty.

“While it is clear that proposal would result in some change, it is concluded that it is a level of change which can be accommodated without undermining the special quality of the site or diminishing its appeal to residents and visitors.”

Image: Artist impression of the conversion plans for The Brandy Head Range Observation Post, near Otterton

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