HART Council has hit back at "unjust attacks" on planning officials by an angry villager.

Rotherwick resident Richard Dowdle says he has spent nearly two years battling with Hart's planning department.

He claims that numerous failings were made concerning an application to build a house next door to his in a conservation area in Wedmans Lane.

But Hart Council leader Robert Benford and chief executive Jules Samuels have backed council staff.

Cllr Benford pointed out that Hart agreed with Mr Dowdle's objections and refused planning permission for the new home.

A government planning inspector later granted the home on appeal.

Cllr Benford said he has become involved in the case because he says council officials are not able to defend themselves publicly.

"It is grossly unfair to hold the officials to account for the consequences of this planning application since it was turned down by Hart," he said.

"Our planning committee was overruled by central government."

The chief executive has reviewed correspondence between Mr Dowdle and the planning department.

"I am fully satisfied that officials acted professionally and courteously in responding to Mr Dowdle," she said.

Hart said that Mr Dowdle claimed he was never informed of the appeal, but officials have a copy of a letter in which he registered objections at the appeal, which were answered by the planning inspector.

Cllr Benford said Mr Dowdle also criticised planners for failing to resolve a boundary dispute arising from the application and for failing to apply wildlife protection laws to his ornamental fish pond, which he said was threatened by the building work.

"These issues are not within the powers of Hart Council," said Cllr Benford. "Boundary disputes and damage to property are matters for the civil courts.

"I will be the first to hold officials accountable if they are letting down the people we represent.

"But in this case, as they usually do, they have shown politeness and patience in the face of sometimes insulting letters."

Cllr Benford said officers had visited Mr Dowdle several times to explain the situation.

"These officials are being criticised over things for which they are not responsible," he added.

Mr Dowdle, director of a London-based advertising agency, is unhappy that Hart did not notify him of the application.

He said the value of his property had fallen, trees were cut down which should not have been, and a shed was built without planning permission.

Mr Dowdle said there are two driveways to the new house but the plans only show one, and he is unhappy that the boundary treatment plans have been "totally ignored".

"This development is costing me a lot of money and I don't see why it should," he added.