The Hillyfield Appeal - speaking up for woodland culture on Dartmoor
Public Inquiry into Small Woodland Restoration
On April 10th to 13th 2018 at Parke, Bovey Tracey, Planning Inspector Jessica Graham ba(hons) pgdip, held a Public Inquiry into why Dartmoor National Park planning authority refused permission for two forestry buildings, and then served Enforcement Notices against the structures we use to care for our woods.
Not only were we being used as a test-case to see whether or not a wood-drying barn is considered 'reasonably necessary' for forestry at The Hillyfield, but DNPA wanted to test what sort of welfare facilities the Planning Inspectorate consider 'reasonably necessary' for small-scale woodland restoration projects like ours.
It was a baffling situation and it generated support from many top forestry experts, organisations as well as throughout our local community.
On the 2nd day of the Inquiry DNPA dropped all of their case. After 9.5 hours of negotiation we reached an agreement and following the closure of the Inquiry the DNPA issued a joint press statement stating:
'Dartmoor National Park Authority have recognised:
The Hillyfield and its woodland management as being of benefit and great value to the local community and the environment
some structures and buildings are reasonably necessary to support the effective management of woodland at The Hillyfield, including timber drying, machinery storage, welfare provision for volunteers and workers, and a covered workspace.
the importance and positive emphasis placed by the Hillyfield on volunteers to implement their woodland management plan, as well as the apparent appropriateness of the Hillyfield making products from the land in the proposed barn by the hardstanding to provide an income, for example charcoal, timber and non-timber forest products (subject to scale).
On this basis, Dartmoor National Park Authority and the Hillyfield have agreed to settle the appeals relating to planning permission, prior approval and enforcement and have committed to working together to enhance Dartmoor’s efforts on forestry, woodland, volunteering and community development.'
The Royal Forestry Society says
'Hillyfield should be held up as a first class case study for other owners and managers of small scale woodland as to how to restore neglected woodland responsibly and sustainably, balance ecological and financial objectives and support the local community and economy. The RFS hopes that the Inquiry examines the wider context of forestry policy and practice in England and supports the continued management of Hillyfield as a working woodland.'
Inspiring too have been the words of Tom Kenny, head researcher at 'Shared Assets', a think-tank which inspires social benefit from land-management and other issues.
Tom Kenny wrote that the;
'Silver lining is that your case really seems to get to the crux of the issue around permitted development and forestry, so a positive outcome to a public inquiry would be great for everyone!
We believe in small-woodland restoration, and running an ecologically sound sustainable business based on our home-grown timber. We also believe that getting people out into nature is a good thing.
Having over 800 people pledge support was very empowering and has shown, nationwide, the power of the community to support small scale woodland enterprise.
THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYBODY who has taken part - whether that be by donating, sharing, providing a reward, or encouraging us in the journey. At times it has seemed like a horrific joke, but thanks to you we were able to stand up, raise the voice of small woodlands in the corridors of power, and make a difference. We are now in a position to move forward with our work in a more positive relationship with Dartmoor.
You can see much of the paperwork relating to our appeal in the 'Documents' tab above and watch our crowd-funder video below.