A LANDOWNER carried out "significant" excavation works in an area of outstanding natural beauty – without first asking the council for permission.

Robert George Coles of Broad Oak Farm, East Melbury, Shaftesbury, has been taken to court after failing to rectify a "serious breach of planning control" within Cranborne Chase, officials say.

The defendant recently admitted one offence contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act.

On a visit to the farm in October 2014, planning enforcement officers discovered "significant excavation works" had taken place at the base of Zig Zag Hill in Melbury Abbas.

The works, which caused ground levels to change as a result of the spreading of excavated spoil, affected 3,700 square metres of the 150,000 square metre farm.

The council informed Mr Coles that the excavation and resultant works taking place were not permitted development, but were an unauthorised engineering operation that required planning permission.

Prior to an enforcement notice being served in October 2018, Mr Coles twice made promises to the council that he would rectify the breach and return the land to its former condition. However, the court heard failed to do so.

Mr. Coles was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay the full claim for prosecution costs of £1,323, making a total of £4,123.

He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30.

The court heard the offence was "particularly serious" because the unauthorised development was in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Dorset Council's cabinet member for planning, Cllr David Walsh, said: “I would like to thank our planning control officers for conducting an excellent investigation and working with our legal team to bring this case to a successful conclusion.

“Court proceedings are a last resort and we always try to work with landowners to remedy planning breaches when possible.

“However we have a duty to protect areas of outstanding natural beauty and we will address breaches to ensure the integrity of the planning system is not undermined.”