Rajkiran Barhey represented Mr Paddy Cox, the owner of a small woodland, in his appeals against the Park Authority’s refusal of planning permission and an enforcement notice. The outcome is awaited by many owners of small woodlands and is anticipated to have an impact on what activities can be defined as ‘ancillary’ to a lawful forestry use.
Kiran was instructed by Emma Montlake of the Environmental Law Foundation. Prior to her departure to Strasbourg on a Pegasus Scholarship, Charlotte Gilmartin was also involved.
Mr Cox sought planning permission to change the use of the land from forestry to a mixed use for field archery, eco-tourism and ‘life-long learning’ – educational activities such as conservation courses, forest schooling, junior bushcraft and woodworking. Planning permission was refused due to the potential impact on tranquillity and landscape character.
An enforcement notice was also served which alleged, amongst other things, that timber products were being produced on the land. In evidence it was clear that some timber processing took place – the dispute is the extent to which that constitutes production of timber products.
At the heard of Mr Cox’s proposals is the concept of “multifunctional woodland management”. This is a model of small woodland management that relies on carrying out a range of activities in the woods to make the whole endeavour financially viable, but also to provide social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits. Attendees at activities would assist in conservation activities including Mr Cox’s heathland recreation project.
The inquiry heard evidence from a range of witnesses, including Dr Tony Whitbread, President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, as to the benefits of this model. Another witness, planning consultant James Shorten, explained that in the context of the climate emergency, all efforts to promote biodiversity and landscape regeneration must be supported.
A decision is expected within the next month.