A long-running planning battle over a controversial development in Newport appears to have divided local residents.

At the centre of the dispute is Bettws Newydd on the Parrog, which is the subject of an inquiry being held at the town’s Memorial Hall this week.

The owner, Nolan Nicholas, is appealing to the planning inspectorate against the refusal of retrospective planning permission; also an enforcement notice relating to an alleged breach of planning control.

Both decisions were made by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, with the result that the development has been on hold for some time.

During that time opponents of the scheme have branded the property ‘an eyesore’, while supporters claim it is a ‘modern, contemporary house’ which the owner should not be made to demolish.

In a hearing expected to take five days, Welsh Assembly inspector Clive Cochrane will hear evidence on behalf of both the Authority and the appellant, Mr Nicholas.

Among the interested parties at the inquiry were members of the Bettws Newydd Opposition Group, whose members are expected to give evidence during the hearing.

The planning inspector also received a 60-signature petition from another group of local residents in support of the development.

Opening the proceedings on behalf of the Bettws Newydd Opposition Group was their advocate, Robert Manson.

He claimed that if the appellant had continued to build the property for which he was granted permission in 2006 no challenge would have been made by local residents, however dissatisfied they were with the decision.

"But he chose to flout the planning system and ignore the conditions attached to the permission," said Mr Manson.

"He built the property higher up the coastal slope, far in excess of the conditions, and he should take the consequences."

The Opposition Group spokesman said members had some sympathy with Mr Nicholas being let down by his original planning team, but felt that could be pursued through different channels.

"He cannot expect the planning system to be influenced by his plight."

Pointing out that the development fell within one of 27 ‘distinctive character areas’ was Graham Walters, counsel for the National Park Authority.

He claimed the main issue was whether the property achieved ‘an acceptable level of integration with the landfall and setting’ in a conservation area.

It was also said to be contrary to the development plan.

Concluding the opening arguments was counsel for the appellant, Adrian Trevelyan Thomas.

He agreed that the part-finished building needed new permission, but claimed that the differences between the existing property and the one for which consent was given in 2006 were ‘minor’ and concerned the height of the roof and the position of the property on the site.

"The ridge levels are 400mm higher than the approved scheme," Mr Trevelyan Thomas confirmed, "but the floor levels were accepted by National Park officers in February 2007.

"They also agreed the property was being built in accordance with the plans in July 2007, and no objections were raised."

He concluded by saying the appellant had been ‘open and transparent’ in all his dealings with regard to Bettws Newydd and it would be ‘highly unsustainable’ for the property to be demolished.

The inquiry is expected to last until the middle of next week.