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Plan for 300-acre forest sparks residents’ fears
11:00am Thursday 17th January 2013 in News
PLANS to create a forest covering 300 acres in the Vale of Evesham are just weeks away from getting the goahead.
The new forest would be planted at Baylis Hill and Bushy Hill, between the Vale villages of Honeybourne and Pebworth, through the charity the Heart of England Forest Project.
But the plans, which are currently being assessed by the Forestry Commission, have not been met with open arms by local residents and two parish councils.
Margaret Oliver, of Baylis Hill, said although the forest would not impact on her property or the view from it, she does not want to see the loss of so much farmland.
“It seems a profligate use of scarce agricultural land to render it useless to food production at this time of impending food insecurity,” said the retired soil scientist.
“The proposed change in land use of such a large block of land will have a profound effect on the local environment of these two villages.”
The plans do not need planning permission and the charity was not required to formally consult with Wychavon Distrct Council.
But Honeybourne Parish Council is against the plans, while Pebworth Parish Council said they had no objection to the plans in principle but raised a number of concerns, including the loss of open countryside views.
In a letter to the Forestry Commission, Honeybourne Parish Council states: “The parish council has many concerns over the proposal which includes the scale of change in the rural landscape between Honeybourne and Pebworth, the loss of countryside views, the changes in the local ecology and wildlife habitat and the loss of high grade farm land.”
If successful, the semi-natural woodland area would be planted with species of ash and oak. Throughout the forest there would be open ground consisting of a network of rides and paths for people to use on foot, bike or horseback.
The land is owned by British poet and entrepreneur Felix Dennis, who is also the founder and a trustee of the charity, which has so far planted about 1,900 acres of woodland.
David Bliss, a trustee of the charity, said: “We are looking to increase the amount of woodland for everybody. We know the benefit of trees and we are hoping we don’t offend people. We take people’s views on board and landscape views.
“The land is grade three arable land, which we are having a problem cropping.
The charity is not for profit.
We use grants given to us to plant the woodland and they do not cover the cost. Hopefully we end up planting a wood that people love.”
The decision by the Forestry Commission on the future of the plans is expected in the next few weeks.