THE owners of lodges at a holiday park in Matchams have had their bid to be able to live on the site permanently turned down.

Members of East Dorset District Council’s planning committee refused the request to remove the “restrictive” rule which means that Avon Forest Lodges cannot be used as a main residence.

Despite pleas from the owners of the caravans – some of whom have been living on the site for several years – councillors backed the recommendation of planning officer Elizabeth Fay and declined to remove the condition which was brought in when the site was first approved.

Planning contravention notices were issued to six of the seven lodges by the council in January 2018 after the breach of the restriction was discovered.

Following this, a group of residents applied for permission to live there full-time, claiming they had not been informed of the rule when buying their homes.

The application was considered at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s planning committee with councillors recommended to turn down their request due to concerns about the impact permanent living would have on the nearby site of special scientific interest.

However, lodge owner Bob Carroll told councillors their impact on the surrounding land would be less severe than a series of holidaymakers.

“As part of the process of buying our lodge we went through an extensive vetting process.

“At no time during this were we told that we holiday lodge, in fact a clause on our original lease contract was crossed out.

“We excel as stewards in ensuring that no damage is caused to the heathland. I doubt this will be the same from visitors who will only be there for a short period.”

Despite the assurance, councillors voted to refuse their request, echoing concerns about the impact permanent residence could have on the heathlands.

Cllr Barbara Manuel said: “I have concerns, if we were to accept the residents’ plea, about the proximity to the site of special scientific interest and the heathlands.

“Our heathland is precious and we must protect it.”

Councillors voted to refuse the request to remove the restriction on lodge owners being able to live permanently on the site.