In January this year we were consulted about an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use which would have allowed glamping pods, a car park and associated leisure uses at Marston Park in Somerset.
The owner had allowed fishing and shooting on the land around the lake for some years, and cited the occasional overnight camping stay or barbeque by fishermen as prior examples of camping on the lakeside. We are glad to say that Mendip District Council decided that glamping and the other leisure uses could not be permitted under a Certificate of Lawful Use (CLU).
In our response to the application we provided Google Earth aerial photographs which showed that the area around the lake did not have any significant structures until 2020, when some white tents started to appear, with more added in 2021.
We therefore argued that there was no precedent for allowing commercial camping there. We quoted an article from Somerset News on 21st April 2021 which stated that “Marston Park started offering tent accommodation for two months last summer as an ‘experiment’.” These glamping tents should have had planning permission, but the Gardens Trust was not notified about any such application. Our concern – perhaps unjustified – was that the owner was trying to avoid having to ask for retrospective planning permission for the glamping business by applying for a CLU.
The Gardens Trust had objected to enabling development around the lake back in 2018 which would have included 20 Lodges, Hub and Reception buildings and continues to strongly oppose any attempt to commercialise camping or glamping, with associated holiday or leisure activities, at Marston. Until the scrub was allowed to grow unchecked and mask the northern edge of Marston Pond, the view from the mansion down to the valley was arguably the most important vista within the whole Grade II registered park and garden. The lake is specifically described in W S Gilpin’s seminal work ‘Practical Hints on Landscape Gardening’(1832) as contributing directly to Marston’s “beautiful” scenery.
We are therefore very relieved that Mendip District Council, while granting a CLU for the 8 hides, 2 pontoons and access track, concluded that the applicant had failed to demonstrate that the claimed leisure uses – fishing, shooting, camping, walking, BBQs and picnics – had continued without material interruption for a period of 10 years immediately prior to the date of application.
The tranquillity and beautiful scenery of Marston Pond survives – for now.
Historic England entry for Marston