COUNCIL planning officers have been criticised for the “outrageous” decision to allow a riverside house to be rebuilt – after the applicant saw its impact and decided to stop work.

Christchurch council approved plans to redevelop the Willow Way home in 2017 but once work had started it was discovered that it would “significantly harm” a neighbour's living conditions and was voluntarily stopped.

Considering a replacement scheme on Thursday (August 8), members of the BCP Council planning committee thanked applicant Kim Slater for the decision which had “saved it embarrassment”.

The initial set of proposals was approved by planning officers under delegated powers in 2017 before work was started.

However, the following year it was discovered that the impact of a car port on one of the neighbours of the home had been underestimated.

Mr Slater put forward a revised scheme in February which reduced the height of the structure and moved it further away from the edge of the house’s plot in order to reduce the impact.

The following month, members of Christchurch council’s planning committee unanimously agreed to approve the scheme, subject to an agreement requiring the previous permission to be cancelled.

“The car port was having a significantly harmful impact on the visual character of the area and an unacceptable impact on the residential amenities of the neighbour,” a report said at the time.

“The differences in the new ground levels and the loss of vegetation meant the resulting scale of the car port had not been fully realised by officers at the time the previous application was determined.”

Councillors unanimously approved the scheme.

But, following negotiations, Mr Slater’s bank refused to support the new agreement.

As a result, the application was brought back to BCP Council’s planning committee for a decision with a recommendation that it be approved without it.

Speaking on Thursday, Cllr Peter Hall, who was a member of the Christchurch council planning committee, said the whole issue had been “outrageous”.

“Apparently, the senior planning officer passed it at 6pm without checking it properly,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for the applicant, we would be in a bad place.”

Cllr Ann Stribley said it was fortunate that no-one had formally complained about how the council had handled the issue.

“We need to be very grateful for the applicant’s consideration,” she said. “If this had gone to the [Local Government] Ombudsman we would have been left with egg on our face.

“I think the council should consider paying the extra costs in this case.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to approve the development.