MP raises concerns over forest lodges plan
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has raised concerns over a plan to build lodges in 77 acres of woodland in the South Downs National Park, warning that it would transform a large area of natural woodland to become a "suburban-style theme park".
Forest Holidays, a business 'partner' of the Forestry Commission, is proposing to build 75 log cabins and associated facilities on Houghton Forest, near Madehurst, which is owned by the Commission.
Mr Herbert joined concerned local residents on Sunday (8 March) in a walk around the site to see the scale and potential impact of the proposal.
Residents from the neighbouring village of Madehurst are concerned that their community of just 50 houses on the South Downs could be impacted by the increased traffic, estimated to be almost 90,000 additional vehicle movements a year accessing the site via Madehurst Lane.
Houghton Forest is a popular recreational destination for walkers, naturalists, cyclists, runners and equestrians, many who were out enjoying the environment on Sunday. The majority of visitors to the forest park their cars at the Whiteways cafe car park which does not impact nearby villages.
Mr Herbert and the walkers were guided around the perimeter of the proposed site, to see where the cabins, a central retreat building with shop, maintenance compound and sewerage treatment plant would be located.
The screening process for the initial proposals and the opportunity for the public to comment on them has now closed, but it is expected that the Forestry Commission will submit their full planning application in the next few weeks.
The South Downs National Park Authority will be responsible for determining the application when it is put forward to their planning committee. Organisations including the South Downs Society, representing over 2,000 members, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) objected to the outline planning application.
Nick Herbert said: “I am concerned about this proposal, which I don't think is suitable for the South Downs National Park. I appreciate that one of the Park's objectives is to provide recreation, but their over-riding duty is to conserve the environment, and the traffic associated with the cabins will undermine the peaceful recreation which people already enjoy on the footpaths and tracks in this beautiful forest.
"I was taken aback when I saw the size of the area which would be affected by this plan. Building 75 cabins on such a large site in the National Park will transform this natural woodland to become a suburban-style theme park. It is an inappropriate large-scale development for the South Downs which have been protected for good reason, and I hope that the Park Authority will reject it.
"I have expressed my concerns to the South Downs National Park Authority and I will continue to represent my constituents' views on this issue."
1. Nick Herbert (third from left) and local residents, including Cllr Norman Dingemans, District Council candidate Robert Wheal, and organiser Annie Simson at Houghton Forest entrance.
2. The original application for screening opinion and related documents can be read on the South Downs National Park Authority Planning pages, application SDNP/14/01671/SCREEN. http://planningpublicaccess.southdowns.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=details&keyVal=N3CSNFTU02O00