A retrospective planning application has been submitted to South Hams District Council after a homeowner put a tennis court, skate ramp and a two-storey double garage on their land without planning permission.

The land is at Gerston Point, West Alvington, which sits on the bank of the Kingsbridge and Salcombe ria in the heart of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and on the water’s edge of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, among other environmentally sensitive locations.

The retrospective planning application comes after a previous planning application to construct the main dwelling on the property, which was highly contested back in 2011 because of its size and sensitive location.

Planning officers approved the application for the home in 2012 after some scaling back of the original plans.

The applicants then acquired an adjoining strip of agricultural land upon which they proceeded to build the tennis court, skate park and garage, which was finished in 2016.

The RPA was finally submitted in January this year, described as a retrospective application for change of use of land to domestic use with carport and storage building.

The South Hams Society, a charitable organisation which aims to promote the conservation of the South Hams and encourage high standards of planning, said the application has “little merit”.

In its objection letter, SHS said the application would clearly fail its test as to whether the highest standards of planning have been followed, and said it is “clearly much more than a retrospective application to correct a minor technical planning issue”.

The society says the buildings have been built on what is classified as agricultural land without any of the normal ecological surveys or environmental checks being carried out, including drainage and the impact on wildlife.

Cathy Koo, vice chair of SHS, said: “The South Hams Society has campaigned for many years to ensure that the South Devon AONB and Heritage Coast are protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

“We are extremely concerned about what has happened at Gerston Point. A beautiful and highly sensitive site has been damaged by an unlawful and intrusive development.

“Along with others, we have lodged a strong objection to the retrospective application which was submitted to SHDC this January. We don’t know what action has been taken by the council since 2016 when the work was done; we do know that its enforcement resources are limited.

“But seeking planning approval via the back door – as we see in this case – must not be allowed to become the ‘new normal’ in the South Hams.

“The South Hams Society wants to see the council making full use of its enforcement powers to right this wrong and demonstrate that it can’t be walked over. This area is already under huge pressure from developers of all types and it is high time that a clear message went out that no one is above the law.”

West Alvington Parish Council has also made its view clear, and highlighted the same objections as the SHS, along with other points.

Among these, the parish council said the new carport and storage on the land is visible from neighbouring fields, surrounding hills and roads, and the roof of the carport and storage unit is “significantly higher” than the home.

WAPC also claims the documents contain misleading and/or wrongful statements in at least six important areas, and that it is misleading when considering the Section 106 agreements the applicants originally signed when the house was approved and built back in 2012.

The council also noted there is no mention of the impact of the solar panels on the roof of the garage which increase the overall visibility of the building.

WAPC said in view of those agreements, the applicants “cannot reasonably say they were unaware of either the need to obtain planning permission to carry out any works on this highly sensitive site, or the obligation to undertake environmental and ecological surveys”.

The Section 106 agreement was redacted in 2017.

SHDC has been contacted, but said it cannot comment at this stage as the application in question is currently being considered in accordance with the council’s planning policies and procedures.

The agent, Stopher Design Partnership Ltd, has also been contacted, but no comment was received at the time of going to press.

To view the application, visit SHDC’s online planning portal with the reference: 0042/19/FUL.