A FATHER-of-two from Somerset will be forced to tear down his daughter's tree house after a planning dispute.

Tim Lyddon lives in Minehead with his wife Jayne and their two daughters, Jody and Maisie.

Mr Lyddon began constructing the tree house a short distance from their home in late 2019, to provide his daughters with a place to play and learn about nature.

But Somerset West and Taunton Council has now ordered him to tear it down because it breaches planning law – a decision which has left Mr Lyddon “disappointed” and “perplexed”.

The tree house – named The Birds Nest by the family – lies up a steep track off Combeland Road, between a small orchard and Penny Hill Wood.

The two-storey structure, constructed around an oak tree, is accessed by a “gangway bridge” and has enough space for two or three children to sleep in.

South West Farmer:

The ground floor includes a large observation hatch where people can see across the whole of Minehead, including the Butlins holiday camp and the nearby rugby club.

The council served Mr Lyddon with an enforcement notice in January, claiming the tree house amounted to building in open countryside – something which has traditionally been discouraged to protect the natural landscape and discourage urban sprawl.

READ MORE: Somerset family fight to save treehouse after council order to tear it down​ 

Mr Lyddon lodged a formal appeal against the council, with planning inspector Justina Moss visited the site on July 23 and publishing her report on October 15.

She agreed with the council that the tree house, or “wildlife observation hide”, was outside of the areas identified in the Local Plan for future housing growth in Minehead.

She described the tree-house as “a considerable structure over two floors”, with the materials used being “somewhat incongruous within its immediate setting”.

“The benefits of any camouflage are likely to be reduced during the autumn and winter months, when it is likely that the structure, being at the edge of the tree line, would be more visible from the site entrance as well as from viewpoints within the adjoining residential area," she added.

South West Farmer:

“I have no doubt that the development contributes towards the education and wellbeing of Mr Lyddon’s children and their friends.

“However, as these are the only users of the development, the weight attributed to this benefit is limited … and it cannot reasonably be regarded as reaching the wider community.”

With the appeal being upheld, Mr Lyddon has until December 15 to remove the tree house, or face further legal action.

He said: “We are obviously disappointed by the council’s decision, and perplexed at the planners’ refusal of  such a low-impact temporary structure where  the children can play and learn about their environment.

“A connection to nature and the ability to play and exercise their imagination are going to be instrumental for our children to solve some of the challenges that lie ahead of them.”

Mr Lyddon said changes were needed to the planning system to better acknowledge the value of green spaces and provide more protection for the natural landscape.

He said: “The planning system is skewed in favour of projects that bring mostly financial gain, at a time when access to open spaces and nature is more important than ever.

“We recently refused to sell our land  to developers hoping to incorporate it into part of a large housing project which was fortunately turned down – but had we accepted their offer, the outcome might have been different.

“Obviously, there is a need for affordable housing for young local people, but there are hundreds of second homes in our area that remain empty but for the odd week or two.

“We know that there is wildlife living in and around the hide at the moment, and with this in mind we would be reluctant to remove the structure.”

South West Farmer:

The government has launched its white paper Planning for the Future, which lays out its intended reforms to the planning system by which new homes, commercial premises and other facilities are approved by local councils.

South Somerset District Council (which borders Somerset West and Taunton) passed a motion on October 15 to oppose the reforms, describing them a “developers’ charter” and accusing the government of “playing fast and loose with the planet”.

To take part in the Planning for the Future consultation, visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future before October 29.