Watchet private pool saved after appeal fails

HOLIDAYMAKERS coming to Watchet will still have access to a private pool after attempts to convert the building into new housing failed.

Andrew and Kirsten Musgrove run the Croft Holiday Cottages off Anchor Street, including an indoor swimming pool which is usually open between May and September.

The couple, who live in Williton, applied to build a new two-bedroom house on the pool site, but were refused permission by Somerset West and Taunton Council and lodged an appeal.

The Planning Inspectorate has now ruled in the council’s favour, meaning the pool can remain in place for those visiting the area.

The pool and the surrounding cottages lie within Watchet town centre, a few minutes’ walk from both the historic marina and the station on the West Somerset Railway.

The Musgraves argued that demolishing the pool (which is contained within a polytunnel) would improve the appearance of the local area and provide two additional parking spaces for guests.

Somerset County Gazette: The Existing Swimming Pool At The Croft Cottages In Watchet, Seen From The Private Access Road. CREDIT: Architectural Studios. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

They said: “The existing adjacent properties will not be adversely effected by the proposals.

“All the materials proposed for the dwelling are to be of traditional quality which reflect the design and character of the conservation area.

“The proposed dwelling is to be located over the footprint of the existing pool enclosure and would essentially infill the remaining piece of land within The Croft.”

The council refused permission in April 2020, arguing the development would negatively impact on the nearby conservation area and the extra traffic would put pressure on local roads and car parks.

Planning inspector S. Thomas visited in the site in mid-August 2020, but only published his result before a recent meeting of the council’s planning committee.

Describing Watchet as “an attractive harbour town”, he said the “distinctive character” of the conservation area with its “close-built, small-scale streets” needed to be respected by any new development in the surrounding area.

Somerset County Gazette: View Of Anchor Street From The Swimming Pool Site In Watchet. CREDIT: Architectural Studios. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

He said: “The proposed dwelling is of a design that would not be uncharacteristic of properties located off this private drive.

“However, the proposed dwelling would be awkwardly sited at an angle to the private drive, which would appear discordant compared to the regular courtyard arrangement of the surrounding properties.

“It would not integrate well amongst the surrounding built form and would appear incongruous and intrusive in public views from the Croft and Anchor Street.

“Accordingly, the proposed dwelling would be uncharacteristic of development within the conservation area and would detract from its character and appearance.”

While Mr Thomas agreed that removing the polytunnel would improve the site’s appearance, he reasoned that leaving it in place would be less harmful than building the new house.

He added: “While I have found in favour of the appellant in terms of the effect of the proposal on highway safety, this does not overcome the identified harm in relation to the conservation area.”

Somerset County Gazette | News