THE partner of a West Somerset councillor mired in planning controversy has launched a fresh attempt to avert an order to undo changes she made to the Anchors Drop public house in Blue Anchor.

Cara Strom was refused planning permission to change a garage and storerooms into living accommodation, was served with an enforcement notice, appealed the notice, lost the appeal, and last August was given 12 months to undo the changes and remove all fixtures and fittings.

Her partner, Somerset Cllr Marcus Kravis, previously stirred controversy when he won retrospective permission for six static caravans in the pub grounds on the casting vote of his fellow Liberal Democrat planning chairman Cllr Simon Coles.

Cllr Kravis also hit the headlines when he later threatened legal action after the former Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT), on which he also sat, refused solar panels on the caravan roofs and the pub, and some ground-mounted arrays.

The Anchors Drop public house, Blue Anchor, seen from the road.
The Anchors Drop public house, Blue Anchor, seen from the road. (Architectural Studio South West)

The threat was dropped when councillors approved amended plans for solar panels only on the caravans.

SWT also agreed to carry out a £3.8 million scheme to install 13,500 tonnes of rock armouring which would protect the pub and nearby road from coastal erosion.

Now, Ms Strom has submitted a new application within the 12-month deadline asking to use the owner’s accommodation as a holiday apartment and convert the garage and pub function room to an owner’s apartment, which she had already partly done.

Planning agent Adam Elston, of Architectural Studio South West, said the hotel was ‘famously known for being threatened with falling into the sea’.

Mr Elston said it was the main reason the property suffered with decades of under-investment and decline before Ms Strom took over in 2016.

He said: “The interior was dated, environmental health closed the kitchen, and one review in 2015 stated that ‘even the dog had a bad night’s sleep.’”

Ms Strom reversed the decline and invested heavily despite the risk of the building falling into the sea and carried out work which was instrumental in making the future sea defence works feasible.

However, a major 2018 landslip forced the investment to be paused and the bar and restaurant had to close.

The business model changed to providing self-catering accommodation and some in the main building, resulting in the function room and skittle alley no longer being used.

Mr Elston said following Covid lockdowns Ms Strom carried out ad hoc ‘re-jigging’ of the premises on a ‘temporary’ basis but could not submit a planning application because of uncertainty over whether sea defence works would go ahead.

The new application in essence created a four-bedroom holiday apartment from the owner’s accommodation and turned the function room and garage into a five-bedroom home for Ms Strom.

Old Cleeve parish councillors who discussed the application decided to ‘remain neutral’ on it.

Ms Strom, a refugee housing officer with Somerset Council, has closed the Anchors Drop until the coastal protection work has finished, but is accepting group stays of up to 22 people.