Millionaire wins two-year planning war to build 5ft tunnel

Millionaire wins two-year planning war to build 5ft tunnel under public footpath through his garden despite outrage from fashion tycoon neighbours – including founders of Sweaty Betty and Oliver Bonas

  • George Chapman lodged proposal to build tunnel in West Sussex garden in 2018 
  • It was rejected but has been approved after appeal to the Planning Inspectorate
  • Underpass will connect two areas of his seaside garden separated by a footpath

A millionaire has won a two-year planning war to build an underground tunnel in his garden – despite outrage from his fashion tycoon neighbours.

Retired company director George Chapman’s garden near Chichester in West Sussex is divided into two halves by a public footpath.

He lodged plans to build a 5ft tunnel to connect the two halves with Chichester District Council in 2018 – which were initially refused – but Mr Chapman has since been granted permission to build the underpass following an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate. 

Simon Hill-Norton, who founded activewear brand Sweaty Betty, and Oliver Tress, who set up home and fashion store Oliver Bonas, both objected to Mr Chapman’s plans ahead of the decision.   

Kate Winslet’s holiday home is also nearby in the beachside neighbourhood, although the Titanic star has not voiced public concern. 

Retired company director George Chapman’s garden near Chichester in West Sussex is divided into two halves by a public footpath. Pictured: Mr Chapman in his garden

 He lodged plans to build a 5ft tunnel to connect the two halves with Chichester District Council in 2018 – which were initially refused – but Mr Chapman has since been granted permission to build the underpass following an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate

Mr Hill-Norton became the face of local opposition to the tunnel – dubbed the Bore War – and said the Chapmans couldn’t be bothered to ‘take three steps across a public footpath’. 

But Mr Chapman insisted no one will notice the £10,000 tunnel – which will run through his land – and called the objections ‘bonkers’.  

Chichester District Council rejected the proposal in late 2019, siding with neighbours who claimed the underground passage would be a blight on the idyllic landscape.

The council said that the plan ‘would introduce an overtly man-made feature’ into an area of outstanding natural beauty. 

Mr and Mrs Chapman have a one-acre triangular garden leading right down to their private jetty at the end point. 

There is a public right of way across the lawn, which they have fenced and hedged in, cutting off the seaside end of the garden, where they have a summer house, a sailing boat and a dinghy.

The rejected plans were appealed last February, and Mr Chapman’s appeal has since been upheld by the Planning Inspectorate. Pictured: The plans

Planning Inspector Matthew Bale explained that the proposal should not be denied because the Chapmans don’t need the underpass to access their land

The rejected plans were appealed last February, and Mr Chapman’s appeal has since been upheld by the Planning Inspectorate. 

Planning Inspector Matthew Bale said: ‘Although the tunnel would be an overtly man-made structure, the relative levels and intervening planting would prevent views of it from the footpath.

‘Viewed from the gardens and rear windows of Mr Chapman’s house and its neighbours, the tunnel entrance would be seen in the side face of the bank within the residential garden environment.

‘In this domestic context it would do no harm to the character and appearance of the area or outlook from these dwellings.

Simon Hill-Norton (pictured), who founded activewear brand Sweaty Betty, and Oliver Tress, who set up home and fashion store Oliver Bonas, both objected to Mr Chapman’s plans ahead of the decision.

Oliver Tress, founder of Oliver Bonas stores, pictured right, is seen attending the launch of a retail store in Belgravia in 2014

‘On the opposite side of the footpath, the tunnel would lead to land open to the Harbour.

‘The tunnel mouth would be within the top of the bank rather than its side face so it would not be readily visible to anybody on the water, or walking on the foreshore, which are at an appreciably lower level.’

Mr Bale explained that the proposal should not be denied because the Chapmans don’t need the underpass to access their land.   

‘The occupiers already have access to the foreshore via gates either side of the footpath,’ he added.

‘There is no substantive evidence that this arrangement is inherently unsafe or unsuitable and in that regard there is no need for the proposal.

Mr Chapman had insisted no one will notice the £10,000 tunnel – which will run through his land – and called the objections ‘bonkers’. Pictured: Plans for the underpass

Pictured: An aerial view of Mr Chapman’s garden, which is divided in two by a public footpath

‘However, a lack of need to does not render the development unacceptable.’  

The Planning Inspector placed a condition concerning lighting the tunnel to ensure there was no consequent light pollution on the nearby beach.  

He declined Mr Chapman’s request for the council to pay costs of the appeal. 

The decision will be a blow to Mr Hill-Norton, who made a number of public objections to the underpass.

The businessman lives next door in a detached home worth £1.5 million. His high-end sports brand sells leggings for up to £95 a pair and is a favourite among celebrities.

Shortly after the plans were lodged in 2018, he said: ‘While this is a most ambitious project, it is not appropriate for this area of the harbour.

The Planning Inspector placed a condition concerning lighting the tunnel to ensure there was no consequent light pollution on the nearby beach. Pictured: A simulation of how the underpass would look

‘I object due to the visual impact this tunnel would have on this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as the impact this tunnel would have on local wildlife.’ 

Oliver Bonas boss Mr Tress also filed an objection to Mr Chapman’s plans in November 2018. 

He said: ‘The building of a tunnel close to the harbour seems to be out of all proportion to the amenity provided for just one household, whilst also impinging on an important and protected natural habitat.

‘In addition, it is hardly likely to enhance the beauty of the immediate area for the many local users – quite the opposite.’

Mr Chapman, who has lived in the property for 25 years, previously said: ‘We love taking our grandchildren to the sea to swim and sail – but we have to lock and unlock two gates to get to the end of our own garden.

‘It’s very difficult when your garden’s cut in half by a footpath, particularly in the summer when there can be 100 cyclists a day using it, even though they’re not supposed to. We’ve been hit twice by bikes.’     

Source: Read Full Article