The millionaire co-founder of the White Stuff fashion brand, Sean Thomas, has won a long-running legal battle to keep a tennis court and skate bowl he built without permission at his waterside home, it has emerged.

The row reportedly started in 2016 when Mr Thomas built the sports facilities as well as a carport on farmland behind his property in Gerston Point, West Alvington, without the consent of South Hams District Council (SHDC).

Mr Thomas, who bought the property in April 2011, tried to get retrospective permission, but SHDC ordered him to demolish the installations. There was also opposition from conservationists, who argued that the plans would have a negative impact on an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Mr Thomas lodged a new application, which included plans to plant more than 1,000 native trees among other measures aimed at boosting local wildlife, although this too was dismissed, with SHDC issuing an enforcement notice.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Mr Thomas submitted a lawful certificate, defending his right to keep the development as SHDC had failed to implement the enforcement action within four years.

SHDC lodged an appeal, arguing that the enforcement notice had a validity of 10 years, but this was quashed by a planning inspector.

This paper has had access to the planning inspectorate’s appeal decision, dated August 2022, although the details have not been reported until now.

In it, inspector Anthony Harwood expressed concerns that there “appeared to be a change in stance by the Council regarding the allegation and what the notice requires”.

He said that the development “would not have a harmful effect upon the character and appearance of the countryside”, adding that it “would not have a detrimental effect on the undeveloped character or tranquility of the coast”.

He requested the removal of solar panels that had been fitted to the double garage, but concluded that he would grant planning permission and quash the enforcement notice.

Mr Thomas co-founded White Stuff with friend George Treves in 1985 and opened their first shop in South London in 1991. The firm now has more than 100 stores across the UK and Germany.