It's being called the Campsite Kerfuffle... a site owner's years-long row with the council over his bid to expand his business has finally ended after government officials got involved.

The dispute centred around whether businessman Nigel Marsh had the right planning permission for holiday accommodation on his site.

West Norfolk Council refused his application to make changes to holiday lets, build a hotel inside a barn and change the access to the business on South Beach Road, Heacham.

But, after an appeal by Mr Marsh, a government planning inspector has overturned the authority’s refusal and ordered it pay the appeal costs, which the businessman claims come to £10,000.

Eastern Daily Press: Nigel Marsh at his campsite in HeachamNigel Marsh at his campsite in Heacham (Image: Chris Bishop)

The inspector said that the council’s handling of the matter amounted to “unreasonable behaviour”.

On winning his fight against the council, Mr Marsh said: "I just wish they'd acted within their remit.

"They're a public servant, they're there to enact public law, not make it up themselves.

"They've made so much work for themselves, where it wasn't necessary."

A spokesman for West Norfolk Council said: "Mr Marsh successfully appealed three aspects of planning decisions relating to his site at Heacham, and we are assessing the implications of this.

"There remain significant issues with development on this site because it is in a flood risk area. We will continue to monitor activity on the site and act where necessary to ensure that breaches of planning control are dealt with appropriately.”


Eastern Daily Press: Nigel Marsh outside one of his holiday letsNigel Marsh outside one of his holiday lets (Image: Chris Bishop)

Mr Marsh was given planning permission for three holiday lets in former farm buildings on his site in 2012.

But the agreed design was modified by dividing a games room into three separate rooms with kitchen and bathroom facilities, while extra windows were added.

West Norfolk Council launched an investigation in 2022 after officials believed the games rooms were being used as extra accommodation to let.

It said they were "tantamount" to the creation of additional residential accommodation

Mr Marsh applied to vary planning permission for the changes in 2023 but was turned down by the council.

Eastern Daily Press: Holiday lets on Mr Marsh's campsite at Heacham Holiday lets on Mr Marsh's campsite at Heacham (Image: Chris Bishop)

Now he has won an appeal against the council's decision and an application for costs.

He has also won an appeal over so-called prior approval of proposals to build a hotel inside a barn on the site under permitted development rights.

A government planning inspector ruled the council had not arrived at a decision within the statutory period of 56 days, therefore prior approval could be deemed to have been granted.

And Mr Marsh has also won an appeal over restrictions imposed in a planning condition over the use of an access point and parking area on former farmland.

In each case, the inspector found the council's behaviour had been "unreasonable" and Mr Marsh's costs should be awarded.


Eastern Daily Press: The campsite at Heacham, which has been at the centre of a lengthy planning battleThe campsite at Heacham, which has been at the centre of a lengthy planning battle (Image: Chris Bishop)

Not quite. Mr Marsh is now waiting to find out whether his application for a lawful development certificate to operate the campsite at Heacham will be successful.

He applied after the council abandoned earlier legal action over what it claimed was a breach of planning rules at the site.

On that occasion, Mr Marsh was left counting the cost after shelling out £35,000 on legal fees prior to the hearing and being awarded costs of just £26.

Mr Marsh says the site, which had 1,316 visitors last year, is not an unauthorised permanent campsite, but an exempted caravan and camping site, which does not require planning permission.

Still in the pipeline - so to speak - is a planning application for a toilet block built in a former tractor shed on the site, which was formerly a farm.

A planning officer has recommended approval - provided the loos are "for the sole use of agricultural workers".

The council took out an injunction to prevent Mr Marsh from using a five-acre field beside the A149 near Burnham Overy Staithe as a campsite in 2021.

He is currently embroiled in a row with North Norfolk council over shepherd's huts in a wood near Holt.