Controversial plans to create 67 timber holiday cabins and upgrade the visitor hub at Cheshire’s largest forest look set to be given the green light after an earlier scheme was rejected over fears that it could harm the greenbelt.
A full planning application by the Forestry Commission, which manages Delamere Forest, and private equity-backed accommodation provider Forest Holidays to improve the facilities onsite is due to be considered by Cheshire West Chester Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, 4 April 2017.
Their £15m vision involves the creation of a replacement visitor centre, the development of additional parking, and the revamp of various facilities and trails. A total of 67 Forest Holidays timber cabins is also proposed for a plot in the northern part of the 2,100-acre forest called Kingswood.
Indicative Forest Holidays cabin photo
In October 2013, the local authority approved a full planning application by the same applicants to create 70 cabins and improve the visitor hub at Delamere Forest. But the secretary of state subsequently called in the application and, following a public inquiry, decided to refuse the application in December 2014.
The accompanying decision letter explained that there was no objection to the proposed redevelopment of the visitor centre but argued that there was “little to demonstrate that the need for self-catering holiday accommodation in the district could only be met by development in the greenbelt”. The secretary of state concluded that the very special circumstances needed to justify development in the greenbelt did not exist in this case.
However, the new-look scheme has now been recommended for approval by planning officers.
A report prepared ahead of the committee meeting has identified a number of factors in favour of the proposals, including the significant economic benefits from both the visitor centre and the cabin development, the advantages of access and traffic management improvements, and the benefits of enhanced biodiversity at both sites. It is considered that these factors when combined are sufficient to outweigh the harm to the greenbelt and the Area of Special County Value.
Forest Holidays has been backed by mid-market private equity firm LDC since 2012.
Image note: Pictures taken from planning documents by Concept Town Planning