Longbury Hill Wood is a 10 hectare woodland bounded by Rock Road to the north and Hampers Lane to the west. A planning application, DC/17/2117, was submitted for an access road to be built from Rock Road to facilitate forestry felling. This application, in addition to the proposed felling, resulted in considerable local opposition. The site is included in the Local Green Spaces report of the Local Neighbourhood Plan (currently draft) as it is, unofficially, used as a local green space for dog walking by local residents.
The proposed felling, under Forestry Commission licence FLA 019/180/17-18, includes the clear felling of a large area of mature Scots pine, some coppicing of broadleaf trees and some rhododendron clearing. The access road and associated hard-standing and turning area is required to allow access for log removal, the existing access from Hampers Lane being deemed unsuitable.
Sandgate Conservation Society’s position
The Society’s interest in the planning application and felling licence arose from its location between Warren Hill and Sandgate Park and the value of the site as a wildlife corridor between them, as well as as a wildlife habitat in its own right, particularly arising from the low level of human activity on the Longbury Hill Wood site.
The Society is not opposed to appropriate woodland management, the felling of dense stands of commercially planted Scots pine, coppicing and rhododenron clearing could be highly beneficial in improving the natural habitat, but the concern was around the scale and speed of the process and methods that would be used, and whether these would be harmful to any protected species on the site. Whilst the Society recognised the rights of the owner of the wood to carry out felling under licence, the lack of clarity over the conditions placed on the owner in terms of avoidance of harm to protected species, and restocking and management after tree felling raised a number of questions.
The Society was also concerned that the Anglo-Saxon boundary bank that runs along parts of the western and northern boundaries of the wood should not be damaged by the access road.
Local residents voiced other concerns relating to loss of a local amenity, general loss of trees, increased traffic, additional road hazards etc. The Society did not feel that was within its remit to raise objections to the planning application in relation to these issues but largely agreed with and echoed the concerns raised by Washington Parish Council.
Actions taken by Sandgate Conservation Society
The Society commented on the planning application (DC/17/2117) and raised issues on the report to the planning committees for 21st November 2017 and 19 December 2017. It also researched the Anglo-Saxon boundary bank and provided details to local county councillors for their information and corresponded with the Forestry Commission.
A felling licence has been granted for felling on Longbury Hill Wood though the scope has been slightly reduced – the coppice area has been reduced to 0.16 ha from 1.3 ha originally applied for, and a screen is to be retained along the north and south boundaries. The Forestry Commission provided a map of the forestry work and a response to issues raised with them. Washington Parish Council have responded to the Forestry Commision (see here) so the Society does not consider that there is a need for it to also respond.
The planning application for the access road has also been granted and the decision notice can be read here. A condition of note is that the access road and hard standing must be removed within 1 year of first use of the forestry access.
The Society believes that, on balance, a satisfactory result has been arrived at for all parties.