By Katie Williams @DorsetEchoKatie


A landowner has been convicted and fined thousands of pounds after carrying out unauthorised excavation works in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In October 2014, planning enforcement officers discovered that "significant" works had been carried out by Robert George Coles at Broad Oak Farm, at the bottom 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 told Coles that the excavation was not permitted and would have required planning permission.

Despite making promises to the council that he would return the land to its former condition, Coles failed to do so, and an enforcement notice was served in October 2018.

At Weymouth Magistrates Court, Coles, who lives at Broad Oak Farm, pleaded guilty to the offence and was fined £3,000. In addition, he was ordered to pay the full claim for prosecution costs of £1,323.

The sentencing magistrate said that the offence was "particularly serious" because the unauthorised development was in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and because so much time had passed without the situation being remedied.

Dorset Council 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."

More information about planning enforcement, including how to report a possible unauthorised development, is available at

Originally published in the

Dorset Echo