Clifftop couple’s tunnel vision sends neighbours to edge of despair


Clifftop couple’s tunnel vision sends neighbours to edge of despair: Homeowners want to build underground passage to balcony at Isle of Wight seaside

  • With its seaside location and private cliff viewing platform, it is already enviable
  • Yet its owners want to build an underground tunnel from the house to platform 
  • Richard and Karen Dance applied for planning permission for it in Isle of Wight
  • But neighbours accused the Dances of treating the village ‘like a playground’

With its seaside location and private clifftop viewing platform offering spectacular vistas, it is already an enviable holiday home.

But there is one thing missing as far as its owners, married couple Richard and Karen Dance, are concerned – an underground tunnel from the house to the panoramic platform.

So the wealthy couple have applied for planning permission to build one – and it has got under the skin of some neighbours on the Isle of Wight.

With its seaside location and private clifftop viewing platform offering spectacular vistas, it is already an enviable holiday home

With its seaside location and private clifftop viewing platform offering spectacular vistas, it is already an enviable holiday home

But there is one thing missing as far as its owners, married couple Richard and Karen Dance, are concerned ¿ an underground tunnel from the house to the panoramic platform

But there is one thing missing as far as its owners, married couple Richard and Karen Dance, are concerned – an underground tunnel from the house to the panoramic platform

They have accused the Dances, who are both in their fifties, of treating the village of Sandown, famed for its golden beaches and beautiful bay on the island’s southern coast, ‘like a playground’. Some locals fear the ‘extravagant’ plan could damage the cliff – and undermine property prices too.

Proposals submitted to planners show Mr Dance wants to build the ‘unique’ 25ft long subterranean passage from the basement of their detached home, under the front garden and to the platform overlooking the bay.

When the house was built in the early 20th century, a tunnel to the platform was partially dug but access to the house was never completed. Company directors Mr and Mrs Dance, who run a string of convenience stores and live in Brockenhurst in Hampshire’s New Forest, bought their Isle of Wight holiday home for £470,000 in 2013. It is now estimated to be worth £650,000.

They want to extend its basement and build a new tunnel linking it with the existing section. The application says ‘the proposal is essentially a domestic extension’ aiming to ‘complete the walk through as it was originally intended in the 1920s’.

When the house was built in the early 20th century, a tunnel to the platform was partially dug but access to the house was never completed. Company directors Mr and Mrs Dance, who live in Brockenhurst in Hampshire¿s New Forest, bought their Isle of Wight holiday home for £470,000 in 2013. It is now estimated to be worth £650,000

When the house was built in the early 20th century, a tunnel to the platform was partially dug but access to the house was never completed. Company directors Mr and Mrs Dance, who live in Brockenhurst in Hampshire’s New Forest, bought their Isle of Wight holiday home for £470,000 in 2013. It is now estimated to be worth £650,000

The entrance to the old tunnel is 30ft from the property and is ‘not visible from any public vantage point. One has to know it’s there to be able to see it’, the plans say.

The proposed tunnel will result in ‘an unusual feature for occupiers of the house’ and there ‘would be no physical impact above ground apart from the skylight used to provide natural illumination of the tunnel’.

It has sparked fierce debate and divided opinion in the usually quiet parish.

Isle of Wight Council, which will decide if the tunnel can be built, received six comments objecting to it and six supporting it, its website showed. Public consultation ended on Friday.

Neighbour Irmgard Keen, 66, a retired care assistant who objects, said: ‘Such a project is used as a playground by people who don’t live here permanently and [could cause] damage to the community living here.

‘They would do better to spend that money towards supporting the cliff… Some people do not know what to do with their money.’ She and husband Chris, 65, a retired computer software worker, are trying to sell their home and fear the tunnel could devalue nearby properties. Mr Keen said: ‘It just seems like an extravagance… Like a bit of a gamble for an unnecessary reason.’

Lake Parish Council says the tunnel could affect the stability of the cliffs and has recommended the application be refused.

But the Dances’ structural engineering consultants, Such Salinger Peters, argue that the tunnel would improve the stability of the cliff as it is built with steel-reinforced poured concrete, brickwork and waterproof membranes.

Geoff Long, a geologist who lives a few doors down, said: ‘Why shouldn’t someone want to do something nice on their property?… Can we not be a bit more neighbourly about this?’

Mr Dance declined to comment.

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