National Trust says Hatfield Forest is under threat as housing development in Dunmow area continues

PUBLISHED: 09:52 24 May 2018

Hatfield Forest is home to an ancient woodland. Picture: ARCHANT

Hatfield Forest is home to an ancient woodland. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

An application to build 20 homes in Takeley, separated “just 20 metres” from Hatfield Forest has been granted, despite the National Trust saying the number of visitors is already “unsustainable” and that further development close to the forest could damage the ancient woodland.

At the Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning meeting on May 9, Takeley parish councillor, Geoff Bagnall said: “By approving this (application) I think you would be doing short-term, medium or long-term damage to the area and the forest.”

The approved site is also within 20 metres of the Flitch Way, a popular walking route.

A planning advisor for the National Trust, which manages the forest, said in a letter: “The potential cumulative impact of further residential development so close to Hatfield Forest has the potential to increase visitor pressure and damage to the sites of special scientific interest, national nature reserve areas and ancient woodland.

“Due to the exponential housing growth in the local area over the last 10 years the number of visitors has doubled to 500,000. Over two thirds of visitors are very local people walking onto the forest from their homes. The existing high level of visitors is impacting the forest to an unsustainable level.”

She added that visitor levels meant “habitat loss is occurring and not recovering” and that vegetation was being trampled.

The National Trust is progressing with strategies to lessen the impact on the forest, and requested that the allocation of any legal contributions from the developer towards these strategies is considered.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Karen Beech said pressure on the forest from the houses would be “low” and there would be a “wide buffer zone”, to mitigate the impact.

Cllr Alan Mills said: “I think it is a sustainable development. Sites like this are becoming more and more difficult to come by. I do not see it as a loss of a green space, I see it as a appropriate development.”

A National Trust spokesman said: “The National Trust submitted an objection to this application and was disappointed with the decision of the Council to approve this application. We have recently commissioned work to advance our understanding of the recreational impacts on Hatfield Forest of further residential development in the area and are working with Natural England and Uttlesford District Council on a strategic approach to ensure that the impacts of new development can be appropriately assessed and mitigated if necessary.”

The application was granted, subject to Section 106 obligations being met, with six councillor in favour, three against and one abstention.

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