Last Friday we had some disappointing news: our legal request to Eric Pickle’s department to enforce an Environmental Impact Assessment was rejected. This means that there is now nothing to hold East Northants Council back from making a decision. This will be on 18thFebruary.
We have also learned that members of the council’s Development Control Committee, the councillors who actually decide Fineshade’s future, have paid a visit to Forest Holiday’s existing site at Sherwood Pines and some of them were impressed by it. On the same day they were brought here and shown parts of the Fineshade site. It was an unpleasant January day, they were not taken to key positions to see, for example, the proximity of the proposed Retreat complex to the walking track. The Forestry Commission hosted this, no local residents were allowed anywhere near them.
All this may mean that the councillors who spoke strongly against the development at the previous meeting in November may well feel differently now.
So please could we have your strong support again in a final attempt to save Fineshade Wood from this exploitation? There is no doubt that last time councillors had been very influenced by the number and quality of the individual communications that they had received through the post. Some spoke of “all the lovely letters” they had received, which had made them aware of just how strongly Fineshade is valued by local visitors and those from further afield, as well as local residents. Councillors know that it is much easier to fire off an email than it is to write a letter so they tend to be more influenced by things that drop onto their doormat. Could you please spare the time to write to three, five, more (or all!) members of the planning committee now?
Timing is very important! Letters need to be sent so that they arrive ideally between Friday 13th and Tuesday 17th February. There are suggestions as to what you could say below. We believe it is best to keep to one issue and develop that strongly in your own words (even though you may feel strongly about many of the issues). Names and addresses of councillors are in the attached file. Some councillors do not often check their council email accounts.
Please help us to send some more “lovely letters”. We’ll be in touch again nearer the time advising about emails you could send later. Thanks so much for your support.
On behalf of Fineshade Residents
!! STOP PRESS !! We have just heard that local labour MP Andy Sawford will be coming to visit on Friday 13th February between 10 and 11 am. We hope local press and television will be here. If you live locally please can you come along to help make clear the depth of local opposition to this development. More details later.
Ideas for letters
Address the councillor by name. Refer to planning application 14/01704/FUL, 70 Holiday cabins in Fineshade Wood. Give your name, address and perhaps phone number. Say that you have already filed a formal objection but want to bring a particular issue to their attention.
Possible issues: Choose one to develop with passion! Don’t forget to use different words from these!
a) Loss of your amenity. You visit Fineshade for its tranquillity (see point d below), because it’s a great place to come with the family/walk the dog/cycle and that you value it as it is now. (It won’t help to say that you preferred it as it was a few years ago!). Make it as personal and touching as possible. The new development will turn a large part of Fineshade into effectively a holiday camp, you’ll be able to see the buildings through the trees, there will be cars moving through the woodland night and day, noise of children playing, noise from heat source pumps, hundreds of people (352 bed-spaces)
b) Wildlife. There are very special, but elusive, species such as Dormice, Great-crested Newts, Nightjars, Adders and other reptiles, rare butterflies, that have retreated away from the visitors into the large undisturbed area that is now to be changed into what’s effectively a housing estate. All the expert wildlife agencies agree this should not happen. The Council’s own ecology advisors (the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants) have produced the very strongest possible objection to the scheme. You do not believe that Forest Holidays will keep to their own wildlife surveyor’s very restrictive statements in their planning application e.g She says: “Where access tracks and buildings are positioned in woodland areas unsuitable for reptiles, a fingertip search must be carried out for Amphibians prior to the commencement of works” and “Tree felling works must avoid the Crossbill and other bird nesting seasons (January through to end August).” Will East Northants be able to enforce that these necessary restrictions are carried out by this predatory applicant, who is in such a hurry? They will not.
c) Road issues. Despite the wishy-washy, non committal comment from Northants Highways, you know that the A43 junction is really dangerous (because….), that the single track lane up to the Visitor Centre is already at full capacity at peak times (because….), that the junction in front of the visitor centre is already confusing and dangerous, that running a new access route through the existing FC car park is foolhardy in the extreme, that there is an alternative access route around the Forest Road to the north of the site, that the proposed emergency access route using Duddington Lane has not been properly assessed or surveyed. (More details? see objection by Barrie Galpin on behalf of Fineshade residents.)
d) Planning policy is against this development. Refer to the detailed objection by Louise Duggan on behalf of Fineshade residents which uses the NPPF and existing local policy documents CSS, RNOTP etc.) Then point out that the new policy document which is currently out for consultation, the Joint Core Strategy 2011-2031 opposes the development. Policy 3 states that the development should preserve tranquillity within the newly recognised King’s Cliffe Hills and Valleys Landscape Character Area of which Fineshade is a part. National planning policy says there must be a presumption in favour of sustainable development… but this is not sustainable (For more detail see objection from Paul Hackett)
e) Comparison with FH Sherwood. Point out that, although they might have been impressed by Sherwood Pines, it is in old-style FC conifer woodland (the clue is in the name!). Fineshade is a mix of Ancient Woodland with naturally regenerating broadleaved woodland of very high landscape and biodiversity values. It’s a Local Wildlife Site which Sherwood certainly was not. There may be a place for such developments in low-grade plantation woodland but not here in East Northants’ wildlife gem. Also point out that once the initial Sherwood site was approved (60 cabins) there was a succession of further application and many more cabins squeezed in (now 86). Councillors will have seen that there are a lot of vehicles at the Sherwood site! You might also like to point to severe environmental problems at some of Forest Holidays other sites such as their most recent one in Norfolk. (see point f)
f) Sewage (and hot tub) problems. Refer to the way in which FH have slipped in a plan to install a Package Treatment Plant for sewage. Make a reference to the recent objection on website from Shirley Martin and in particular the photo showing industrial-scale excavation when one was installed at another FH site, the stench, the flies etc. At Fineshade the plans show that this will go in a currently unsurveyed area of coppiced woodland, thick with hazel, brambles and thick vegetation – the very best area for dormice but nobody knows if there are any there, as its almost impenetrable. See also Mrs Martin’s most recent objection re discharge of chlorinated water from over 60 Hot tubs!
g) Fineshade Site Visit. Point out the deficiency of their official Fineshade site visit and suggest they come to visit the site with you and/or residents. They are allowed to make "informal site visits" to properly see for themselves the problems.
h) Site of retreat. This will be immediately adjacent to one of the most used walking areas - now that there are no leaves on the hedgerows you can see its site and that of the adjacent large carpark and play area very easily indeed. Many large oaks will be felled. Prime butterfly habitat lost, close to houses etc. (More details, see objection from Tricia Galpin on behalf of Fineshade Residents)