One might think that all is quiet in the south-west in the middle of winter, with few tourists around and few planning questions to be answered.

This is far from the truth. Many planning issues have been raised recently in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. For example, Restormel Council is facing a fight over planning permission, which was issued for a retail park and then converted into permission for a factory outlet centre. There has been a long-running battle with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. It appears that the DETR may have won the day and there will possibly be an inquiry.

In Somerset, a proposal for an animal carcass incinerator has been thrown out by a planning inspector. The incinerator was considered an intrusion on the Countryside, despite the fact that there was an existing permission for a pet food factory on the site. The county is also on the shortlist to win a prize. The Piggeries housing scheme in Frome has been nominated for the Royal Town Planning Institute's annual award for schemes of great merit.

Village housing development proposals are always a controversial issue in the south-west. Recently, an inspector allowed a new housing development in Restormel. Since it was within the village envelope, provided affordable housing and was well designed, it was approved –even though the decision resulted in the housing allocation being exceeded.

In Devon, an appeal by Lidl for a new discount food store in Tavistock was recently dismissed. The proposed scheme was for the redevelopment of a motor showroom and service garage to provide a 929 sq m (10,000 sq ft) store. The key issue was the adverse impact on Tavistock Town Centre, particularly the Co-op store, which had already been affected by a new Safeway store.

As convenience shopping plays an important role in the town centre, it was considered that if the Co-op closed, it would have a strong impact. It was accepted that there were no other sites in or on the edge of the town centre. The inspector decided that the lack of accessibility, particularly for the rural catchment area – together with the potentially adverse effect on the town centre – was sufficient to dismiss the appeal.

Tourism is important to the economy of the south-west and this industry has a number of recurring planning issues. For example, the use of farm buildings and cottages for holiday lets. Occasionally, a planning authority is reluctant to allow a change of use from agriculture to residential, and sometimes the loss of permanent residential to holiday lets and hotels is resisted.

Access to many parts of the south-west is one of the main deterrents to new development. As a result, some of the food superstore chains have been reluctant to move further west until their distribution network is viable.