“The photos make out it is an isolated cottage with nothing surrounding it at all – but that could not be further from the truth”.

Internet ads for the cottage picture it in a quiet rustic setting.

Internet ads for the cottage picture it in a quiet rustic setting.

By Nigel Burnham

An English estate agency has come under fire for failing to mention that an “exceptional detached fisherman’s cottage” it is selling also has spectacular views – of one of the biggest nuclear power stations in Europe.

Westbeach, a three-bedroom fisherman’s cottage in Romney Marsh, Kent, a sparsely populated wetland in the south-east of England, is for sale for $442,500 Cdn. On the surface it has a lot going for it. A cosy little hideaway a mere five minutes from the sea, it has a private driveway, half an acre of garden and sweeping views across some of the most beautiful coastal landscape England has to offer.

Visitors to the cottage found a setting that was somewhat different than they expected.

Visitors to the cottage found a setting that was somewhat different than they expected.

Kent agents Geering & Colyer waxed lyrical about the property’s virtues, their website describing the property as “not to be missed!” with its light-filled sitting room, period features, double glazing, gas-fired central heating, original 1930s wood paneling and a modern kitchen, boasting an all-important island.

“Located on the Dungeness national nature reserve, this exceptional detached fisherman’s cottage is set in approximately half an acre,” the publicity read. “The property offers three bedrooms, two receptions, loft room, conservatory, kitchen and bathroom. There is a garage and off-road parking.”

The only snag was that no mention was made of Westbeach’s proximity to the massive, brooding, concrete presence of Dungeness A and Dungeness B power stations – and the agents’ photographs all left out the towering structures next door.

The fact that the cottage was less than 80 yards from the perimeter of the site was something home seekers had to find out about for themselves.

Alex Robertson, 32, was among the first prospective buyers who visited Westbeach after first seeing details online – and was horrified when he got there.

“I was shocked,” he says. “It was unbelievable. I had seen the property online and thought it looked just right for me and my family. But when I got there I just saw this tiny fisherman’s cottage in the shadow of these huge nuclear power stations. The photos make out it is an isolated cottage with nothing surrounding it at all – but that could not be further from the truth. These power stations are literally at your front door – there is no escaping them, they are gargantuan.”

The Dungeness A site, which started generating electricity into the National Grid in 1965, was decommissioned in 2006 and is to be turned into an intermediate waste store in 2014. Nearby Dungeness B, an advanced cooled reactor, still operates and will stay open until 2018. Meanwhile there are plans to build a third plant, Dungeness C, nearby.

Although the power stations do detract from the local views, visitors have nevertheless long been seduced by the area’s bird reserve, RSPB Dungeness, and the stark beauty of the largest stretch of shingle beach in Europe.

A spokesman for Geering & Colyer, which removed details of Westbeach from its website shortly after the furor broke, says: “The thing is that anywhere on Dungeness is close to the power station. Dungeness is a place you either love or you hate and the power station is just part of that. Anyone who wants to know the location of any property in relation to it can just go on to Google Earth and see for themselves.”

When Westbeach was first advertised in September, New Romney Town Council said it was “disingenuous” not to mention the nuclear plants. But according to Romney Marsh county councillor Willie Richardson, the house is well known in the area and has its fans.

“It was there before the power station,” he says. “It is so different – I would have thought that the agents could have turned it around to their advantage. I mean, where else can you buy a house so close to a power station?”

Posted: 2010-02-08 07:27:54

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