Forest Holidays Ltd is a private company 14% owned by the Forestry Commission and with a 42% share purchased by Phoenix Equity in December 2017 for £55 million (valuing the company at £110 million).
BACKGROUND TO THE DEVELOPMENT
Forest Holidays is planning the development of 68 ‘holiday cabins’ on a site in part of Mortimer’s Forest.
You can find details (including an FAQ) of the proposed development here, including the information presented earlier in the year at the Bishop Mascal Centre (patience, it takes a little time to download).
In March 2018 the developers made a formal application (Ref. 180933) to Herefordshire County Council Planning Department (in who’s area the proposed development lies) to admit an ‘environmental screening’ document as a sufficient environmental assessment of the impact of the proposed development. The Planning Officers did not agree to this and have decided that a full Environmental Assessment must be obtained. You can see the application and decision here.
Whether or not the screening option is accepted as sufficient has a significant impact on the activity needed before a full planning application can be submitted.
This decision is based upon guidance for this type of development, as follows, in increasing levels of detail:
[Note: Schedule 2 development does not constitute permitted development unless the local planning authority has adopted a screening opinion to the effect that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required, the Secretary of State has made a screening direction to the same effect or the Secretary of State has directed that the development be exempt from the requirements of the 2017 Regulations. Where an Environmental Impact Assessment is required, permitted development rights are withdrawn and a planning application must be submitted and accompanied by an Environmental Statement.]
Schedule 2 applicability (See Section 12 c) ).
ACTIVITIES SINCE THIS APPLICATION
The ‘Save Mortimer Forest’ (SMF) group has been formed to oppose the development as it is presently proposed.
Other groups have also expressed their views on the proposed development. You can read these from the links below:
Green Party North Herefordshire (We are not aware of statements on this issue by other national political parties.)
There is a local ‘change.org’ petition opposing the proposed development here.
There is also a national ‘on-line petition’ campaign by the ’38 Degrees’ organisation to ask for a review of the whole commercial framework agreement under which Forest Holidays Ltd have sole access to Forestry Commission sites and how the development process is managed.
The status of this development has already been the subject of a written Question in the House of Lords. Click here to read this.
The proposed development (and the overall background) have also been the subect of an article in the ‘Guardian’ newspaper in late April 2018, click here to read.
The People 4 Ludlow working group has considered this proposal in some detail, both in terms of the possible impact on Mortimer Forest, the impact on Ludlow in the longer-term and, to some extent, the ‘framework’ agreement between Forest Holidays Ltd and the Forestry Commission which gives Forest Holidays exclusive rights to development within the national forestry estates.
At present, the group considers that that proposed benefits to Ludlow stated for the development are not sufficiently well made out and, as presently understood, do not offer a sustainable benefit to Ludlow. Given this and the present uncertainty of the environment impact of the development on the forest, we do not consider that the development should go ahead.
Why do we hold this view? ‘Sustainable benefit to Ludlow’ includes the creation of higher-value employment, sustainable improvement of local infrastructure and retention of profits within the community. This proposal does not help in these areas.
Alongside this view, we recognise that the forest represents a valuable asset for the Ludlow area and would welcome views on how it should be managed in the longer-term. We also welcome views on how the Herefordshire planning process can take account of the views of the Ludlow area in the future consideration of this issue.