Millionaire wants to plant trees improve environmental credentials

Millionaire founder of White Stuff fashion chain wants to plant 1,000 trees to shield the tennis court, garage and skate park he’s already been ordered to take down

  • Sean Thomas made retrospective planning application for additions to his home
  • He built a tennis court, two-storey garage and skate park at Devon property 2016
  • New proposal includes the ‘substantial new planting of over 1,000 native trees’

The millionaire founder of White Stuff has plans to plant 1,000 trees to shield the tennis court, garage and skate park he’s already been ordered to take down. 

Sean Thomas has made a retrospective planning application for the additions to his luxury home near Salcombe, Devon after previous proposals were rejected in September.

Mr Thomas built the court, skate park and two-storey garage at his Kingsbridge Estuary home without planning permission in 2016. 

The site is in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and alongside the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

White Stuff founder Sean Thomas was ordered to tear down the two-storey double garage, a skate park and a tennis court (outlined in red) at his beauty spot mansion last September

A council planning officer said last year the additions were an ‘unwelcome and incongruous intrusion into an undeveloped countryside location’.  

Mr Thomas’s new application includes a ‘substantial new planting of over 1,000 native trees’ as well as a bat roost, bird boxes and the planting of wild flowers along the estuary.

It also proposes a reed clearance and de-silting of a wetland area near his property as ‘landscape enhancements’.

The millionaire has offered to paint the roof of the garage a lighter colour ‘to enable the building to assimilate far more successfully into the wider landscape’.

The site is in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and alongside the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest

Mr Thomas’s new application includes a ‘substantial new planting of over 1,000 native trees’ as well as a bat roost, bird boxes and the planting of wild flowers along the estuary

Conservation charity the South Hams Society has asked why enforcement action has not been taken after Mr Thomas and his wife were previously told the land must be returned to its former condition.

In September, South Hams District Council (SHDC) ordered its enforcement team to start legal action ‘with regards to returning the land to its former condition’. 

The council said it did not comment about ongoing planning applications.

Pictured: Sean Thomas, the founder of White Stuff

Mr Thomas’ new application will now be considered by the council’s planning committee. 

The South Hams Society said: ‘This is exactly what we feared. SHDC’s planning enforcement function has been under-resourced and not fit for purpose for years.

‘Cases languish unresolved as the authority takes care to avoid potentially costly legal battles. Why are fines not being imposed for wrongdoing?’

Mr Thomas said he was continuing to work with SHDC to ‘respond positively’ to any concerns raised by it. 

The skate park, tennis court and garage were branded an ‘eyesore’ in a ‘unique and iconic landscape’ in an objection lodged by West Alvington Parish Council.

The house was built after a controversial planning application in 2011, on the site of a bungalow formerly owned by the environmentalist Tony Soper, co-founder of the BBC’s famous Natural History Unit.

Pictured: The view of the tennis court looking towards the two-storey double garage with solar panelling

An image taken from council documents shows the double garage as viewed on the approach to the home

That development was finally approved in 2012 after some scaling back of the original plans.

Mr Thomas and his wife later acquired an adjoining strip of agricultural land to build the tennis court, skate park and garage, which was finished in 2016.

Planning documents said the reason for refusal of the application in September was that the development ‘represents an unwelcome and incongruous intrusion into an undeveloped countryside location that is within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Undeveloped Coast’.

The planning committee concluded the building results in ‘significant adverse impacts to the natural beauty, special qualities, distinctive character, landscape and scenic beauty of the South Devon AONB’. 

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