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(The Newsheet of Ninewells Conservation Group)

Dear Resident,

This is, hopefully, our final report on the campaign to protect 25 acres of Ninewells Wood from inappropriate sub division and development.


The campaign started with a public meeting in Catbrook Memorial Hall on 23rd August 2004.  Nearly 150 of you attended, and voted unanimously for a campaign to bring the woodland into effective planning control.  A summary of the subsequent campaign and its impact on government policy at Westminster and Cardiff is overleaf.

Current Situation

Last week Monmouthshire County Council finally served an Article 4 Directive removing all permitted development rights on this section of Ninewells Wood.1 So, what does this action mean?

The Article 4 Directive does not prevent the current owners from selling all or part of the wood because that activity is legal. However, they can not do any physical development work without specific planning permission.  Equally importantly the possible uses and activities which so concerned people at the public meeting can now only take place in that 25 acres if an owner has specific planning permission for them. 

At this point we must acknowledge the considerable efforts by Huw Edwards MP, and the assistance of our AMs David Davies and Mike German.  Without their cross party support and help in both Westminster and Cardiff this positive result would not have been possible in such a relatively short period.

Following the Council's decision, Woodlands Investment Management have placed 15 of the 25 acres they own onto the normal forestry market through the reputable forestry agents John Clegg & Co ( We do not, at present, know their plans for the remaining 10 acres, but it appears the risks of improper use of the wood have already been greatly reduced.

However they now own, and are marketing plots in at least 5 other woods in the County, and Article 4 action is currently being sought on two of them by the communities at Cross Ash and Devauden.  Both communities asked for, and are getting, our help and advice. For the foreseeable future we will try to do the same for any community which faces this problem and asks for our help. 

Future Action

The County Council's decision means that we have almost discharged the mandate you gave us.  The Article 4 Directive is valid for 6 months only, and to remain in force indefinitely has to be ratified by the Welsh Assembly.  We will monitor progress and apply pressure on the Council and the Assembly until the Directive is made permanent and then consider whether to disband the group. 

However, our research shows the practice of sub plotting is growing throughout Wales and the rest of UK. It is clear that the current laws and forestry regulations have weaknesses which are being exploited and that they do not protect woodland effectively against damage from sub plotting. There is a need for more government action.

Some members of NCG therefore will continue to lobby Westminster and the Welsh Assembly for this greater protection - whether or not the Group is disbanded.  We also plan to continue to develop and maintain the NCG web site as a source of information and advice for any community facing situations similar to the one we have faced here.

Thank you for your support over the past six months. We sincerely hope you are satisfied with the results of our activity and that you will examine the more detailed information on our web site -    


If you have any queries or would like to offer help or support to our continuing campaign for better statutory protection for woodlands you can contact us through the web site or by telephone on 01600 860495.


Key Dates in the NCG Campaign.










Public Meeting at Catbrook Memorial Hall

1  The concerns are raised that – whilst sub division in itself is not illegal – the advice given to prospective purchasers by the wood's owners suggests there is no requirement for planning permission for a variety of inappropriate activities and temporary buildings. 

2  The meeting unanimously agrees that Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) should impose an Article 4 Directive under the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 to ensure any development or change of use is subject to planning controls.








September 2004





NCG researches current legislation and planning practice.

This reveals that:

1  In April 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) issued guidance to all English planning authorities calling for “swift and pre-emptive action” against the sub plotting and resale of agricultural land. The guidance called for the use of Article 4 wherever appropriate.

2  Although this guidance was passed to the Welsh Assembly the Assembly had not issued it.  As a result all Welsh planning authorities are working to guidance dating from 1995, which classifies Article 4 action as an instrument of “last resort”.

3  The ODPM is unaware that sub plotting is also occurring in woodland.

4  Huw Edwards MP secures an Adjournment Debate at Westminster.

5  NCG prepares a briefing report for Huw Edwards, a copy of which is passed to the appropriate Minister.









Adjournment debate at Westminster.2

Three NCG members attend and meet the Minister informally. During the Debate the Minister:

1  Acknowledges that the issue of sub plotting of woodland has not previously been recognised as potentially significant.

2  Undertakes to include woodland within the current government consultation on permitted development rights.

3  Promises to discuss with the Welsh Assembly its reasons for not issuing similar guidance on sub plotting to that in England.





Welsh Assembly write to NCG

The Welsh Assembly confirms in writing to NCG that they intend to issue a letter similar to that issued in England.





MCC Central Area Meeting at Llandogo.

1  NCG Chairman addresses the meeting.

2  All Councillors and officers present are given a copy of the NCG research report and a copy of the letter from the Welsh Assembly.





November 2004


NCG continues to lobby MCC.

1  The campaign is featured on the BBC “Politics Show” on 21st Nov.

2  Towards the end of the month MCC officers informally confirm that they are preparing to put the case for an Article 4 to Council with or without guidance being issued by the Assembly.

3  NCG provides MCC with specimen documents and planning decisions used elsewhere in the UK to issue Article 4 Directives. 





The Welsh Assembly issues guidance.3

1  The Assembly writes to all its planning authorities calling for “swift and pre emptive action” to control the sub plotting of both agricultural land and woodland. The letter encourages the use of Article 4.





MCC Planning Committee meet.

In closed session the Planning Committee unanimously recommends to Cabinet that an Article 4 Directive be imposed on the Ninewells woodland. 





MCC Cabinet decide.

MCC Cabinet decision to apply Article 4 is confirmed.


1There is an explanation of permitted development rights and Article 4 on our website

.2There is a link to the full Hansard Report of this debate in the News Index of the NCG web site.

 3A copy of this letter is also on the web site.