Warning over sale of forests

Date: Monday 7th February 2011

Sir, Anyone who is not yet convinced of the probable consequences of the proposed sale of Forestry Commission land to private owners would be well advised to study the history of Greystoke Forest.

After being sold to private owners more than 30 years ago, the forest has passed through several ownerships and while most have been genuine forestry enterprises which have felled and replanted in a responsible way, the latest owner has no interest in forestry and although it has sold off some timber it has made no attempt to replant.

One of its first actions was to fail to renew the access agreement which had been in operation for many years, and while public access has not, as yet, been restricted it is now by the consent of the owner rather than by right. Maps and sign posts have been removed or neglected.

For the last four years the forest has been used as a commercial test track for cars. Up to the present this has been done without planning permission under the provisions of the permitted development regulations which allow 14 days a year use for motor sport activity. The average use has been of the order of 45 days a year. Not satisfied with this gross overuse of the permitted development permission the owner is now applying for planning permission for 180 days’ use. No work is done at the weekend, so car testers will be active in the forest on about three and half days a week every week of the year.

The application for full planning permission has been under consideration by Eden District Council’s planning department since August, 2010, although most of the work was done before that date and the present application is for retrospective permission. If previous retrospective applications, for quarrying of 30,000 tons of rock and construction of roads, are any guide, the application is unlikely to be refused.

If anyone is not aware of the impact of this development they should have been here last week when we were subjected to four days of continuous noise for up to six hours a day.

I dread to think of the consequences if either Whinlatter or Grizedale forests are sold off with similar results. Yours etc,

ARTHUR NEWTON

Hegglehead, Hutton Roof.