A GOVERNMENT planning inspector has ruled against council plans to restrict occupancy for new homes in Purbeck.

Dorset Council had refused proposals for a former primary school site at West Lulworth, in part because the application did not comply with a controversial 'second homes' draft condition.

This had been introduced by the previous Purbeck District Council in a bid to prevent them from being used a holiday homes.

Wilton Homes wants to build nine houses on the former West Lulworth Primary School site – which is in a Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The developer appealed the council refusal to grant permission and Government planning inspector Janet Wilson has now backed their position.

Ken Parke Planning Consultants, working on behalf of Wilton Homes, said: "A planning inspector has thwarted Dorset Council's attempts to restrict occupancy of new homes in the Purbeck AONB.

"The previous Purbeck Council had put in place a draft planning policy which meant any person buying a new built home had to use it as their primary residence.

"The inspector agreed with Ken Parke Planning Consultants that the policy could be afforded no weight because it was a draft policy that had not been through due process to the stage of formal adoption."

This issue of second homes is a particularly thorny one in Purbeck, with locals protesting they are effectively priced out of the market as developers often build expensive properties which are snapped up as holiday homes or country retreats for wealthy out-of-towners.

Some villages, such as Worth Matravers, have a high percentage of homes which are not lived in throughout the year, a situation campaigners also argue harms the local economy.

Wilton Homes' latest application for the West Lulworth site at School Lane was for permission to change use of existing buildings to form three houses, plus the erection of six new houses with associated parking.

Compounding the council's doomed position appears to be current progress – or lack of it – on the area's local plan.

Over the past few years - before the creation of the new unitary Dorset Council - previous district councils had been asked to form local plans, which were essentially blueprints of preferred development within their boundaries.

Purbeck District Council had been working on this document, through a series of public consultations, up until the time the authority ceased to be and was folded into the wider unitary Dorset Council. Had the district's local plan been at a more advanced stage, it may have placed greater weight on Dorset Council's decision to reject the nine home scheme.

Cllr David Walsh, Dorset Council's portfolio holder for planning said: "Dorset Council is disappointed with the outcome of the appeal but recognises that the planning inspector’s decision has provided a clear message about the weight that could be attached to a local plan policy that was still at examination at the time the application was determined.

"The council will take account of the appeal decision when considering other applications for the removal of similar conditions. However, the weight attached to the policies in this plan will continue to change as the plan nears adoption, and we will need to take account of this too."

Costs were also awarded against the council.