Imagine spending a short break in a tranquil woodland lodge, soaking up the beauty of the woods and wildlife around you. Just you, the trees and the birdsong. Wouldn’t we all want that?
So perhaps it is surprising to know that the Woodland Trust has objected to an application for wooden holiday cabins within a beech woodland near Black Wood, Hampshire. In a joint application with Forest Lodge Holidays, the Forestry Commission has applied to Winchester City Council for permission to build holiday cabins here.
This particular bit of beech woodland is part of a larger wood that has Plantation on Ancient Woodland (PAWS) and Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW). In fact half the wood has been registered on the ancient woodland inventory.
Whilst the cabins might be sited in an area that currently has much newer woodland, the outdoor activities that the holidaymakers are expected to do will all be within the ancient woodland next to it. This might not be such a bad thing if there were to be only a few cabins, but 130 lodges are planned for this rather small area. These include 2-person lodges, larger family-sized lodges and even some more luxurious ‘fully-inclusive’ lodges with hot tubs.
Building these lodges will be highly damaging to the area, and that is without all the supporting infrastructure required of access, shops, drainage and an electricity substation. Holiday cabins in a forest setting are a nice idea to help people understand and enjoy woodland.
On a busy summer week there could be 500 people or more wandering through this ancient woodland. Little chance of hearing the birdsong amongst all the noise of other people – these 130 lodges are only about 20m apart (not to mention the noise from the motorways that already run across 2 sides of this particular this site). As for the poor dormice, already so vulnerable they are protected by law, where are they going to go?
The applicants recognise the value of the woodland and have asserted that some areas of the wood will remain quiet areas as there will be no access to the public. But there is no information about how this is going to be achieved. As well as this removing open public access to these parts of the woodland, with the number of people they are hoping to attract to the site this is just not going to be possible.
Sadly this is not the first woods under threat case that has come to our attention this week involving PAWS. In addition, none of this fits in with the Forest Design plan that the Forestry Commission wrote for the site only two years ago which aimed to restore the PAWS to a more site native woodland mix, work to conserve the biodiversity and continue to extract timber.
Consultation is now closed on this application but there have been a large number of objections to the plans. Similar levels of objections has caused other developers to back down in the past. We understand that the FC has now started negotiations with various stakeholders including the County Council and the local Wildlife Trust and may also approach the Woodland Trust. Watch this space!