A HOLIDAY company’s plans to build 67 wooden cabins in Delamere Forest have been axed by council planners.
A joint application by the Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays was unanimously rejected by members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.
The commission had argued that income from holiday lettings was the only way of generating funds to carry out important projects and upgrades to the forest and its infrastructure.
But councillors were not convinced especially after hearing a passionate speech from resident and barrister Simon Medland QC.
Mr Medland told the committee he was speaking on behalf of “ordinary, sensible folk” who believed the holiday camp plans amounted to a “massive, effectively permanent privatisation of the forest”.
“We are all defined by choices we make in life,” he said. “The choice today is either Delamere Forest is conserved as a mixed environment for the good of the wider community or turned into a privatised playground.”
He argued that the proposals were not dissimilar to a housing development, as they included permanent structures and inevitable road and access improvements.
“If a house builder came to this council and said ‘I want to build 67 houses in the forest’ they’d be laughed out of this building with a flea in their ear,” he said.
According to the application, the only benefit it would bring are a measly 38 jobs, Mr Medland added.
Urging the committee to refuse the application, he said: “Judas was rightly condemned for selling out Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Will this committee sell out Delamere Forest for 38 jobs?”
Simon Hodgson, chief executive of Forestry Commission England, said money was needed to upgrade facilities including toilets and car parks at Delamere Forest.
It would also allow the organisation to replace the visitor’s centre, improve paths, tracks and landscaping, and create new play areas and trails. Details of these enhancements were also included in the planning application.
Mr Hodgson told the committee: “The infrastructure is out-of-date, worn out and needs to be invested in for the future.”
Forest Holidays’ plans were for “quality cabin homes” and would not have any detrimental impact on the forest, he added.
Committee member Jill Houlbrook was one of the first to make her opposition to the plans clear, saying the Forestry Commission’s business is, and should remain, producing and selling timber.
Cllr Tom Blackmore went a step further, saying: “It’s the destruction of Delamere Forest and the urbanisation of it.”
And Cllr Peter Rooney added: “This is not what should be in the middle of a quiet forest. It’s wholly inappropriate.”
Council officers had recommended the application for approval but all 11 committee members voted to refuse it on the grounds it represented inappropriate development of the Green Belt.
Should the plans have been approved, they would have had to be rubber-stamped by the secretary of state