Council split on equestrian’s tennis court plans

Olympic equestrian Mary King MBE Olympic equestrian Mary King MBE

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
5:20 PM

An Olympic equestrian’s plans to develop her Salcombe Regis business with a horse exercise area and a tennis court have divided civic leaders.

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Sidmouth Town Council’s planning committee supported blueprints for a ménage area but took issue with Mary King MBE’s request to create a tennis court in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Members called for a split decision so the two matters could be considered separately.

They also backed a linked application to convert an agricultural area for equine use at the land to the west of Thorn House, saying it will continue to be used for a countryside pursuit.

Planning clerk Heloise Marlow said Mrs King is making plans for her retirement from eventing by looking to expand her horse rearing business, as well as supporting her daughter Emily’s promising career in the sport.

The application states that tennis is recommended by equestrian experts, but Councillor Ian Barlow said ‘that’s pushing it’.

“It’s an AONB – we are supposed to protect it,” he said. “We’re setting ourselves up.

“Horses don’t play tennis – you can’t say it’s equestrian.”

He added that the proposed tennis court was six times larger than necessary, and warned that, if approved, it could later be considered a less regulated brownfield site.

Councillor Jeff Turner said: “I can believe you need hand-eye coordination but I cannot believe a tennis court is the only way to achieve that.”

He added that it would open the flood gates to anyone else wanting to build a court in the AONB.

The proposals are for land which Mrs King bought in 1981 and has since renovated a number of ‘beyond repair’ buildings.

She moved onto the site with her family in 2010 after the main barn on the site was converted into a house. Cllr Ian McKenzie-Edwards said there is already a discrete jumping area, adding: “The look of the area is not going to be affected.”

Councillor Graham Liverton said the AONB cannot always be preserved, and it should also be used.

The split decision on the application meant that members supported the ménage area but not the tennis court.

East Devon District Council will decide the fate of the plans.

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